Thursday, 6 October 2011


The TUC vows to oppose EU 'social dumping' treaty writes John Millington. Communists and activists in a range of unions, especially within rail transport facing EU promoted privatisation, have been campainging for two years to bring the issue to the wider public. Parliament is pretending Mode Four is not happening. The Government is actively supporting it and trying to cover its tracks.
New European Union free trade agreements with Indian firms risk undermining collective bargaining and creating a tier of slave-like labour in Britain, RMT warned TUC delegates.
Moving a motion against "mode 4" transfers - the World Trade Organisation's term for moving workers across borders - the transport union's president Alex Gordon said a bilateral agreement due to be ratified by EU member states in December could mean Indian workers being moved into Britain with no workplace rights, no right to remain and no access to the legal system.
"This is potentially the greatest threat to collective bargaining and workers' rights for many years," he said.
Under Mode 4, Indian companies operating in Delhi and London could move low-paid workers from India to Britain, undercutting workers domestically.
"Transnational companies will be able to move workers across national borders and nation states will limit their own constitutional authority over these corporations.
"Workers' rights will be lost forever to corporate power."
GMB delegate Fern McCaffrey added an amendment criticising the record of free trade agreements in south America.
"They have had a negative effect on the ability of nation-states to foster national and local economic development and to promote and protect human rights," she said.
Ms McCaffrey also questioned the Indian government's record on workers' rights.
"India has not ratified four core International Labour Organisation conventions, including number 87 on freedom of association and the right to organise collectively.
"A new International Trade Union Congress report revealed recently that India's record on child labour left a lot to be desired and there were multiple arrests of protesters for workers' rights."
She called for the "veil of secrecy" to be removed and the free trade agreement negotiations to be made public.
"We need a full consultation with all relevant civil society organisations, especially trade unions at every stage."
Congress agreed to go on a public awareness raising campaign and push politicians to reject the free trade agreement.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011


The Steering Group meeting held earlier this evening was principally to ensure that all arrangements for tomorrow's Public Meeting were in place.  

However, before this could be addressed, the matter of the 'controversial incident' at the street stall on Saturday was raised by a member and there followed a searching discussion on 'perception' - of what words and terms ought to be avoided when addressing the general public to prevent any misunderstanding arising.  Similarly, it was thought the weblog of Oct 4 might suggest there was dissent and division in the group and that introducing the subject of Mode 4 into the campaign would complicate matters.

Following amicable discussion it was resolved, without need of a vote, that every effort would be made to avoid anything that could be misconstrued by members of the general public.

There was a wide discussion on Mode 4.  It was argued that should the British/Indian pact be  brought to realisation then highly skilled (but low paid) Indian technicians would be provided with employment here and replace (more expensive) British technicians of whatever race or country of origin.  This influx would be used to force down the pay of resident workers - as does the creation of an army of unemployed workers.  The British working class faces a most serious and potentially ruinous attack upon its standard of living and quality of life. This government is in deadly earnest about its intention to destroy the organisations of the working class (the unions) and all unity of the class by fostering severe racial tensions.  

It was suggested that British workers and Indian workers could unite to bring about equality in pay and conditions but it was pointed out that trade unions, shackled by Tory anti-union laws (that remained in place throughout thirteen years of a New Labour government) will not be able to assist these Indian workers for fear of breaking the law and having their funds sequestrated.  The scene will be set for racial conflict and greater social division.  However, it was the majority decision that public mention of Mode 4 would detract from the campaign against the cuts and further discussion led to a unanimous decision to issue the following statement:
'On the matter of Mode 4 it is unanimously agreed this important issue is outside the remit of Furness Against the Cuts although it is recognised to be a campaign that must be fought.'

Thus the matter was settled and arrangements for the public meeting were then concluded.

FAC is indebted to Barrow and Furness Pensioners' Association for underwriting the public meeting with its Pensioner Rights Campaign NW fund (to be used in the event of a financial shortfall)

Owing to the various commitments of several Steering Group members it was impossible to arrive at a definite date for holding the next Street Stall.  It was suggested additional help might be available if people attending the public meeting signed up to assist with the campaign.  If a sufficient number of persons (at least three) were available, then a November stall shall take place and details will be posted in a future blog.

Four members of FAC Steering Group waited at the GMB office, Hartington Street, at 7pm on Tuesday 1st to attend the meeting of Barrow Trades Union Council but nobody else turned up!  It is but a few weeks ago that the secretary of BTUC complained (in an article published in the local press) that unions were failing to support the Trades Council and that unless things improved he would resign.  If Tuesday was an example of the sloppy way in which the organisation is run then it is little wonder that intelligent and serious-minded trade unionists prefer avoid it.      

 A TUC document on the subject of Mode 4 will be reproduced here as soon as possible.       


                  FURNESS AGAINST THE CUTS
                               Steering Group agreed principles
  • The name of the campaign will be Furness Against the Cuts (FAC)
  • Steering Group (SG) meetings will be held at Greengate Children’s Centre, Greengate Street, Barrow from 6.30 until 7.30pm on the first Wednesday of each month.
  • Membership of the SG is open to any individual representing a democratic, progressive organisation which subscribes to the principles outlined here, and will have the right to vote at Steering Group meetings.  Organisations may have up to two delegates on the SG.
  • The SG will be responsible for ensuring these principles are upheld.
  • Supportive individuals not representing an organisation can attend SG meetings and contribute to discussions but will have no vote.  This is solely to prevent ‘mobbing’ - whereby members of a group deliberately swamp a meeting and by sheer weight of numbers are able to corrupt an organisation and distort and completely undermine it.
  • There will be no discrimination on grounds of age, gender, disability, colour, race, sexual orientation or religious belief.
  • The SG will be democratic - one person one vote, and majority decisions will stand.
  • FAC will not be a fund-raising organisation but contribution of voluntary donations to meet the cost of an agreed action e.g. printing of leaflets, is acceptable.
  • SG meetings will be relatively informal - bureaucratic procedures will be avoided whenever possible and there will be no elected officials e.g. chair, secretary, treasurer etc although, each month, a volunteer will be appointed to conduct the meeting.
  • Nobody attending an SG meeting will be denied the right to express an opinion, and anyone having misgivings about a decision must make their feelings known immediately for there must no destructive ‘festering’ resentments.
  • SG meetings will not be formally ‘minuted’ but at each meeting a volunteer will make a record of all decisions made and note any plans accepted for an agreed event.
  • Whenever possible, discussions on anti-cuts business held anytime between SG meetings will be conducted by all-inclusive emails i.e. open and available to all.
  • Use will be made of a Street Presence to promote the anti-cuts campaign utilizing a folding table and, initially, existing People’s Charter materials (banners, leaflets etc) until such time as FAC is able to produce campaigning materials of its own.
  • Democratic, progressive organisations e.g. trade unions, community groups and voluntary associations, will be welcome to join the Street Presence and use their own materials but it should be noted that FAC will not ‘do their work for them’ (organisations give their support to the FAC campaign whilst maintaining their own autonomy)
  • Genuine, nationally recognised political parties will be welcome to use their organization’s anti-cuts propaganda materials and to promote any publication that is supportive of the anti-cuts campaign.
The agreed principles described above are intended to assist the creation of a democratic, honestly transparent and fair structure on which FAC can grow.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011


Promoting the Public Meeting,  Dalton Road, 1st October
Four members of the FAC steering group attended the stall set up on Dalton Road from 10am until 12 noon to publicise the Public Meeting being held at The Forum from 7.30 until 9.30pm on Thursday 6th October.  This would be the last opportunity to promote the event and it was 'enlivened' by a couple of incidents that demonstrate some local trends.

The first  occured when, shortly after setting up beside a store with large 'blanked out' windows, a place we had used on two previous occasions, the female manager appeared and demanded we move away as "You are blocking my windows."  There is nothing to see in the said windows but we immediately agreed to move and began gathering up our bits and pieces whilst she continued to protest about blocking her windows. (See posting of 1st Oct 'Tribute to local pensioner activist' and the photograph at the bottom to view the blocked windows)   So the stall was then set up at the Workers' Statue which, incidently, meant we were then directly facing the entrance to her shop.

The second occured when I mentioned that the government was laying plans to bring cheap foreign labour into Britain, mainly from India, and this would have consequences for workers in Britain.  Some woman called out "Fascist!" and this was taken up by one or two others - including an ethnic minority shopkeeper who threatened to call the police.  Two members of FAC steering group (one of whom announced he was secretary of the local Unite Against Fascism) also thought the remark was 'racist'.  Well, at least this demonstrated that people were listening to what was being said and it was, in one sense, encouraging that they were alert to anything they perceived to be 'racist' and were willing to condemn it.  

On the other hand, it was a bit sinister - I was providing them with factual information (Mode 4 - a deal being worked between our government and the government of India for skilled technical workers in India to come to Britain) that was recognised by the TUC to be a serious threat to workers in Britain.  But I had mentioned 'India', 'Cheap labour', 'Immigration' and 'Threat to jobs', and these were 'triggers' that got some people agitated.  They were not interested in the facts of the matter - they were only interested in sporting their anti-fascist credentials.  However, what they were actually publicly exposing was their total ignorance of what the governments of Britain and India were up to. 

Why did I find their response sinister?  Well, hypnotists use certain words to 'trigger' a response in a hypnotised subject.  If they plant the word 'chicken' in a sentence, then the hypnotised individual will behave like a chicken.  Similarly, Pavlov famously conditioned dogs to 'dribble' in expectation of a meal whenever a bell was rung - even when they did not actually receive food.  Now, I mention an actual FACT but the truth doesn't matter because I have used words that triggered an automatic response - and I find to that be particularly disturbing.

The point that escaped their over-heated brains was that bringing these workers into Britain will be a gift to the likes of the BNP and EDL - yet I am the 'fascist' for warning about it!  Work that one out - if you can.

Anyway, in the next posting I'll see if I can provide a scanned copy of the TUC document on Mode 4 to enable everyone to read it.  

"Brother,  can you spare a dime?"        

In the meantime, here's a vision of Britain that Tories dream about recreating - and if enough people don't rise up and stop them, it will become a reality: no work, no Welfare State, no National Health Service and reduced to begging on the street.

Monday, 3 October 2011


Photos by Muddz 2nd Oct 2011


One of several regional NUT banners on the march
A total of just three trade union members (who are also members of FAC) drove to Lancaster early on Sunday morning where they joined a coach taking campaigners from the district to attend the Trades Union Congress march and rally at Manchester.  The local trio was joined by two Barrow unemployed young

The three are members of Unison, the GMB and NUT respectively but had to make their own arrangements for getting to the march as neither local trade union branches in Furness nor theTrade Union Councils of Barrow or Ulverston had made any arrangements for trade union members to attend the event. 

A full 52 seater coach together with a supporting minibus left Lancaster after 10am and the weather turned distinctly damp - it rained quite heavily!  Fortunately, by the time we arrived at Manchester, the rain had stopped and it turned out to be an excellent day for a march - warm and overcast but fairly bright.

Numerous stalls promoting political and community organisations lined parts of the route and all manner of banners, flags and large balloons made for a colourful mass display.  Drummers kept up a steady beat, people blew whistles, sounded air horns, and expressed their anti-cuts messages through loudhailers.  The mood was very friendly, the police were approachable, and there was no trouble at all.  The marchers were satisfied they had left a clear message to the Tories sheltering behind lines of police in the Conference Centre that their policies for dealing with the economic crisis were not only NOT solving anything but actually making things worse.

The Barrow group arrived home shortly after 7.30pm, understanding the rally had just been a warm-up for the day of action on 30th November when major unions have called on their members to hold a national one day strike.  

Whether trade unionists in Barrow or the rest of Furness intend to support the strike remains to be seen but if past performance is used as a guide then no direct action will be taken.  It would be really gratifying, just for once, for this assumption to be proved to be wrong.  

This report by: Norman


Saturday, 1 October 2011


KEN ARTS, dedicated pensioner activist
"To boldly go..."
It is with sadness and regret that FAC announces the death of Ken Arts, chairman of Barrow & Furness Pensioners' Association, member of Barrow Peace Council and activist member of Furness Against the Cuts.

 Ken belonged to that rare breed of human being - a person of principle, of selfless dedication and quiet determination yet who was not averse to taking to task with dogged persistence the 'important' and the 'self-inflated' leaders of this community.  He constantly sought the truth and gleefully exposed the liars and hypocrites.  His contribution to the task of working for a fairer and more just society will be sorely missed by FAC, Barrow Peace Council, B&FPA and the wider community.  We send our heartfelt condolences to his wife, Margie,(secretary of B&FPA) and his son, Keir.

Ken and Margie provided consistent support in the early campaigns, promoting the People's Charter to defend jobs, pensions, our Welfare State and our National Health Service a full year before the establishment of Furness Against the Cuts. They then joined the Steering Group of FAC. Margie has vowed to continue her work in B&FPA and FAC.

We are pleased the local paper, NW Evening Mail, printed Margie's moving tribute to her late husband in an article by reporter Molly Lynch in its edition of Saturday 1st October.

Ken's last campaign, Dalton Road, Barrow Sat 27 August    

The value of life lies not in the length of days but in the use you make of them; he has lived for a long time who has little lived. Whether you have lived enough depends not on the number of years but on your will.
MONTAIGNE 1533 - 1592