Saturday, April 14, 2018

Third of London’s EU workers go unpaid and suffer abuse


 MORE THAN a third of London’s migrant European Union construction workers have not been paid for work while 33 per cent have experienced verbal or physical abuse, according to new research.
A survey of non-British EU nationals working in the capital’s construction industry by anti-trafficking group Focus on Labour Exploitation (Flex) found that 36 per cent had experienced not being paid for work they had done.
    The research, carried out for a report on London’s construction industry by the organisation, found that half the workers (50 per cent) did not have a written contract and that more than half had been made to work in dangerous conditions (53 per cent).
    Data was gathered from a range of workers on different sites from large-scale developments to smaller home improvement jobs.
    One respondent to the survey – a day labourer named Darius – said he was made to carry out dangerous tasks at the risk of losing his job.
    “They just tied a cable around my waist, and the guy on the roof had another cable around his waist and this is how we did things,” he said.
    “I had to do it, otherwise they sent me home. If I said I didn’t want to do it, they would say, ‘Go home, we’ll find another’. And I didn’t have a contract.”
    Flex said more money needed to be made available to labour inspection authorities for inspections in the construction sector to combat the issues raised in its report.
    The organisation also suggested that a licensing model be established to monitor labour providers and ensure workers within the supply chain were treated fairly.
    Flex director Caroline Robinson said: “It is shocking that so many of the people building our homes and offices have not been paid for their work, faced abuse or had to work in dangerous conditions – these are the conditions pushing people into exploitation.
    “Unscrupulous employers are getting away with abuse because people are unable or too scared to raise complaints.”
    An ONS (Office of National Statistics) survey in 2016 found 54 per cent of London construction workforce were migrant workers.
    Last year the giant union Unite revealed that the number of Health and Safety Executive inspectors had been cut by 25 per cent since 2010.
    Figures obtained by Unite, via a Freedom of Information request, showed that in 2010 there were 1,311 frontline inspectors by 31 December 2016 that number had reduced to just 980.

London solidarity with Gaza


by New Worker correspondent

MORE than 1,000 people gathered in Whitehall, opposite Downing Street, last Saturday to demand that the British government condemn the killings 31 of unarmed Palestinian protesters by Israeli army sniper fire along the border between Israel and Gaza.
Yaser Murtaja, 30, a photojournalist for Palestinian Ain Media, was among the dead. He was wearing a top very clearly marked “PRESS”. The Israeli army boasted they had prepared well for this event and knew precisely where every bullet had landed.
In Gaza last week daily protests under the slogan "The Great March of Return", began on 30th March along the Israel-Gaza frontier, reviving the longstanding demand for the right of return of Palestinian refugees to towns and villages from which their families fled, or were driven out, when the state of Israel was created 70 years ago.
The London rally was a colourful and noisy protest organised by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Friends of Al-Aqsa, Palestinian Forum and Stop the War and supported by several progressive Jewish groups, including Jewish Voices for Labour, Jews for Justice for Palestine and a group of orthodox anti-Zionist Jews who were demanding that the British government hold the Israeli government to account for its war crimes.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn sent a message to the rally saying: “The killing and wounding of yet more unarmed Palestinian protesters yesterday by Israeli forces in Gaza is an outrage.
"The majority of the people of the Gaza Strip are stateless refugees, subject to a decade-long blockade and the denial of basic human and political rights.”
He went on: "They have a right to protest against their appalling conditions and the continuing blockade and occupation of Palestinian land, and in support of their right to return to their homes and their right to self-determination.
"Firing live ammunition into crowds of unarmed civilians is illegal and inhumane and cannot be tolerated.”
He said he stood in “solidarity” with Israelis who took to the streets to protest their government's actions and added: "The silence from international powers with the responsibility of bringing a just settlement of the Israel.
"The UK Government must support the United Nations secretary-general's call for an independent international inquiry into the killing of protesters in Gaza and review the sale of arms that could be used in violation of international law.
"The events in Gaza and the threat of renewed conflict underlines the urgent necessity of genuine negotiations to achieve a viable two-state settlement that delivers peace, justice and security to both Palestinians and Israelis."
Green Party MP Caroline Lucas also sent a strong message of solidarity to the rally.
Baroness Jenny Tonge spoke of her sense of shame for British support for Israel and for the lack of members of the House of Commons present at the rally.
But there was one man there who had been elected to the Westminster Parliament, Francie Molloy, although like all Sinn Féin MPs he refused to take the oath of allegiance to the Queen and so had not taken up his seat there. He pointed out that Sinn Féin has supported the struggle of the people of Palestine from the very beginning.
Anti-racist campaigner and activist Selma Yacoob from Birmingham made a strong speech and also mentioned the controversy over anti-Semitism. She said she had experienced Islamophobia all her life and sympathised. Selma commended the many Jews present at the rally and said they should not feel responsible or be pressured to be “explainers” for their co-religionists’ crimes. She too had endured people asking her to explain or justify the deeds of Muslim criminals. 
Glyn Secker, secretary for Jewish Voice for Labour, said Israel's actions against the Palestinians are putting it at odds with the founding values of Judaism.
"Core Jewish values are derived from core human values, there is no difference. And therefore, you can say you are not being true to Jewish values if you are committing 70 years of gross violation of Palestinian rights."
Four counter-protesters carrying Israeli flags also turned up in Whitehall but were totally ignored by those attending the rally for Gaza. Police surrounded them at first for their own protection but found it unnecessary to continue to the end of the rally.
On the same day there were similar rallies for Gaza around Britain and the world, in Manchester, Bristol, Sheffield, Vancouver, Melbourne, New York, Paris and many other places.

Union concern over terror scare stories


 THE TRANSPORT union RMT last week expressed serious concern over a front-page article last Friday in the Evening Standard headlined: “PURGE OF EXTREMIST WORKERS ON LONDON TRANSPORT”. The editor in chief of the Standard is former Tory Chancellor George Osborne.
The article said that the Minister of State for Security, Ben Wallace, was carrying out a “purge of London’s transport system to protect the public from another Islamic State attack”.
It continued on inside pages with a claim that 3,000 terror suspects were under active scrutiny.
The article has prompted a spate of racist attacks on Transport for London staff.
Mick Cash, the general secretary of the RMT, has wrote to Wallace on Monday: “I am writing to you in respect of the article on the front page of the Evening Standard in the final edition on Friday 6th April.
“Headlines as we know are important to any newspaper and a story like this was always going to be of particular interest in London. However, I wanted to share with you that I have received a number of urgent calls from staff working over the weekend who have been racially abused and threatened by passengers. The inference from the passengers involved being that the staff are all part of a terrorist cell operating in London Transport.
“The headlines do not reflect all the good work that takes place with the RMT through consultation on safety and security matters. RMT Regional organiser for London Transport John Leach was at a meeting with Director of Health and Safety and Transport for London Head of Security last Friday and none of this was mentioned. The headline was the first that RMT had heard of it.
“John also spoke to London Underground Managing Director, Mark Wild on Sunday and he told John that the whole subject as a news story came out the blue and the Standard did not use London Underground’s quote backing their staff.
“I appreciate that you, the police and the security services have a role to play in helping to protect those using the Tube, but the staff are right in the front line, every day ensuring that passengers are safe and secure.
“With an employer the size of Transport for London there may well be people who are under investigation. I would urge caution about the use of lurid headlines though and highlighted figures that state 3,000 people are under active scrutiny could lead people to believe they are all in London transport. Such an impression can only fuel racism and the possibility of violence against staff which is not something any of us want to see.
“The Standard also referenced Transport for London autistic staff by headlining that extremists ‘are grooming autistic people for terror’. This is appalling scapegoating of a vulnerable group of employees who now also feel singled out and has no bearing in fact.
            “Staff do not need to be the focus of smears, abuse or threats given the crucial jobs they have to perform on the transport network in London keeping people safe.
            “I hope you will therefore join with me to support responsible reporting of such sensitive matters which is in the best interests of staff and passengers alike.”