Friday, September 30, 2011
Thursday, September 29, 2011
“In common with many other organisations, it has been affected by reduced investment returns as a result of the downturn, the expectation of lower returns in future as well as improvements in life expectancy rates generally.” a spokesman for the bank said
Those who do not want to contribute will be offered a lower benefit based on 1/80 of salary rather than 1/60 for those who put in money. The bank has also cut the annual increases for benefits accrued after April 2012, switching to the lower Consumer Prices Index rather than the Retail Prices Index. This measure will be capped at 5%.
And for the bank executives? Unite union said the people being hit by the latest "substantial" changes "are not wealthy bankers, but frontline banking staff who serve customers in call centres and bank branches". Unite's national officer David Fleming said the move would "trigger hardship for employees" and was a "real blow". He said it was wrong "to introduce changes that will require staff at National Australia Bank to ultimately make a 9 per cent contribution, over three years, when household budgets are already extremely stretched."
Wednesday, September 28, 2011
Suttie, a director of 40 companies, has had a chequered career since he started out as a chartered accountant. Nine years ago, he took over the Richards textile factory in Aberdeen after the Broadford plant, once one of the city's leading employers, went bust, leaving hundreds of workers without a pension. As part of the deal, the sprawling 8.5-acre site was sold for £5m to a company called Hawkrow, of which Mr Suttie was the sole director. Mr Suttie moved the company's operations to the Northfield area of the city. But the textile firm he created went into receivership in November 2004, leaving the 196 remaining workers without a job. Union leaders accused him of asset-stripping after it was revealed that First Construction, the successor company to Hawkrow, was behind ambitious plans for a £50m urban village development at the Broadford site.
In November 2005, he was cleared of cheating the Inland Revenue out of thousands of pounds in tax which should have been paid on the interest on one of his bank accounts. He had been charged with four counts of fraud in connection with his tax returns over a four-year period, but walked free after he told his trial at the Sheriff Court in Aberdeen he was unaware that his £1m Bank of Scotland account at the centre of the case was an interest- bearing account because he never looked at his statements!
Tuesday, September 27, 2011
Susan McPhee, head of policy at CAS, said: “The minimum wage has been law for more than 10 years, but a significant number of employers are refusing to pay it, and as a result workers are exploited on illegal wages. All political parties* accept the principle of a minimum wage, but it seems some employers believe the law is optional. Our experience shows many workers are unaware of their rights or lack confidence in how to fight for them.”
The National Minimum Wage was made UK law in April 1999 and is currently £6.08 an hour for those aged over 21. It lowers to £4.98 for those between the ages of 18 and 21. For 16 and 17-year-olds, the threshold is £3.68. HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) has the powers to issue a notice of underpayment if an employer is found to be flouting the legal threshold, and employers face a fine to HMRC of 50% of the total underpayment that has occurred since April 2009. The minimum penalty is £100 and the maximum £5000.
* Not all. The Socialist Party doesn't.
We have nothing against workers struggling for and getting higher wages if they can. We favour this, even if we don’t like the term “living wage” any more than “fair wage" and even if we think that ideally this should be tied to struggling to abolish the wages system altogether. What we criticise is to increase the present legal minimum wage and call the result a “living wage”.
First Minister Alex Salmond has spoken in favour of a “living wage” of £7.15 per hour for Holyrood employees. Presumably Salmond has in mind is a wage that would allow a worker to afford decent housing, enough proper food, new clothes, to go on holiday and run a car. Getting employers to increase the wages of anyone paid less £ 7.15 is easier said than done. The unions haven’t been able to do it. Like all reforms of capitalism the minimum wage legislation leaves intact the basic mechanism wherein a small handful live of the surplus value produced by the working class. However even by comparison with previous capitalist reforms this piece of legislation has proved woefully unsuccessful. We pointed out that this was just another empty vote-catching promise which, even if implemented, wouldn’t have had the expected effects.
But let’s assume for a moment that a law forcing employers to pay a higher minimum wage was passed. What would happen?
First, some employers would go bankrupt. Others would withdraw their capital from producing certain goods or services, so their price would rise. Eventually this would stabilise at a new, higher level at which employers would be able to make a profit even when paying the increased minimum wage. So the cost of living would go up, including for workers on the minimum wage. Second, given the increased labour costs, the introduction of previously unused labour-saving machinery would become cheaper vis-à-vis employing living labour. It is generally accepted that higher wages does lead employers to introduce machinery. Employers would do this. So there’d be job losses and unemployment, particularly amongst the unskilled, would grow.
Nor did Marx think much of such demands as “fixing the minimum wage by law”, which was one of the reform demands of the French Workers Party he had a hand in helping to set up in 1880. He wrote, referring to the proposer of this: “I told him: ‘If the French proletariat is still so childish as to require such bait, it is not worth while drawing up any program whatever.' "
Like all reforms of capitalism the minimum wage legislation leaves intact the basic mechanism wherein a small handful live of the surplus value produced by the working class. Socialism is not about redistributing income and wealth from the rich to the poor, but about establishing a society that would not be divided into rich and poor. To adapt Marx, workers should replace the demand for a “Living Wage” by the revolutionary demand for the “Abolition of the Wages System”.
Monday, September 26, 2011
"The only thing keeping us in contention is that all the alternatives are crap. That’s not much of a standard to go by: Vote for Labour because everyone else is crap.”
The Labour Party has no horizons beyond those of capitalism. Throughout its existence, the Labour Party has done everything but what need doing most and said everything but what most needed saying. Although from time to time they paid lip-service by using socialist sounding phrases when it met their purpose of deluding the workers, nothing they have ever said or done has advanced the workers one inch. While certain of their reforms might have helped in keeping workers contented and in staving off unrest, they have had the desired effect of giving the boss class a new lease of life. What would the capitalist class do without a Labour Party to patch up their vile system for them? The past record of the Labour Party in supporting wars, freezing wages, breaking strikes, and forming coalitions, with Tories and Liberals, should be enough to finish them with the working class for keeps; the tragedy is that it won’t.
The miserable failure of the Labour governments has led in Scotland to growing support for nationalist party, the Scottish National Party. The Socialist Party no more supports Scottish nationalism than it does British nationalism.
You can vote for candidates who support all the crap of the capitalist system. For them the only way out is through deception, at times to the extent that they begin to believe their own
lies. Or you can use your vote to show you want to overturn it and end the problems capitalism causes once and for all.
Sunday, September 25, 2011
Dundee West MSP Joe Fitzpatrick “The Oxfam report evokes grave echoes from Scotland’s past, namely the Highland Clearances, when, throughout the Highlands and Islands many thousands of people left their ancestral lands, many after being forcibly evicted.”
Oxfam details that more than 20,000 people forcibly evicted from their land to make way for a British timber company, The New Forests Company, and Fitzpatrick described it as an example of “a new modern-day clearance” in operation.
Oxfam Scotland head Judith Robertson said: “Many of the world’s poorest people are being left worse off by the unprecedented pace of land deals and the frantic competition for land. Global action is crucial if we are to protect local people all around the world from losing what little they have for the profits of a few.”
"These drugs are expensive. Some of that is the real cost of developing them and some of that is if you are only going for a subset of cancer then your total predicted sales will be less," Prof Cameron told The Scotsman. "The business model of the company will be that in order to develop the money to develop the drug your subsequent sales in the patent lifetime have to be sufficient to cover all your costs. So actually, the cost for rarer cancer is likely to be higher and not lower."
Stretching to nearly 20,000 acres, the estate has entertained kings and prime ministers over the years and is described by CKD Galbraith, property agents to the gentry, as the "Holy Grail" of grouse shooting. Located near the village of Edzell, Millden was the first of the sporting lodges built for the Earls of Dalhousie on their Glen Esk estate in the Regency period. Shortly before the beginning of the Second World War King George VI and then prime minister Neville Chamberlain enjoyed a week's shooting.
Along with three recently-improved moors spanning more than 10,000 acres, fishing rights to eight miles of the River North Esk, and extensive woodland, prospective buyers of the estate in Glen Esk will acquire a considerable property portfolio. The centrepiece is the grand Millden Lodge, a 19th-century shooting lodge that includes ten bedrooms, a gun room, a bar, a billiard room, and various cottages for gardeners and gamekeepers. Along with two other lodges, Millden, bought by investment banker Richard Hanson in 2004, boasts a dizzying array of more modest accommodation, from cottages to farmhouses. In all, there are upwards of 30 properties included in the guide price, plus numerous lunch huts, sheds, and outbuildings, plus a staff of 16 to help with maintenance.
The national average income is 50,000 yuan (£5,000), less than Angola and Albania. Only 24 million of the population's earnings are above the tax threshold.
But the rich spend spend spend...Conspicuous consumption must become less conspicuous so the Party outlawed billboard advertisements that promoted "hedonism, lavishness and the worship of foreign things".
The new Hurun Rich List, of Chinese individuals with a net worth of over 10 billion yuan (£1 billion), numbers 127.
Tuesday, September 20, 2011
A letter in The Toronto Star recently opined that the London Riots were no surprise considering 20% unemployment and a loss of rights and freedoms over the last two decades, "This (change from citizens to consumers) is the result of a change from democracy to corporatocracy. Western corporations now control the governments, universities and media, with lobbyists outnumbering politicians..." We might comment that it's the normal operation of the capitalist system for the last two hundred years or so. The writer also reveals that General Electric US made $10.3 billion last year but ended up owing nothing to Uncle Sam. In fact they recorded a tax benefit of $1.1 billion! John Ayers.
Monday, September 19, 2011
On the other hand, those protesting outside the White House against Protesters of Trans-Canada Corp's controversial pipeline that will bring the clean tar sands oil (well that's what the ads say about that gooey muck!) from Alberta down to refineries on the Texas Gulf coast, are being arrested (more than one thousand to date) for daring to stand on the sidewalk and disagree, actually for 'failure to obey'. (must be communists, right Mammoliti? Can you smell 'em or is the stink of tar too great?). Among those arrested this week was Canadian activist icon, Naomi Klein, "She was arrested outside the front door of the president she thought agreed with her." (Toronto Star report). She said, " It feels inherently weird and uncomfortable for me to do something remotely critical of this president." This shows the level of understanding of how capitalism works that boggles the mind. What does she think was going to happen, that Obama would agree with her and take on capital?
Unbelievable! So far as we know, none of those responsible for the mess in the Yukon is under arrest. John Ayers
Sunday, September 18, 2011
rid of but can't seem to find, is back in the news. Ford's mouthpiece on
city council, Giorgio Mammoliti set up a Facebook page to support the
mayor. On it he promised to ban whining communists such as those
citizens who spoke against city budget cuts (libraries, day care, and
other such 'gravy' items). He warned that he could 'smell out'
communists among the Facebook members and defined them as 'anyone who is
able to work, doesn't want to work and wants everything for free.' More
than one thousand anti-Mammoliti complaints immediately filled his
bulleting board. This is the level that our so-called leaders have
dropped. Time to get rid of leaders? Yes! John Ayers
Saturday, September 17, 2011
Friday, September 16, 2011
Tom Lyon, energy expert at uSwitch.com, said: “We are in danger of seeing energy becoming an unaffordable luxury for the few instead of a household basic for the many. As a result many households are being forced to make unpalatable and sometimes even dangerous choices."
Thursday, September 15, 2011
The number of 16 to 24-year-olds claiming Job-seeker’s Allowance last month leapt by 4500 from the previous year – a 10% rise to 46,300.
Leading children’s charity Barnardo’s warned that many of the young may be left on the employment scrapheap forever.
Wednesday, September 14, 2011
There will be no relief any time soon. David Olive writes in his
article, "A New World of Work, An Old Way of Working"(Toronto Star, July 30, 2011), "Imagine a world that is entirely materially insecure...scramble for whatever jobs they can get...labour long hours, with no assured wage. Their jobs are always at risk. Others are always prepared to do the same for less...jobs are inevitably of short duration...no benefits, or pensions. In most cases minimum wage laws don't apply...the sheer struggle for existence dominates. Culture, education, holidays? Forget it...
"The chief fallacy of their position is their insistence upon a Scottish Workers' Republic. This demand is both reactionary and Utopian. The struggle of the workers of the United Kingdom must be a united one. The workers are under the domination of a class who rule by the use of a political machine which is the chief governing instrument for England, Scotland, Wales, etc. To appeal to the workers of Scotland for a Scottish Workers' Republic is to arouse and foster the narrow spirit of Nationalism, so well used by our masters. Economically the demand is Utopian, as the development of capitalism has made countries more and more dependent on each other, both through the specialisation of industry or agriculture, and also by the force controlled by the Great Powers to suppress or control the smaller nations.
The history of " independent " Hungary, Poland, and the Balkan States shows that the realisation of " political independence " by a country leaves the workers' conditions untouched and actually worsens them in many cases.
The appeal to the worker in this Manifesto to "rally to the cause of a Workers' Republic for Scotland" is made "so that we might win you away from the service of the imperialist gang who direct their activities from London" If the worker is to be won for Socialism, it is by getting him to understand the principles of Socialism, and not by appealing to him to concentrate on Scottish affairs. Socialism is international.”
This is still our position in face of those today who seek to revive the idea of a “Scottish Workers’ Republic”
Figures released by the selling agents Savills yesterday show the top end of the property market performing well, with 146 high-value homes costing £1 million or more selling in 2010, compared with 106 in 2009. Sales at £1 million and more during the first six months of this year were up by a third on last year, from 50 to almost 70.
Tuesday, September 13, 2011
Grahame Smith, STUC general secretary, said:
“There are simply far too many people in Scotland at this time unable to access the quality, full-time work opportunities necessary to provide for a decent standard of living for themselves and their families.” He added: “Of course, the UK Government is continuing down the road of austerity, cutting jobs when they are most needed. There is little sign of hope for the half-million people in Scotland who are unemployed, inactive or underemployed.”
Monday, September 12, 2011
The melting of the Arctic ice, as the global climate warms, is opening up the great frozen wilderness, the world's most untouched ecosystem; indeed, this week a new record minimum for the ice is likely to be reached, surpassing even the record low of September 2007, which was such a plunge downwards it astonished polar scientists. It means that climate change is having its most unmistakable effect so far on the fabric of the Earth. Yet it also means that gluttonous eyes are being cast on the Arctic for what it holds, not least its 160bn barrels of oil, both by the "supermajor" oil companies such as Shell and Exxon Mobil, and the countries by which the Arctic Ocean is surrounded – Canada, Russia, the US, Norway and Denmark (via Greenland). They are looking to extend their territorial waters and consequent sovereignty of the seabed out to 90 degrees North.
"And what we want do," says John Sauven, who is executive director of Greenpeace UK, "is say that this area, which is currently not national territory, this area of sea ice around the North Pole, should be a 'global commons', collectively owned by humanity under the auspices of the United Nations. It has huge symbolic importance as a pristine ecosystem. Yet the oil companies and the surrounding nations are saying, this might be at the ends of the earth, but we're just going to go in and carve it up. The Arctic sums up the complete and utter madness, the bankruptcy of their strategy. They will go to these extreme lengths to dig up the last bit of fossil fuels because they cannot be bothered to deal with energy efficiency and find alternatives, and they're prepared to suffer all the consequences, the impacts on wildlife and the fact that you can't do anything about them. It's insanity."
So now Greenpeace is planning a global campaign to make the North Pole off-limits. Internalionalised. No development. No oil drilling. No territorial claims.
"The Arctic is an iconic part of the global commons, rather like the Amazon for the rainforest," Mr Sauven says. "Is it just to be a grab by these huge corporations to extract the resources, which will have a calamitous impact on the world?"
Sunday, September 11, 2011
Unions have criticised those still collecting the salaries, which comes at a time of unprecedented redundancies and reductions in workers’ terms and conditions.
Martin Doran, who heads the GMB union in Glasgow, said: “...my feeling is that this is an obscenity. If these people had any decency they would stand down.”
Saturday, September 10, 2011
Friday, September 09, 2011
Sunday, September 04, 2011
The goal of the socialist movement is not to assist in the creation of even more states but to establish a real world community without frontiers where all states as they currently exist will be destroyed. In a socialist society communities, towns and cities will have the opportunity to thrive – and people will no doubt feel an attachment to places that are real and tangible – but nation states will be consigned to the history books where they belong.
Constitutional reform such as Scottish independence is of no benefit or relevance to us. It leaves our lives and the problems the profit system causes completely unchanged. Exploitation through the wages system continues. Unemployment continues. A crumbling health service, a chaotic transport system, a polluted environment, failing schools, rising crime and drug addiction and the general breakdown of society all continue. As far as solving these problems is concerned, constitutional reform is just a useless irrelevancy.
We are told by the nationalists that it would be an extension of democracy, bringing power nearer to the people, so how can socialists not be in favour of this? Yes, Socialists are in favour of democracy, and socialism will be a fully democratic society, but full democracy is not possible under capitalism. Supporters of capitalism who talk about “democracy” always mean only political democracy since economic democracy--where people would democratically run the places where they work--is out of the question under capitalism, based as it is on these workplaces being owned and controlled by and for the benefit of a privileged minority. An independent Scotland can have the most democratic constitution imaginable but this won’t make any difference to the fact that profits have to come before meeting needs under capitalism. The people’s will to have their needs met properly is frustrated all the time by the operation of the economic laws of the capitalist system which no political structure, however democratic, can control.
But socialists are just as much opposed to British nationalism as we are to Scottish nationalism. Just because we are not prepared to back the efforts of Scottish nationalists to break away from the United Kingdom--and vigorously oppose their efforts to split the trade union movement--does not mean that we are Unionists. We don’t support the Union. We just put up with it while we get on with our work of convincing people to reject world capitalism in favour of world socialism.
Saturday, September 03, 2011
Friday, September 02, 2011
Mr Peter Kelly, the director of the Glasgow-based Poverty Alliance, said that if people were going into part-time or low-paid work, their earnings would not be enough to make a huge difference to their lives. "Sometimes you have to question the extent to which giving someone a job can lift them out of the low-income bracket. We want to see people moving into jobs that lift them out of poverty."