Wetherspoons – switch to UK Butter!

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J D Wetherspoon sells millions of breakfasts. All those with toast are sold with Lurpak butter. Lurpak is a brand of butter owned by Arla Foods based in Viby, Denmark. We want Wetherspoons to switch to a UK-made butter. Why?

It’s better for British jobs

Wetherspoon has earned a special place in British hearts by providing good quality food and drink at a reasonable price. It has built up a loyal following and many people visit ‘Spoons’ regularly for meals and drinks. For many, it has become their ‘local’. We want Wetherspoon to give back to our communities by supporting UK jobs whenever it can. Switching to a UK-made butter is something they can do which would support our farmers and support the home economy.

It’s better for the environment

Shortening supply chains and buying as locally as possible is better for our environment. Sourcing products for sale in the UK that are manufactured here makes sense ecologically. As a socially responsible company, we want Wetherspoon to show their commitment to that by switching to UK-made butter.

Sign the petition here

THIS WEEK’S TOP 5 CHRISTMAS GIFT TIPS

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Solidarity has teamed-up with the Third Way think-tank and the campaigning group Great UK Products You Can Buy to promote UK-made gifts this Xmas.

Each week in the run-up to Xmas we’ve been suggesting five companies to buy UK-made gifts from. It make sense for the environment and our home economy.

So here are our top 5 picks this week:

1. Christmas Cheese
https://www.thecheeseshed.com/products/cheese-gifts/christmas-cheese

Who wants a choice of three or four cheeses when you could have five? I know – ‘we would say that’ – but cheese offers a fantastic huge variety that it really is nice to take advantage of it!

The Christmas Five works like this. We start with a core trio of Ford Farm Cheddar, Devon Blue, and Cricket St Thomas Camembert. To that we add the very distinctive rich Jersey milk flavours of Sharpham Rustic … and then there’s a choice of fifth cheese: you can either have a super-soft Rosary goats’ cheese (in the version with herbs) or a fruity washed-rind Helford White. Either way, it all adds up to five beautifully different cheeses for your Christmas table.”

2. Christmas Wine
https://thebritishwinecellar.co.uk/

The British Wine Cellar is a family business, founded by husband and wife team Natasha & Gary to offer a wide variety of high-quality wines from England & Wales

3. Christmas Beer
https://www.beerhawk.co.uk/browse-beers/browse-by-country/british-beers

We’re certainly not short of fine beers made in the UK. They are stocked at all major supermarkets (Mine’s a Joker or Punk IPA!). You can also order online from Beerhawk above amongst many choices.

4. Christmas Spirits 
https://brityard.com/

I will be stocking my home bar from Brityard this year. “BritYard is the UK’s first online-only, luxury department store exclusively stocking independent British brands. Founded to change the shopping habits of UK consumers and to redefine what it means to ‘buy British’ by celebrating a diverse collection of independent British brands.” A great way to find all kinds of UK-made products.

5. Clothing gifts for Xmas
https://www.teddy-edward.com/pages/british-made-clothing

There’s a great selection of clothing at Teddy Edward for both men and women. Check out their Made In Britain range (pictured). They are clear in their pro-British philosophy: 

Here at Teddy Edward, we have a simple ethos. Our brand is based entirely on provenance, meaning that we design, source, and manufacture all our luxury clothing and accessories right here in Great Britain. No exceptions. From initial concept to the final product, Teddy Edward values the importance of maintaining age-old British skills, as well as contributing to the ethical and environmental benefits that come with being British-made clothing.

Try code TEMADEINGB10 to get 10% off when you pay.

1 in 3 workers monitored at work

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New polling from Prospect has found that one in three (32%) workers are now being monitored at work – up from a quarter (24%) just 6 months ago in April.

This includes a doubling of the use of camera monitoring in people’s homes, with 13% of homeworkers currently being monitored by cameras compared to 5% 6 months ago.

The polling, which was conducted by Opinium, also found that 80% of workers thought that the use of webcams to monitor remote workers should either be banned (52%) or heavily regulated (28%) with only 8% of workers thinking that employers should be allowed to decide unilaterally when to use cameras to monitor people working in their own homes. The findings extend to supporters of all political parties, with 74% of Conservative voters agreeing that the use of webcam monitoring in people’s homes should be banned or heavily regulated.

The finding comes as the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) is reviewing guidance to employers on the use of new technologies such as monitoring.

Younger workers (18-34) are particularly at risk with a significantly higher rate of monitoring than their older colleagues. Overall 48% of younger workers report being monitored at work, including 20% being monitored using cameras.

Prospect is concerned that this intrusive monitoring is particularly affecting workers in sectors with higher levels of remote working, larger proportions of younger workers, and low levels of trade union membership- such as the tech sector.

Prospect general secretary Mike Clancy said: “We are used to the idea of employers checking up on workers, but when people are working in their own homes this assumes a whole new dimension.

“New technology allows employers to have a constant window into their employee’s homes, and the use of the technology is largely unregulated by the government.

We think that we need to upgrade the law to protect the privacy of workers and set reasonable limits on the use of this snooping technology, and the public overwhelmingly agrees with us.”

Pat Harrington, General Secretary of Solidarity union, commented: “You really have to wonder about the 8 percent of people who think it’s OK for bosses to monitor people in their own homes without any regulation! Clearly, this is not acceptable and we need to ensure workers are protected from this kind of intrusive surveillance.

Credit: Camera image by Cristian Molina from Pixabay

Solidarity Launches ‘SHOP LOCAL AND BUY BRITISH CAMPAIGN’

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Our union is 100% for the British worker. That’s why we place such great emphasis on shopping local and buying UK-made goods. We want all of the people in our country to have well-paid jobs with good conditions.

This year we are again offering posters for display in home and shop windows (see featured image). Do you want A3 and A4 posters to display? We will send you some! Just send us a self-addressed envelope (SAE) with a large letter stamp on it (£1.29 for First and 96p for 2nd).

If you don’t mind your A3 poster folded then go for a C4 envelope. A standard C4 envelope measures 324mm x 229mm. This is designed to fit unfolded A4 paper. Standard A4 paper size is 210mm x 297mm. If you want your A3 poster unfolded go for a C3. A standard C3 envelope measures 458mm x 324mm. This is designed to fit unfolded A3 paper (which is double the size of A4 paper).

Send your SAE to Solidarity Trade Union, Room 407, 12 South Bridge, Edinburgh, EH1 1DD.

Buy UK-made gifts this Christmas

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We’ve teamed up with the campaign Great UK Products You Can Buy and Third Way Think-tank to produce some suggestions for UK-made Xmas gifts.

Buying UK-made goods keeps our people in work, boosts our economy, and is more ecological (because supply chains are shorter).

It’s a small way we can all make a positive difference.

We bet you have heard people say “Britain doesn’t make anything anymore“. That’s clearly not true, but you can see why they might think that. Big names in manufacturing have either disappeared or been taken over by companies in other countries. We need to help reverse that trend. So each bulletin till a week before Xmas we will be giving you five websites to look at. Here are the first five:

1. Men and Women’s clothing
https://www.teddy-edward.com/

“We design and produce our entire collection of luxury women’s and men’s clothing and accessories right here in Great Britain, using only the finest materials and most skilled artisans available on this fair isle.

The Teddy Edward name has fast become synonymous with British-made excellence, so make a statement with high-end designs that seamlessly take you from country chic to city glam and right back again.”

2. Retro football and rugby shirts
https://www.toffs.com/

We sell a massive range of more than 1,000 retro replica football and rugby shirts, inspired by the most famous classic kits worn by the greatest teams throughout the ages. We sell vintage football shirts inspired by hundreds of football and rugby teams from all over the world, as well as T-shirts, track tops, polos, athleticwear, sweatshirts, hoodies, and many other styles of sportswear and memorabilia.

The TOFFS brand is a guarantee of quality. All our replica football and rugby shirts have been manufactured by hand at our factory at Gateshead since 1990, and we are dedicated to providing a premium level of detail, comfort, and authenticity in our vintage shirts and sports fashion. When you buy with TOFFS, you will be getting a product made by fans, for fans.

3. Bags and satchels
https://www.cambridgesatchel.com/

A beautiful blend of old and new, that’s Cambridge, and it’s in our DNA. In all our bags you’ll find a taste of tradition, brought back to life with style, finesse, and fun! Behind every design lies a story waiting to be told. Behind every bag, a story waiting to be written.

4. Scented candles
https://hotwax.shop/

“We’ve been as busy as Santa’s Elves working on our new winter scents and we just know you’re going to love them as much as us.
Whether you’re being dead organised and starting your Christmas shopping early (go you, I’m jealous!) or whether you’re treating yourself (go you, too!) – you’re not going to be disappointed!
Let me introduce the winter gang…

 Après Ski (the divine scent of frosted pine)

 Cinnamon

 Winter Spice
Can’t pick just one? We’ve got you covered…check out our Winter Gift Set, which includes all three and comes gift wrapped, ready for you to pop under the tree.

5. Chocolates
http://www.choctree.co.uk/

Chocolate Tree is a Scottish artisan firm that takes ecology seriously. 

Pat Harrington, General Secretary of Solidarity, said:

A friend gave me their dark chocolate Peppermint bar as a gift. It was delicious and though my daughter doesn’t generally go for dark chocolate she liked this (probably as the Peppermint took the edge off the usual bitterness). They deliver free for orders from most of the UK over a certain amount.” 

Tory MP speaks out on low pay

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Peter Bottomley, MP for Worthing West in West Sussex has spoken out on low pay‘I don’t know how they manage. It’s really grim.’ He spoke with passion on how ‘desperately difficult‘ it was for some managing on their salary.

So who was Mr. Bottomley speaking of? Nurses, cleaners, care workers, or, perhaps public sector workers? No. Mr. Bottomley was concerned about MPs who were struggling to live on their salary.

MPs earn £81,932 for their roles in parliament, with the average salary in England standing at £31,461 as of last year.

His comments were made on the same day that the Universal Credit uplift of £20 came to an end, leaving tens of thousands of the most vulnerable in the UK under more financial strain.

Wes Streeting, the shadow child poverty secretary, told Radio 5 Live that he was “genuinely infuriated” by Bottomley’s comment.

Referring to the £20 per week universal credit cut being implemented this week, he said:

“We are perfectly well paid, and unfortunately too many MPs on the Conservative side, at the same time as whingeing about very high – relatively high – levels of pay that MPs get in this country, at the same time they are clobbering people who are losing over £1,000 a year, which is 10% of their income in some cases.

This is my problem with the Tories – it’s not that they’re evil, bad people who go into work every day thinking ‘How can we plunge more kids into poverty?’ but, as Peter Bottomley’s comments show, they just don’t know what life is like for a hell of a lot of people in this country and they make policies that are actively hurting people who are going out, working hard, trying to make the best for their family and are really struggling.”

Mr. Bottomley subsequently told LBC that he had not known the interview would be published this week, but that he stood by his remarks.

He said he was trying to make the point that increasing MPs’ salaries from the current average of just over £80,000 a year would make it easier to widen the pool of people interested in changing careers to become parliamentarians, without having to take a pay cut.

“If people can’t switch across to being an MP, you’re going to exclude a whole lot of people,” he said, such as headteachers and public sector executives.

Patrick Harrington, general secretary of Solidarity, commented: “Clearly the timing of the statements was unfortunate for Mr. Bottomley. Perhaps he was unaware that his comments would be published on the very day that Universal Credit was cut. He should have realised that was a possibility though and how it would be taken. 

As to his argument about increasing the pool of MPs, I would argue that we need more people from a working-class background rather than more from higher-income backgrounds. I admired the Militant Tendency-linked MPs of the past who took only the average workers’ wage. That kept them more in touch with the people. It was principled. That’s what we need, principled leadership. Being an MP shouldn’t be seen as a career but a vocation.

What should we do about supply chain disruption?

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On one day recently around 2,000 petrol stations had run out of at least one type of fuel. And at thousands of others, there were long queues as drivers tried to fill up.

Fuel disruption is one aspect of the shortage of lorry drivers. Fuel exists, but it can’t be delivered to petrol stations to meet demand (especially when demand increases).

The drivers’ shortage is also hitting supermarket supplies and patients are facing delays to their prescriptions and shortages of ­over-the-counter drugs because of a lack of deliveries.

Uncontrolled immigration is not the answer to supply chain problems

In a TV interview with Andrew Marr before the Tory conference, Johnson acknowledged that disruption to some supplies could continue until Christmas, but said the only short-term solution was to resume uncontrolled immigration, which would be wrong.

What we can’t do … in all these sectors is simply go back to the tired, failed old model, reach for the lever called ‘uncontrolled immigration’, get people in at low wages. And yes, there will be a period of adjustment, but that is, I think, what we need to see in this country.

Asked whether labour shortages and the associated disruption they caused were an inevitable part of his Brexit policy, Johnson did not disagree. He said: “When people voted for change in 2016, and when people voted for change in 2019, they voted for the end of a broken model of the UK economy that relied on low wages and low skill, and chronic low productivity. And we’re moving away from that.”

Better the one sinner who repenteth?

It’s not often that we agree with a Tory Leader but here he is right. Pat Harrington, General Secretary of Solidarity Union, commented:-

The Tories helped bosses drive down pay by attacking trade union organisation, outlawing some strikes, allowing fire and rehire and implementing a public sector pay freeze. If they are now saying they want a higher valued and higher skilled workforce many things will have to change. 

Importing foreign labour is not a long-term solution problem. The disruption to supply chains starkly illustrates how over-reliant we were on foreign labour in essential economic sectors. Solidarity has long argued that we should train UK workers to do these jobs.

I welcome the announcement by the Department for Education that it will be investing up to £10 million to create “skills boot camps” for up to 3,000 new British HGV drivers. Another 1,000 will be trained through local courses. It doesn’t go far enough, however. Logistics UK estimates that what is actually needed is about 90,000 HGV drivers. Supermarkets alone require an additional 15,000 HGV drivers to operate at full capacity ahead of Christmas. The government must do far more to support training.”

“My view is that the disruption to our supply chains is the result of a number of different factors: the effects of Covid-19, Brexit (and particularly poor planning to mitigate negative consequences) and partly about factors causing similar shortages across large parts of Europe.

I believe we can weather the storm and take prudent measures nationally and as consumers to lessen effects. In the longer term, we can emerge stronger as a nation and offer hope to our own people of a reasonably paid job.

So what “prudent measures” does Solidarity advise its members to take? 

  • Don’t panic buy but slowly build a small surplus of essential consumer goods. We suggest a month is achievable.
  • Order items that require delivery early for Xmas
  • Source gifts locally – it is better ecologically and economically anyway
  • Wherever possible buy UK made goods
  • Send gifts earlier than usual – they don’t have to be opened till Xmas
  • If you are in an insecure job or one you don’t like think about retraining – the change and disruption also provides an opportunity

Inflation up = real wages down

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Inflation is rising and that’s bad news for workers.

Inflation rose at its fastest recorded rate for at least a quarter of a century last month. 

Inflation is the rate at which the cost of goods and services rises year on year. In order to be able to buy the same amount of goods, your salary must increase by at least the same level as inflation.

Where the inflation rate outstrips wage increases, you lose money in real terms. You need to spend a higher proportion of your wages to buy the same goods, so your living costs increase.

Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures showed the CPI measure of inflation jumped by 1.2 percentage points to 3.2 percent—a nine-year high. Jonathan Athow, an ONS national statistician, says August “saw the largest rise in annual inflation month-on-month since the series was introduced almost” 25 years ago.

The British government prefers the CPI rate because it excludes housing costs and therefore minimises price rises. This is important when it comes to issues such as uprating benefits.

Working-class people are already being hit in the pocket with increasing food and transport costs behind the surge. Petrol prices rose to their highest since September 2013.

More bad news is coming.

Gas and electricity bills are set to increase sharply this autumn. VAT tax will rise back to 12.5 per cent for the hospitality sector at the end of this month and food and clothing prices are also expected to jump in the autumn.

The inflation rise comes as the Tories push through Universal Credit benefit cuts and National Insurance Contribution increases.

And the Bank of England warned earlier this summer that CPI inflation could rise to 4 percent by the end of the year.

Rehana Azam, GMB union national secretary, said, “The cost of food, of rent, of basic day-to-day living is the highest it’s been for ten years.

Yet the government persists with pushing forward a real terms pay cut for public sector workers.  

“Their cruel agenda is taking food from the mouths of our carers, our NHS workers, our school staff and our council workers.”

She added, “After the pandemic and a disastrous decade of cuts workers should be rewarded with a proper pay rise—not more slashed wages.

“Any recovery needs pay to not only beat the cost of living but also start restoring what’s been lost over the last ten years.” 

Many workers have suffered substantial pay cuts in “real terms” – adjusted for inflation – since the beginning of the financial crash in 2008. 

Pat Harrington, General Secretary of Solidarity, commented: “Without union protection workers will be faced with attempts by bosses to give wage increases below the real level of inflation or, worse still, face pay freezes. Effectively instead of a pay rise, they will be getting a pay cut. Only unions can stand against this and unions now represent only 25 percent of the workforce compared to the 45 percent back in the 70s. Union members will not be as hard-hit as other non-unionised workers. That’s just a sad fact. Still, we owe it to our fellow workers to reach out to them and urge them to join a union.”

Jobs at risk as furlough ends

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The furlough will end at the end of this month.

One in 16 companies now say that they are in danger of closure in the next three months.The lives of around a million people are set to be thrown into chaos when the Tories close the furlough scheme at the end of the month.6 percent of the entire workforce in Britain was still furloughed as of 22 August.More than half of staff in passenger air transport were still temporarily laid off at the end of July.

Areas close to airports are among the places with highest rates of workers still on furlough. A staggering 10 percent of all employees in the London boroughs of Hounslow and Hillingdon and the town of Slough remain on the scheme.These are areas that surround Heathrow airport. The picture in Crawley, near London Gatwick airport, is similar.Deven Ghelani, chief ­executive of the analysts Policy in Practice said, “By removing the pandemic’s ­protective measures too early, the government is introducing an autumn of income shocks to families who depend on this support.”

Peter Lambert of the London School of Economics Programme on Innovation and Diffusion said, “I think there will probably need to be some continuation of support in specific sectors.“My bet is there’ll be more targeted support because unless the economy really, really picks up, there’s going to be lots of people still left in the lurch in specific sectors.”

Pat Harrington, General Secretary of Solidarity commented: “These are uncertain times for workers. One step you can take is to join a Union that can help you if you have problems. With the end of furlough and continuing economic worries we expect the number of people in need of representation to increase.”

“TECHNOLOGY SOVEREIGNTY” SOLIDARITY CALLS FOR ACTION

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During the pandemic, it became increasingly obvious that a country needs to be able to provide its population with essential supplies using its own domestic capacities. Our country must not be dependent on other countries for key needs.

All states or federations of states should be able to provide or produce in their own countries the infrastructures, services, and products, e.g. medicines, needed for society and the economy and for carrying out their own public tasks and must have the appropriate technologies and sufficient research capacities for innovative solutions.

That’s why people are talking about “technology sovereignty” or ‘TechSov’. But what is it?

For us, it means the ability of a state or a federation of states to provide the technologies it deems critical for its welfare, competitiveness, and ability to act and to be able to develop these or source them from other economic areas without one-sided structural dependency.

We believe the UK should preserve options by developing and maintaining its own capabilities and avoiding one-sided dependencies. We also believe that the UK government should be able to block foreign takeovers of UK businesses or impose strict conditions where there are national security or public interest considerations.

At present, a number of key defence companies have been bought by overseas concerns or are the subject of takeover bids. In addition supermarkets like Morrisons and Sainsbury’s face foreign takeovers with huge potential effects on UK suppliers and workers.

Pat Harrington, General Secretary of Solidarity, commented: “I believe that the UK State should hold golden shares in companies which are strategically important to our national interest. This should be easier now that we are not part of the EU. A golden share is a type of share that gives its shareholder veto power over changes to the company’s charter. One golden share controls at least 51% of voting rights. This would enable the UK government to exercise some control over ownership of a company taking account of our national and strategic interests. Both the UK and Brazil have used them in the past. This should be accompanied by stricter rules on the financing of takeovers and the powers of the State to pause and investigate them. The outcome of the TechSov debate is vital to our countries future.”