Notes from the front of 11-04-2018

The gender pay gap needs closing, as well as measuring

The deadline for large companies and organisations with more than 250 employees to report their gender pay gap passed on 4 April. The information collected reveals that eight out of ten large firms pay men more than women and the median pay gap amongst the organisations that have reported is 9.7 per cent.

Eight per cent of companies that responded are reporting no gender pay gap at all between men and women – a statistically unlikely scenario which calls into question whether the data that has been provided is accurate.

Whilst 10,000 companies and organisations published their data in time, approximately 1,500 failed to report by the deadline. The latter have an additional 28 days from 4 April to report before the government considers further action, including taking the offending companies to court and issuing fines.

Some particularly outrageous gender pay gaps have been reported. Lingerie company Boux Avenue reports it pays women 75.7 per cent less than men and London fashion company Karen Millen reports a 49 per cent gender pay gap.

The airline industry is a particularly discriminatory with pilots being almost exclusively men and women predominately working as cabin crew. Consequently Ryanair has revealed it has a 71.8 per cent pay gap. EasyJet, TUI, Thomson and all have pay gaps of at least 45 per cent.

Nearly 40 of the 100 organisations with the biggest pay gap are schools or academy trusts – all of which reported median pay gaps of at least 50 per cent which means men are being paid twice as much as women on average.

The government should ensure that all the outstanding companies and organisations report their gender pay gaps – using fines if necessary. Steps should also be taken to ensure that there is no misreporting of the data provided by companies.

Ascertaining the size of the gender pay gap is important, but it also very necessary that new measures are taken that can deliver equal pay. So the next steps must include proposals on closing the gap.

Oppose Israel’s killing of Palestinian protestors

Yet again Israel has deployed lethal force against unarmed Palestinian protesters. On two recent protests at Gaza’s border with Israel, on Friday 30 March and Friday 6 April, Israeli soldiers killed 31 people and injured more than one thousand people. The Palestinian demonstrations were part of a six-week series of protests culminating at the 70th anniversary commemoration of the ‘Nakba’ (Arabic: catastrophe), when more than 700,000 Palestinian Arabs were expelled from their homes in 1948.

Israel as usual claims it is justified in its deadly violence. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu said ‘well done to our soldiers’ and Israel’s Defence Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, said that ‘you have to understand, there are no innocent people in the Gaza Strip.’ In a social media post, since deleted, the official spokesman of the Israel Defence Force said that they knew where ‘every bullet landed.’

On Saturday 31 March, the US blocked a draft United Nations Security Council statement which condemned the killing of the Palestinians, called for an ‘independent and transparent investigation’ of the violence and reaffirmed the Palestinians’ ‘right to peaceful protest.’ This prompted the Palestinian Authority to severely criticise the US Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, as an ambassador of ‘animosity, hatred and dark ideology.’

Subsequently UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres issued a statement saying: ‘I particularly urge Israel to exercise extreme caution with the use of force in order to avoid casualties. Civilians must be able to exercise their right to demonstrate peacefully.’

Israel’s violence against Palestinian protesters has been widely criticised, including by a number of Arab States, Turkey and also the European Union. In a statement published on Wednesday 4 April the European Union stated: ‘The EU continues to be deeply alarmed about the use of live ammunition by Israeli Security Forces as a means of crowd control… The EU reiterates its call on Israeli authorities to employ proportionate force in their response to demonstrations.’

Whilst the UK government has been silent on these Israeli attacks, leader of the Labour Party Jeremy Corbyn has spoken out. He said: ‘The killing and wounding by Israeli forces of civilians demonstrating for Palestinian rights in Gaza is appalling. The UK government must make its voice heard on the urgency of a genuine settlement for peace and justice.’ He has demanded Theresa May support the call for an independent international inquiry.

Israel has been imposing a brutal siege on Gaza for the past 11 years. Blockaded by land, air and sea – the 2 million Palestinians living in the Gaza strip suffer enormous hardship and poverty, with only a tiny number ever allowed to travel outside of the territory.

In February 2018 the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres characterised the conditions in Gaza as a ‘constant humanitarian emergency’, indicating that ‘two million Palestinians are struggling everyday with crumbling infrastructure, an electricity crisis, a lack of basic services, chronic unemployment and a paralyzed economy. All of this is taking place amid an unfolding environmental disaster.’

Earlier this year Donald Trump decided to withhold funds from the United Nations agency supporting Palestinian refugees. The UNRWA provides education, medical care and emergency assistance to Palestinian refugees including to the Rafah refugee camp in Gaza – and its budget has been cut by almost one third. These cuts will only exacerbate the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

A further peaceful demonstration against the siege is due to take place in Gaza on Friday 13 April as the next part of these six weeks of protests. The Israeli human rights organisation, B-Tselem, has issued an appeal to Israeli soldiers to refuse ‘grossly illegal’ orders to fire at unarmed protesters. Meanwhile a US envoy has urged Palestinians to abandon their peaceful protests.

All progressives across the world should support the call for an independent international inquiry into Israel’s attacks on Palestinian protesters and should defend the right of Palestinians to express their democratic rights through peaceful protests.

Lula jailed to stop his re-election as President

On 7 April Brazil’s former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva was taken into custody to start serving a jail sentence of more than 12 years.

He had been a popular president for eight years up till 2010, and this past year has been leading in the opinion polls for this year’s presidential election – with double the support of his nearest opponent, the right wing politician Jair Bolsonaro.

Lula’s real ‘crime’ is that he is far ahead in the opinion polls and has been on course to win the presidential election. That is why he is now in prison. Lula’s conviction and jailing is a real coup against democracy in Brazil – in fact the second one in two years, as the first was the impeachment of Dilma Rousseff in 2016.

The corrupt right wing regime installed in 2016 after the Rousseff’s removal from office has carried out many attacks on Brazil’s population. As a result its candidates are not that popular and would lose out to Lula in any free election.

These coups to exclude the Worker’s Party’s (PT) are because its policies are seen by capital as an unacceptable to its agenda. US imperialism, in particular, is determined that there should not be an independent Brazil countering US influence in Latin America, so Washington is backing this overturn of democracy. Meanwhile the Brazilian right wing are threatening more widespread repression, with Bolsonaro openly calling for a return to military dictatorship.

The coup that is taking place is a threat to the people of Brazil and also to justice and democracy everywhere. There needs to be international protests, to expose this coup and assist Brazilians fighting against the repression.

To show solidarity with people of Brazil, sign the #StandWithLula statement here and become a friend of Brazil. Also promote and attend this event: The attack on Lula and the threats to Brazil’s democracy 6pm Thursday 12 April, 6 pm – at SOAS, Auditorium SWLT (Paul Webley Wing,) Senate House, Malet St, Bloomsbury, London WC1E 7HU – To register visit