By Frances DavisIn the face of an increasingly belligerent management approach, intent on seeking a confrontation with the union, Unite cabin crew members began seven days of industrial action last weekend, with three strike days set to be followed by four further days to begin this coming weekend. The stakes in this dispute should not be underestimated.The dispute focuses on the union’s opposition to British Airways’ attempt to impose significant contractual changes on the workforce that would reduce pay and conditions. Proposals include the extension of working hours and the cutting of crew levels. The union has not sought such a confrontation and has consistently made clear its willingness to negotiate. In contrast, BA’s management have set a path of belligerence, intent on breaking the union’s strength. Having deliberately provoked the current action by tabling last week a worse offer to its workforce than the one it had been offering previously, the management have further sought to intimidate staff not to join the strike action including with threats such as losing travel privileges and even being sacked, and to organise scabs.
By Nicky Dempsey
The 2010 Budget was not designed to aid the recovery from recession, or help narrow the public sector deficit or even boost New Labour’s electoral prospects at the forthcoming general election.
A useful analysis of the Budget measures can be found here. The most telling aspect of it is a complete reversal of the 2009 Budget stimulus measures. These amounted to £50bn in increased spending over the previous year, £26bn of which was an increase in discretionary spending, not just upward pressure on spending arising from the recession.
By Andrew WilliamsThe Tory-led government has already responded to the emergence of a significant wave of resistance to the start of its assault on public services with threats to the right to protest. In response to the wave of student protests it has raised the potential of using water cannon against demonstrations and called for even tougher police tactics. It has justified this by claiming it is a majority of the protesters that are violent, and therefore all protesters must be treated as presenting a threat to breach the peace. Such claims also de-legitimise protest and deter participation in future demonstrations through fear of violence from the police.
by James Norton
All the opinion polls which have come out since the budget confirm the politically damaging character of the budget and the consequent deliberate decision by Alistair Darling to declare that public spending cuts would be ‘tougher and deeper’ than under Thatcher.
Three new polls were published on 29/30 March. Opinium registered the Tories lead increasing from 7% on 22 March to 10% on 29 March. ComRes, which had give a Tory lead of 5% on 28 February, by 28 March recorded a Tory lead of 7%. YouGov, which prior to the budget had seen the Tories lead fall as low as 2%, on 29 March recorded the Conservatives having opened up a 7% gap over Labour.
In short the period prior to the budget, when Labour had been emphasising the difference between its position and Tory cuts, saw the Conservatives lead shrink dramatically. The moment that Alistair Darling delivered the budget, and deliberately talked about cuts worse than Thatcher, Labour’s position worsened significantly.
By Stephen MacAvoy
There is increasing awareness that the deep cuts proposed by the Tory-led government – amounting to £81bn in 2014/15 alone – pose a threat not only to living standards of large sections of society who did not cause the crisis, but also risk sending the economy back into a downturn or years of low growth.
By Jane West
Last week Ed Balls made a speech on the economy, entitled 'There is an alternative', which saw the first break in the political consensus in support of cuts and a framework of 'paying down the deficit', and puts forward a strong case for investment rather than cuts.
Not surprisingly, the speech was a leading item on the news the day after it was made and was widely covered in the print media, as Balls is the first senior politician – apart from Ken Livingstone in setting out his case as Labour candidate for London Mayor – to advocate an alternative strategy to that of the Coalition.
Delegates launch the TUC's All Together forPublic Services campaign outside TUC Congress
The TUC Congress in Manchester marked an important development in the campaign to oppose the coalition government’s frontal assault on the living standards of workers and the poor.
When the Labour leadership of Darling and Mandelson introduced their own measures in March this year, Darling left no-one in doubt – infamously boasting that these cuts would be ‘worse than Thatcher’. Not only did this guarantee that Labour lose the election, it disoriented many and opened the floodgates for the media to wage a relentless campaign that cuts were unavoidable to address the public sector deficit. It is only as the reality of the cuts begins to be widely recognised that the mood has shifted. That shift has been aided by the handful of national politicians who have publicly opposed the cuts and instead proposed a programme of government investment to revive the economy and narrow the deficit through growth. These include Ed Balls, Ken Livingstone and the Greens’ Caroline Lucas.
For more details of the TUC’s March for the Alternative click here
By Jane West
While it is welcome that Stephen Hester, CEO of the publicly-owned Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) has been forced to forego his grotesquely inflated bonus – and that his predecessor Fred ‘the Shred’ Goodwin has been stripped of his knighthood – the truth is the whole furore has been used to divert attention from the most central issue and real scandal relating to the banks.
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