|The News Line: Feature
Friday, 15 March 2019
Spring Statement: ‘From a government that has run out of road’ says McCluskey
RESPONDING to the chancellor Philip Hammond’s Spring Statement yesterday, Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said: ‘The chancellor’s Spring Statement offered nothing to put a spring in the step of families whose incomes have gone into reverse, or the car workers and manufacturing communities whose livelihoods are under threat.
|Unite general secretary Len McCluskey addressing a strike rally
‘This was a Spring Statement from a government that has run out of road and run out of ideas, dominated by the Brexit chaos of its own making. ‘With the planned closure of Honda’s Swindon plant threatening the livelihoods of 15,000 people, it was absent of the need to support UK manufacturing and our beleaguered car industry through the transition to electric and alternatively powered vehicles.
‘Instead it was a masterclass in denial of the damage successive Tory governments have wrought on people and their communities. Philip Hammond glossed over the fact that in-work poverty is on the rise and inequality growing amid the longest wage squeeze since the Napoleonic era and catastrophic austerity.
‘For all Theresa May and her government’s talk of tackling burning injustices, working people know that they will burn fiercer, for longer while the Conservatives remain in charge of the economy.’
• Pilots are reminding drone operators that they could face jail if they fly too close to airports. New legislation came into force on 13th March 2019 which sees the no-fly zone around airports increased from 1km to 5km and gives police greater powers. Those who ignore the rules could face hefty fines and prison sentences.
The British Airline Pilots Association (BALPA) welcomes the change, which it campaigned for, and believes it is one step towards the safe integration of such devices into UK airspace.
But BALPA says it’s not the end of the story and further action is still needed. It’s calling for the government to put in place measures to protect helicopters which operate at low levels away from the protected zone around airports and in areas where drones are frequently flown.
At the same time BALPA continues to work with the government as it drafts its drones bill and is pressing for it to deliver on the promise of a drone registration scheme this year.
BALPA is also urging the government and regulators to encourage airports to invest in drone detection and disabling measures. Head of Flight safety at the British Airline Pilots Association, Dr Rob Hunter said: ‘From today, drone users need to understand that that flying a drone within 5km of an airport or over 400ft is not only putting lives at risk but is also against the law. If you are planning to fly a drone you must do so responsibly. If you don’t you will face significant fines or even time in prison.
‘This new legislation, which BALPA campaigned for, is a step towards the safe integration of drones in to UK airspace. But the puzzle isn’t complete just yet and now is not the time to become complacent.
‘The government must ensure it delivers its promised drone registration scheme and looks at protections for helicopters, which operate in similar airspace to drones away from the no-fly zones around airports. ‘We hope the Department for Transport will take a similar safety-first approach to looking at this aspect.’
• Lidl has announced plans to move its Lutterworth distribution centre in Leicestershire to Peterborough, putting hundreds of jobs at risk. Mark Todd, Usdaw National Officer says: ‘The staff are devastated by Lidl’s plans to move their jobs 50 miles down the road. To ensure they are treated with dignity and respect the company must engage with Usdaw, the trade union for Lidl staff.
‘It is deeply regrettable that the company continues to refuse to speak to Usdaw. Lidl has so far responded to our reasonable requests for initial talks with a firm “thanks, but no thanks”, saying they have chosen “not to formally recognise trade unions”. That position unfairly denies the choice of staff to be represented by a trade union, so we are calling on the company to reconsider.
‘We urge Lidl to end their continued opposition to trade unions and meet with Usdaw. In the meantime we are providing our members with the advice and support they need at this difficult time.’
• The wellbeing of Interserve’s 45,000 UK workforce and its supply chain are being ignored, Unite the union warned on Wednesday 13 March as the company totters on the brink of administration. Interserve has thousands of government contracts and an extensive construction sector. The heavily indebted company has produced a controversial rescue plan. However, many of Interserve’s existing shareholders are opposing the plan and have forced a vote on the deal today, Friday 15 March.
Experts predict if the rescue plan is rejected then Interserve could be forced into administration within days. Unite, which represents more than 1,700 workers, believes that whatever the outcome of today’s vote the workforce will suffer.
If the company is forced into administration then workers on outsourced public sector contracts may be transferred to new companies which is likely to lead to substantial workplace changes. The future for other sections of the business could be far bleaker.
Even if the rescue plan is approved, Interserve will be controlled by its bank lenders, who will be looking for a quick return on their investment. This is likely to lead to a squeeze on pay and conditions, with redundancies and staff not being replaced.
Since the collapse of Carillion in January 2018, Unite has warned that the model of outsourcing companies undercutting each other to secure public sector contracts was broken and that the government must not continue as though it was ‘business as usual’. Unite assistant general secretary Gail Cartmail said: ‘Interserve workers and those in its supply chain are facing an uncertain and difficult future.
‘Whatever the outcome of Friday’s vote, the government as Interserve’s largest client must step in to ensure that the workforce and the supply chain are fully protected and do not become the innocent victims of the company’s epic mismanagement.
‘The predicament of the workforce has been made far worse by the government failing to learn the lessons of Carillion and bringing in new rules to better protect the workforce when companies collapse.
‘What is unequivocally clear is that the current flawed outsourcing model is broken.’
Following Carillion’s collapse, Unite published a report Ending Bandit Capitalism: Learning the lessons following Carillion’s collapse which included 22 recommendations.
The recommendations included: • Director’s duties need to be reformed to require directors to concentrate on the long-term welfare of the company, rather than short term profits.
• The creation of additional rules to ensure that a company’s auditors have a duty of care to employees. • The culture of public sector outsourcing must end.
• The unsustainable culture of the lowest bidder being awarded public sector contracts must end. • Companies bidding for government contracts must demonstrate they are financially robust or be barred from bidding.
Prem Sikka, professor of accounting and finance at the University of Sheffield, said: ‘Interserve’s predicament has been brought about by the relentless focus on appeasing shareholders, paying unwarranted dividends and debt.
‘Once again the government is guilty of being asleep at the wheel in failing to learn the lessons from Carillion’s collapse and introducing measures to ensure that future large-scale corporate failures can be prevented.’
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