Archives for category: Education

The Birmingham Trades Union Council invites you all to our annual May Day rally; open to all trade unionists their families & friends to commemorate historic, industrial, political & peace struggles around the world.  

 12.30 pm Saturday 29th April: committee rooms 3 and 4

Council House Victoria Square B1 1BB 

Speakers 

         Frank Keogh,  UNITE Health sector  

         Patrick Highton, Birmingham Keep NHS Public 

         Stephen Brown, Musicians Union regional secretary 

         Neil Vernon, formerly branch secretary Birmingham UCATT (now part of Unite) 

         Gill Ogilvie, regional organiser GMB on school funding cuts 

          Speaker from the Friends of the Birmingham Libraries 

The speakers will discuss the crisis in the NHS, the massive cuts in funding for local schools leading to widespread redundancies of classroom assistants and teachers and the destruction of Birmingham’s library service. Neil will be speaking about the use of umbrella companies to exploit employees. There will be plenty of time for discussion from the floor. 

Refreshments will be provided and unions and political campaigns are invited to have stalls at the event. 

For further details and to book a stall contact the Birmingham TUC secretary: 

btucsec@hotmail.com

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Comments on an FT article by Philip Stephens 

No policies? Every time I see Jeremy Corbyn being interviewed or giving speeches he is addressing these very issues and more.

“Who can worry about housing, schools or transport, let alone the mundane aspirations of Middle England, ahead of the great liberation struggles.” I don’t know where Philip Stephens has been but every time I see Jeremy Corbyn being interviewed or giving speeches he is addressing these very issues and more.

I would suggest he and the Labour party have lost the working-class vote thanks to the previous Blair government being non representative of them.  Remember Mandelson talking about being: ” Intensely relaxed about people getting filthy rich as long as they pay their taxes…?” Corbyn has also suffered very badly by the press.  Mrs May has profited by Cameron’s mistake and badly handled Remain campaign and we are now at the mercy of this unelected PM and her party… (see also JC policy docs here)

Philip Stephens creates a narrative that doesn’t fit the facts. Corbyn has delivered effective attacks on the Government on welfare, the NHS and housing, some producing small U-turns.

He also travelled up and down the country campaigning to Remain. The problem was he and the Labour Party failed to breakthrough the media ignoring their campaign and focussing (in terms of the Remain argument) exclusively on the pathetic and useless official Remain campaign. Jeremy has been democratically elected twice to be leader. His record should in no way be considered dismal. He has consistently delivered his honestly and long-held beliefs.

Rubbish analysis as per usual although the historical throwback is well put.

Corbyn does care about housing, education, schools, middle england, under invested regions (it was Corbyn who was talking about a migrant impact fund), transition to Green energy.

Corbyn far-left? Inaccurate and “un-FT”. Corbyn seems to be a middle of the road socialist, at least by normal European standards.

Far-left policies include abolishing private healthcare, private education, the monarchy, making all third-level education free, nationalising banks and railways and a number of other things, some of which would probably be quite good for the country.

As it is, Corbyn seems to be a middle of the road socialist, at least by normal European standards. Far-left European politicians would include Vladimir Lenin, Rosa Luxembourg, Alexander Lukashenko and any number of dictatorial 1980s Communist party secretaries in Warsaw Pact-era eastern Europe. Jeremy Corbyn is quite clearly not in that zone unless one is a swivel-eyed Daily Mail reader.

A question: When Brexit is done and May is left standing there blinking vaguely and surrounded by the wreckage of the economy where will the Conservative Party be in the eyes of the electorate?

Its reputation for sound economic management will have been trashed along with the economic damage it has just imposed on the country so who wins?

Philip you are doing the FT (and its readers) a signal disservice by misunderstanding Corbyn and the Labour left.

Copeland was never likely to vote for an anti nuclear Labour Party – and well you know that. The wonder is that the Labour Party nearly won the seat despite being clearly antagonistic to the existence of the region’s biggest employer. WE, the subscribers to the FT, expect objective reporting that enables good decision making.

Corbyn and labour can’t win at the moment, if they go to the middle and ignore the democratisation of their party they will lose, if they stay a democratic left party the boomers and those with assets won’t vote for them as they fear socialism

Meanwhile the millennials and future generations bear the brunt of public debt created privately, and shareholder capitalism which is a race to the bottom, generation rent, and the absurd 40% of income rent costs in areas where there are plentiful jobs and opportunity epitomises the modern day surplus extraction and misery of those who have not lived among the golden age of capitalism, add tuition fees, stagnating public services (NHS), erosion of employment rights and you can see why Corbyn is confident among that 20% (of which I’m a part, ha ha ha, how funny he’s so inept ha ha ha lets all laugh at corbyn because there are so many other alternatives out there that are SO much better).

The Tories will continue their irrational, economically illiterate policy that is not running the country into the ground but causing growing social issues, and new social actors will emerge from the post 2008 age eventually tipping the balance towards something more corbyn-esque. Until then it will be the same old, same old.

Corbyn’s crackpot policies are simply outrageous! Spending a little more on the NHS and primary school education?  Providing a bit more affordable housing in the midst of a housing crisis? 

Failing to asset strip the public infrastructure? Rowing back a bit on the vast, exploitative Sports Direct-ification of the British economy?  Why, this is simply unpatriotic! How “radical” – somebody stop this crazed moderate, centre-left European-style social democrat Corbyn before my taxes end up a little bit higher and the proles end up with a slightly better quality of life!

God forbid that poorer people should ever have slightly better quality of life. Who knows where that might end? It’s better not to give people hope. It just encourages them to think. 

I agree.  Britain’s low wage, low skill, low investment, low productivity economy would be severely jeopardised by the dangerous, radical policies of Jeremy Corbyn. Sure, he’s languishing in the polls now, but the proles are a fickle lot and cannot be trusted to consistently vote for their own impoverishment. What if Corbyn dons a Union Jack leotard and starts leaping up to belt out a few verses of ‘God Save The Queen’ with gusto on the next campaign trail, waving a couple of flags about like the dickens.  Why, the proles might even be duped by this charade into voting him into office! This would leave us all at the mercy of an outbreak of half-decent working and housing conditions for the proles at any time.  This simply would not do, too much has already been invested by the Conservatives in their cooption of UKIP’s policy platform!

There was no money left. The Tories have just borrowed billions. The crash will be spectacular.

This article is high in the running for one of the worst I have read in the FT in years.  We are in the end times of Neo-Liberalism, an experiment where maybe 20% did very well, and 80% were massively left behind.

Corbyn, Trump, Brexit are consequences of a system that has failed, and a financial system that collapsed in 2008, never a crisis always a collapse.  Stevens has no understanding of the why’s of brexit or the rise of Corbyn.  The left-right paradigm is dead.  I could not find one sentence in this article that is not total ideological nonsense.

If Jeremy has got under the skin of Philip Stephens so badly he must be doing something right.

Most Labour MPs and most journalists hate Corbyn as if he were the devil.  He represents the one pole of the process of polarisation caused by the 2007-9 Great Recession and the continuing crisis of world capitalism.

Let there be no mistake. The reason Philip Stephens is so horrified is because if his buddies amongst the old Labour MPs who are career politicians, were instead people of principle and socialists, then the Labour Party would be challenging for power.

The lesson of our era is the fluidity and rapidity of change. If Corbyn is right, (and I think there is lots of evidence to back him up), if he can be seen to be a leader of masses on protests and demonstrations, this will sharply polarise politics and this may match a simultaneous collapse in Tory support.  The Labour MPs who are resigning and trying to oust Corbyn again with their endless press briefings against him are part of a deliberate coup attempt. This time a sort of coup by water torture. They will fail again. The only major criticism one can make of Corbyn is he is too soft on these saboteurs. There are times when a sword must be wielded.

The worrying thing about this analysis is, his policies weren’t even that far left, they were definitely more central than Thatcher’s. Yet the FT reports this as if he’s Lenin/Kim Jung Un etc. His biggest failing for the press is he wants a meritocracy and for companies which require state support (through the use of tax credits to prop up salaries and increase profits and bonuses) to not pay dividends, which is effectively the Government paying the rich in an indirect way. Yes he has his failings, as does everyone, but generally speaking a lot of his economic policies would work fairly well at creating a long term balanced economy.

Corbyn, and his anointed heir, need to show there is an alternative to the Conservative Creed. Perhaps he needs to lose an election to clear out the MPs who are undermining him.

Perhaps this will result in his own political demise. But if he has a suitable succession plan in place then his success will come after he is gone. With the LabouraTory MPs planked off the sinking ship, seats will be freed for real Labour candidates for the subsequent election.

Facetious commentary. Corbyn has inherited a mess of a party with crumbling membership and totally out of touch MPs.

Time and time again polls have shown that the public want a ring fenced NHS, working railways and better care for the elderly, sick and disabled. To finance that he has stated that he will increase funding to the HMRC so that it can go after companies that are not paying their taxes (last year’s estimated unpaid tax was £34 Billion) which is probably why this article has been written in the style it has.

People want the state to intervene if something isn’t working. The current level of income disparity is something that is directly affecting the world by creating the perfect soil for fascism. Yet no other political leader wants to do anything about it (since it will affect their careers after being an MP). 

Versus the CIA and capitalism he is the best chance we have of having a fair society

As Steve Beauchampé writes in the Birmingham Press and Political Concern, generations of an elite have ruled this nation (with a few intermissions) for as long as anyone can remember, due to a rigged electoral system.

Their dual achievements:

  • comfortable tax arrangements for the few, a political/corporate nexus which ensures highly paid and nominal duties for all in the inner circle
  • vast military expenditure bestowed on the arms industry, as rising numbers of the population survive in relative poverty, wait in hospital corridors, receive a sub-standard education and depend on handouts to eke out their existence.

Direction of travel

Beauchampé:(The) economy is increasingly kept afloat by the economic support of China . . . The modern high-rise residential blocks that have sprung up throughout the capital may give the impression of a modern, flourishing economy, but look closely and you will see that many are all but empty, whilst homelessness and a reliance on subsistence level housing grows . . . “He notes that surveillance is at an historic high with spy cameras, and even microphones installed in many public places -describing the state’s ability to track the population and follow their activities and conversations as ‘frightening’. . .

The elite stranglehold could be broken

OB’s editor agrees with many that electoral reform is a priority for beneficial change – but even under the rigged ‘first past the post’ system, if the weary mass of people (Brenda of Bristol)  saw the true situation they would vote for the candidate with a credible track record who would be most likely to work for the common good.

 

 

 

 

West Midlands New Economics Group

WMNEG chairman Alan Clawley will present extracts

from Jeremy Rifkin’s 2014 book,

‘The Zero Marginal Cost Society’

the internet of things,

the collaborative commons

and the eclipse of capitalism.

Open meeting: FOE Warehouse, 54 Allison St, B5 5TH

Thursday 30th March 5-7 pm

All welcome.

Contributions of £2 to cover the cost of room hire.

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Earlier this month, Cllr. Brett O’Reilly, cabinet member for jobs and skills, stressed the importance of apprenticeships before addressing a National Apprenticeship Week event in Birmingham.

He said that the council aims to increase the number of apprentices at the city council, using the apprenticeship framework to reward existing staff through development opportunities. Wards where youth unemployment is at its highest will be targetted, providing meaningful apprenticeship opportunities that will enable people in time to secure permanent employment.

Good apprenticeship programmes combine shop-floor and college based training for an average of three years and require a long-term commitment from the employer. Experienced workers have to nurture the individual apprentice through the time-consuming process – a task which takes them away from their regular duties to some degree.

APS Metal Pressings in Hockley had two toolmaking apprentices last year: Aaron Wilks is in his second year and Ethan Wilkes completed his second year and started a HNC engineering course in September.

One problem is that some companies invest in training apprentices who graduate and then leave to join companies without a training programme who reap the benefits without investing time or money in apprenticeships. Setting out a clear career path, continual appraisals and pay scale increments for apprentices encourage commitment, but there is a case for clearly stated contractual tie-ins for an agreed period of time in order to protect the company’s investment.

On the WM Producers’ site there was news of other apprenticeships and the ‘graduation’ of Kirsty, Professional Polishing’s latest apprentice (left)was celebrated.

Cllr. O’Reilly highlighted the city’s drive to retain talent within Birmingham and  strengthen the local economy by ensuring  the right training and learning opportunities available for anyone who needs it. Skills level in the city region will have a major impact on future economic growth and ensure inclusive growth reaching out to citizens in all parts of our city.

To this end, the city council has developed its ‘Step Forward: Upskilling for Life’ strategy in partnership with the public, private and third sectors, working directly with employers to encourage upskilling of the workforce, co-ordinating support and guidance so people can choose the right qualifications for the career path they want to take.

Cllr. O’Reilly: “The goal is to leave nobody behind.”

 

 

 

 

This news was sent by Aldo Mussi, Tutor-Activist in Health Promotion/Public Health, Public Health teaching team Birmingham City University. He writes:

“Climate change is not only a pressing public health, ecological and justice concern – it’s increasingly a financial worry. With fossils fuels increasingly seen as a liability, the shift by investors away from this old technology is growing”.

At the end of 2016 Arabella Advisors reported that 688 organizations ― including some charities, faith-based groups, universities and local governments ― and 58,399 individuals across 76 countries have committed to pulling their money out of oil, gas and coal companies.

In keeping with that trend, in November 2015 Aldo had welcomed reports that BCU was in the top 16 of British universities which had started ‘divesting’ from fossil fuels. (The top 10 were divesting completely, while the fund managers for BCU and others were merely fleeing tar sands & coal (the dirtiest fuels). Others have joined the trend since then, but BCU is still in the top 25% of universities who have made the move.

People & Planet (a national network of student eco-societies) publish a ‘green league table’ of British universities, and in the 2016 results, it’s good to see BCU placed 31 out of 150 institutions (top of the list of those awarded a ‘2.1’, but frustratingly just missing out on a ‘First’).

Birmingham City University People & Planet University League 2016 Scorecard:

1. Environmental Sustainability; Policy and Strategy 100

2. Human Resources for Sustainability 40

3. Environmental Auditing & Management Systems 100

4. Ethical Investment 0

5. Carbon Management 35

6. Workers Rights 15

7. Sustainable Food 60

8. Staff and Student Engagement 20

9. Education for Sustainable Development 35

10. Energy Sources 31

11. Waste and Recycling 76

12. Carbon Reduction 78

13. Water Reduction 50

Aldo comments, “A quick look at BCU’s scorecard (below) raises an obvious question: If we are at the forefront of divestment, why did we score a zero for ‘Ethical Investment’? It turns out that People & Planet’s criteria depend largely on being able to audit an institution’s published policies, including an Ethical Investment policy. BCU had not yet published one, so that counted against us. Interestingly, had it been published, our partial divestment would have counted for a score of 5% – possibly enough to push us up into a ‘First’ next time? It seems that BCU management may be addressing this in the near future, so I’m hoping I’ll be able to report even better news soon…”

 

 

 

The Chancellor visited Birmingham and the Black Country yesterday to launch the Midlands Engine Strategy. When visiting Dudley College, where he spoke to students about their future plans, Philip Hammond said that much of the focus would be on skills development:

“The days when businesses needed to worry about where they got their money and their markets from is being replaced by where they get their skills. The ambition to close the skills gaps between the Midlands and the rest of the UK is essential for the region’s growth”.

Yes, Mr Hammond, there are skills shortages in some sectors of the economy, but these are high-level specialist skills such as science and engineering, which apply to the West Midlands eg JLR, but this represents only a minority of the WM economy (manufacturing is 13% of the WM economy).  

There is NOT a shortage of skills in most sectors of the economy, there is actually an UNDER-utilisation of qualifications and skills, as the UKCES reports demonstrate and the WM economy exemplifies.  

Industry no longer trains its workforce as it once did as a matter of course

A BBC review of the UKCES) UK Employer Skills Survey 2015 of 91,000 employers identified a large proportion of employers who feel they underutilise their workers’ skills, with 4.3 million people (16% of the workforce) over-skilled or over-qualified for their current roles. The survey also provided insight into skills mismatches, identifying members of employers’ existing workforces who were not “fully proficient” in their current jobs.

In part, Hatcher thinks, responsibility lies with the employers themselves: it is “a legacy of the engineering sector being locked into a low-skills equilibrium caused by a long-term failure to educate and train its workforce” (p594). It is also a legacy of low investment: the result in part of the nationwide failure of government to ensure sufficient qualified maths and science teachers.

Much of the city’s economy is low-value production which only needs low-level skills. Just think of the spread of zero-hours contracts, Uber taxis and delivery workers.  

He ends: “What is lacking – because big business would rather invest in city centre property – is investment in high-value high-skill production. Without it more improvement in school results and more skills development just means more under-utilised skills and more under-employed graduates”.

 

 

 

Birmingham traffic

George Monbiot looked for a summary – in clear and simple language – of the damage that traffic pollution can do to children, but he could not find one. Nor could the transport campaigns he consulted. So he wrote this short factsheet for a local school suffering high levels of air pollution, caused in part by the parents, sometimes driving their children just 100 metres up the road. Part of the problem is that many people are unaware of the link between pollution and health issues.

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What Traffic Fumes Do to Our Children

Every year, we discover more about the harm being done to our children by the fumes that cars and other vehicles produce.

The more we learn, the worse it looks. In polluted places, the damage to their health can be very serious.

By driving them to school and by sitting in our cars with the engines idling, we are helping to poison our own children.

Here is what we now know about the harm that traffic pollution can do to children:

-It can damage the growth of their lungs. This means that the lungs of children who have been affected don’t work so well. The damage can last for the rest of their lives.

-It raises the risk of asthma and allergies. For children who already have asthma, pollution can make it worse.

-It can damage the development of their brains. Air pollution can reduce children’s intelligence, making it harder for them to learn.

-It can change their behaviour and reduce their happiness. Air pollution has been linked to anxiety, depression and Attention Deficit Disorder.

-It raises the risk of heart disease later in their lives.

-It can cause cancer, both in children and when they become adults.

-Unborn children can also be affected by the pollution their mothers breathe. Air pollution is linked to babies being born prematurely and small.

-Pollution inside your car can be much worse than pollution outside, because the fumes are concentrated in the small space.

We don’t mean to do this to our children. But once we know how much we are hurting them, we can stop it, by changing the way we travel. Walking and cycling are ideal. And promoted c 2000:

Together we can sort this out, and protect our children from harm.

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The information sources for this factsheet can be found at https://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/wp-content/uploads/advpub/2016/6/EHP299.acco.pdf, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26825441, http://journals.plos.org/plosmedicine/article?id=10.1371/journal.pmed.1001792 and https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/feb/05/the-truth-about-londons-air-pollution

roger-godsiffBirmingham MP Roger Godsiff focusses on the practical reasons for opposing Trident as a drain on resources which could be spent constructively on education and healthcare – and an irrelevance in the post-cold war period.

He points out that although there is no longer a serious nuclear threat, we are left with nuclear weapons which are hugely expensive to build and maintain. “Committing £100 billion to renew our nuclear deterrent is ridiculous at a time of austerity when so many of our services, including conventional defence forces, are being dramatically cut”.

Moreover these so-called British weapons only make up a fraction of the power of the American fleet of submarines: ‘our’ weapons are not independent.  Indeed at present they are in the hands of a new and unpredictable president. On his website Mr Godsiff elaborates:

“The first myth is that the system is ‘independent’. The UK has 4 nuclear submarines. Each can carry up to 8 missiles and each missile can carry up to 5 nuclear warheads. The UK does not own the missiles. It leases them from America where they are made, maintained and tested. Our 4 submarines have to go to the American naval base in Georgia to have the missiles fitted. Therefore our nuclear deterrent is totally dependent on America”.

Roger Godsiff said that the real threats these days cannot be addressed by nuclear weapons. For example, when he was MP for Small Heath there was a huge police operation because one house contained a suicide-bomber who had strapped explosives to himself: “This happened some years ago in White Street, Sparkbrook, where a terrorist cell planning to set off bombs in central Birmingham was monitored and the premises raided before any atrocity was carried out. The individuals involved were all convicted and received long prison sentences . . . “the only way of dealing with threats from domestic terrorist groups is to be continually vigilant and to make sure our police and internal security organisations are properly funded to disrupt their activities”.

“How do you deal with a threat like that?” he asked; “Do you nuke Small Heath? Of course not! Yet this is the kind of threat this country is far more likely to face these days. We don’t need nuclear bombs to address this kind of problem – one warhead kills about a million and spreads radioactive material around for a huge distance”.

He was one of forty-seven MPs on the ‘roll of honour’ voting against spending £31 billion to replace the fleet of submarines that carry our nuclear missiles. Others on the list are named on Wales Online.

 

 

 

prem-sikka-3

Prem Sikka, Professor of Accounting (University of Essex, below) writes:

Corbyn has rejected the trickle-down economic theory favoured by the Conservatives and New Labour.

The liberal economist JK Galbraith likened it to the “horse-and-sparrow theory”, which argued that if you continue to feed the horse enough oats, some will pass through to the road for the sparrows. Well, the sparrows have seen their share of the economy shrink.

A key strand of Corbyn’s policies is to strengthen workers’ ability to secure a larger share of the wealth generated by their own brawn, brain and skills. Towards this end, Corbyn has promised to repeal anti-trade union laws and promote collective bargaining by giving employees the right to organise through a union and negotiate their pay, terms and conditions at work.

Any mention of “collective bargaining” is likely to send neoliberals into convulsions even though big business has been using collective bargaining for decades to advance its interests. Banks, supermarkets, phone, gas, water, electricity and other companies collectively negotiate with governments to secure their economic interests. Finance directors of the 100 largest UK-listed companies, known as The 100 Group, pool their resources to secure advantages by shaping consumer protection, tax, regulation, competition, trade and other government policies. If big business is able to engage in collective bargaining, it is only fair that workers should also be enabled by law to collectively advance their interests.

Boosting workers’ share of GDP seems to be a key part of Corbyn’s policies, as without adequate purchasing power people cannot stimulate the economy

With this in mind, Corbyn advocates wage councils to set working conditions, a decent living wage and the abolition of zero-hours contracts to end the appalling insecurity caused by such working arrangements. Public sector workers have faced wage freezes and cuts in their real wages since 2008. They too have family responsibilities and Corbyn has promised to provide “an inflation-plus pay rise for public sector workers”. He has called for an end to workplace discrimination by requiring firms to publish data about the gender pay gap.

Further changes to dialogue about a division of the economic cake come through proposals to change corporate governance. Corbyn particularly wants to enact measures that would prevent directors and shareholders from extracting cash and then dumping companies, leaving employees, pension scheme members and taxpayers to pick up the tab. In the coming days we may well hear more about how workers and other stakeholders are to be represented on the boards of large companies, together with details of stakeholder votes on limiting excessive executive remuneration.

Jobs and prospects of decent pay would be boosted by investment in infrastructure and new industries. Labour has promised to create a new national investment bank and invest £500bn to reinvigorate the economy.

The burden of debt on young people and their families would be reduced by the abolition of tuition fees. This would enable many to start businesses and join the home ownership ladder, which is an increasingly distant dream for many.

Corbyn has been upfront about how various financial measures are to be funded. These include a marginal rate of 50% on taxable incomes above £150,000 and an increase in corporation tax rate. A reversal of the £15bn corporation tax cut announced by the chancellor in March alone would fund the abolition of the £10bn tuition fee.

In a relatively short time, Corbyn has laid foundations of a New Deal that would ensure economic gains are shared more equitably. Of course, lots more needs to be done – and the media can play a vital role in stimulating the debate rather than obsessing over personalities.