Archives for category: Employment

So says George Monbiot in the Guardian. He trounces Blairite MPs who, disloyal to their elected leader and helping to grant Theresa May a mandate, ‘tolerated anything the Labour party did under Blair’:

They “proclaim disenchantment now that it calls for the protection of the poor, the containment of the rich and the peaceful resolution of conflict.

The popularity of Corbyn’s recent policy announcements leads Monbiot to believe he has a chance, albeit slight, of turning this around. His pledge to raise the minimum wage to £10 an hour is supported by 71% of people, according to a ComRes poll; raising the top rate of tax is endorsed by 62%.

He cites Labour’s 10 pledges, placed some time ago on another website, which could – incorporated in its manifesto – appeal to almost everyone. They promote the theme of security:

secure employment rights,

secure access to housing,

secure public services,

a secure living world.

Compare this with the attitude of the major funder of the Brexit campaign, billionaire Peter Hargreaves: ‘Insecurity is fantastic’.

Those who question Corbyn’s lack of experience and competence should remember where more ‘credible’ politicians led us:

  • Blair’s powers of persuasion led to the Iraq war.
  • Gordon Brown’s reputation for prudence blinded people to the financial disaster he was helping to engineer, through the confidence he vested in the banks.
  • Cameron’s smooth assurance caused the greatest national crisis since the second world war.
  • May’s calculating tenacity is likely to exacerbate it.

A progressive alliance/tactical voting?

Much advice follows; the most congenial is that Labour should embrace the offer of a tactical alliance with other parties:

“The Greens have already stood aside in Ealing Central and Acton, to help the Labour MP there defend her seat. Labour should reciprocate by withdrawing from Caroline Lucas’s constituency of Brighton Pavilion. Such deals could be made all over the country: and as the thinktank Compass shows, they enhance the chances of knocking the Tories out of government . . .”

Monbiot ends:

“The choice before us is as follows: a party that, through strong leadership and iron discipline, allows three million children to go hungry while hedge fund bosses stash their money in the Caribbean, and a party that hopes, however untidily, to make this a kinder, more equal, more inclusive nation I will vote Labour on 8 June . . . I urge you to do the same”.

 

 

 

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

Its message: the greatest need is for affordable rented housing in urban areas. Any solution to Britain’s housing crisis must include a bigger contribution from the public sector. Rather than coercive measures, the focus should be on enabling local authorities and housing associations that wish to build social housing.

Shame is poured on George Osborne’s ‘massive’ reduction of Housing Associations’ capability to invest in new housing with a 1% rent reduction per annum for 5 years: “Social housing rents are already at a large discount to private landlord rents, so this ill-advised move in one go, reduced the capital raising capability of Housing Associations”.

The FT thinks that local authorities should be allowed to:

  • set planning fees,
  • to levy taxes on idle land when developers fail to use planning permissions
  • and, crucially, to borrow in order to fund their own social housing developments.

There is a great deal that can still be done by making better use of brownfield sites and releasing public land for development. An annual tax should be levied on undeveloped land that has residential planning permission but has not been developed whether publicly-owned, or land owned privately, by companies, NGOs or agencies.

Mixed developments are being built, income from sales invested in social housing

At the end of March, Birmingham’s council newsletter reported on the completion of 251 ‘quality’ homes in Erdington. There is a mixture of social housing and houses for sale, for a range of family sizes – from one to five bedroom properties.  The income gained from houses sold from this latest development will be reinvested into the council’s housing stock of social housing. News of other social and affordable new housing in the city may be read here. Today we are reminded that a four year programme has been set up to enlist smaller housebuilders to use smaller plots of land.

Birmingham City Council won Social Housing Provider of the Year’ at the Insider Residential Property Awards in 2016. This highlighted the work of the Birmingham Municipal Housing Trust (BMHT, currently the largest provider of affordable homes per annum in the Midlands with projects in Nechells, Sutton Coldfield and Ladywood. In 2015, BMHT also won the Public Sector Award at the Urban Design Awards for its Newtown redevelopment (See architect Joe Holyoak’s article – one photo above.).

BMHT celebrated the completion of its 2,000 home milestone in March – a culmination of 1,125 homes built for rent and almost 900 built for sale since the council launched the BMHT programme.  The council plans to build around 1,800 further new homes for rent and market sale between now and 2020 in order to close the city’s housing gap.

 

The Planner reported last year that 73 Councils in England are now piloting the new brownfield registers in an attempt to bring forward derelict and underused land for new homes. Dudley’s register may be seen here.

The Government’s brownfield land register project is intended to help to bring forward previously developed land for new homes and fulfil its pledge to get planning permission in place on 90% of suitable brownfield sites for housing.  

Leeds City Council’s website records that it has put together a pilot register of suitable sites able to accommodate 5 or more dwellings or be at least 0.25 hectares in size, with the capacity for building 20,000 new homes. Details, with a map of 84 sites in the six separate zones, are published on the Council’s Open Data platform Data Mill North

Developments include the Climate Innovation District at Low Fold, which will offer 312 zero-carbon apartments, and mixed tenure communities, including local authority-owned housing such as East Bank (Saxton Gardens).

Councillor Judith Blake, Leader of Leeds City Council, said: “Leeds has one of the fastest growing economies and workforces in the UK with 140,000 people working in the city centre alone. Transforming our brownfield sites into these attractive communities supports regeneration, continued economic growth and public services, helping to avoid the problems that some cities have faced of low levels of occupation of the city centre at weekends.

The authority is looking to work in partnership with the private sector with funding models including pump priming, patient investments and grant funding, as well as looking at ways it can underwrite risk.

Councillor John Clancy, leader of Birmingham City Council. “By expanding our partnership working and targeting funding to revive brownfield sites, either by financing infrastructure or supporting individual schemes, we can give developers and investors the confidence to get to work and provide badly needed homes.”

Since 2012, the council has been developing new homes on the estate – a brownfield site – where a clearance programme of poor quality housing has been ongoing for a period of years.  Rebranded as Abbey Fields, one of three schemes being undertaken as part of the council’s Birmingham Municipal Housing Trust programme. The first phases of the redevelopment are now completed providing 141 new family homes. Of these 76 were for outright sale and 65 for social rent as new council homes. Income generated by the sale of these homes will be reinvested into the council’s own housing stock.

A new four year programme will see small and medium sized house builders working for Birmingham City Council’s house building arm – Birmingham Municipal Housing Trust. It was launched on 22nd March at Birmingham’s Council House.

 

 

 

 

Birmingham has been named the most entrepreneurial city in the UK for four successive years – with more start-up businesses than anywhere outside of London. Data released by StartUp Britain shows that 17,473 new businesses were registered in Birmingham during 2016, an increase of 25% on the previous year. There are almost 114,000 self-employed people in Greater Birmingham and Solihull, according to the Office for National Statistics. It also won an award for business support

The leader of Birmingham Council, Cllr John Clancy, said: “Birmingham, known for years as the city of a thousand trades, remains a vibrant centre for entrepreneurs who are prepared to work hard, strike out on their own, and get businesses off the ground. 

There was an outcry when the Chancellor Philip Hammond unveiled a National Insurance hike for self-employed workers in the Budget – now postponed. Some 4.6 million people, around 15% of the workforce, are now self-employed and data from the Office for National Statistics show that two thirds of new jobs in the UK created in recent years are down to self-employment.

Cllr Clancy called on Mrs May immediately to overrule Chancellor Philip Hammond and rule out any increases in Class 4 NIC payments. He said the proposal would hit those who took risks to set up small businesses and create jobs.

Well-informed readers explain that – as long as the self-employed have a contribution record established – they get the standard state retirement pension and older self-employed workers attaining pension age today have, in many cases, some pension accrued as employees for a number of years of their life which the present generation will not have. Benefits the self-employed cannot access relate to holidays, sick pay, maternity and paternity leave.

John McDonnell, the shadow chancellor, has announced that Labour is to convene a summit to develop a new deal for self-employed workers and small businesses and develop Labour’s policy on self-employment. – recognising “that the world of work itself is changing”.

 

 

 

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”.

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

cadbury-2-birmingham-genericEarly in December, mainstream media reported that chocolate-maker Cadbury was proposing to change the way it works with Fairtrade – embarking on ‘a new global partnership’ between its Cocoa Life programme and Fairtrade that will support the rollout of Cocoa Life to Cadbury brands and others, including Suchard and Toblerone.

The partnership between Cadbury and Fairtrade has enabled the establishment of strong farmer organisations, provided training and support for farming communities and offered benefits such as loan schemes and agricultural tools. Some concern has now been expressed about Cadbury-Mondelez’s decision to move the Fairtrade mark to the back of Cadbury products and place the Cocoa Life label on the front.

Cocoa Life was created in 2012 by Mondelez to source all of its cocoa supply sustainably by working with communities who are setting their own ‘most value’ action plans. It is expected to secure a positive future for 200,000 farmers and 1 million community members in Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire, Indonesia, the Dominican Republic, India and Brazil by 2022. In the UK, five times as much Cadbury chocolate will now be made from sustainably sourced cocoa.

Today, Business Desk reports that Cadbury’s owner has agreed to sell most of its grocery business in Australia and New Zealand. The firm announced that the move will enable Mondelēz to make further investment in brands, including Cadbury Dairy Milk chocolate. It added that, starting in the UK and Ireland in May 2017 with a phased roll-out, Cocoa Life will be extended across Cadbury chocolate brands in key markets across the world.

An unmitigated disaster?

MSM reported the words of Paul Birch, secretary of Fairtrade Association Birmingham and chief executive of coffee co-op Revolver which carries the Fairtrade mark, who said: “This is in my view an unmitigated disaster. Cadbury were a shining light, a jewel in the crown, and they have abandoned their principles and abandoned the thousands of supporters of Fairtrade around the country.”

divine_ebenezer_withcocoapods-2One of Divine Chocolate’s farmers and his cocoa pods: from James Ramsden’s website

The Co-operative News  whilst acknowledging the ‘controversial’ nature of the decision, gave a more balanced account.

It reported that Divine Chocolate, another co-op that carries the Fairtrade mark, is worried that consumers will be unable to assess and compare the benefits to farmers being offered by the different chocolate brands if more companies follow suit. “It is however good to know that, through Cocoa Life, Mondelez is continuing to invest in working with farmers in Ghana. We hope that the continued association with Fairtrade means that they will continue to support smallholder farmers to build their organisations.”

Co-operatives UK’s secretary general Ed Mayo, who was involved in the launch of the Fairtrade mark before he joined the co-op, writing in a personal capacity, said: “The test of the Cadbury announcement will be whether cocoa farmers and their co-operatives are better off or worse off as a result of the decision”.

Michael Gidney, chief executive of the Fairtrade Foundation, said: “The evolution of our partnership with Cadbury and Cocoa Life is an exciting development as it embeds Fairtrade, our values, principles and unique relationships with farmer networks, into the whole programme. In doing so, together we can increase the scale and impact of Cocoa Life, towards a common goal – one in which cocoa farmers, their organisations and communities are empowered, can invest in their own future, and go from just surviving, to thriving.”

john-boyle

Many in Birmingham will remember the sterling work of John Boyle (above) in collaborating with a wide range of organisations, outlets and companies, to achieve the Fairtrade City Mark and welcoming Cadbury’s adoption of the mark in 2012.

In these uncertain times it is good to see a company able to work round the clock and many people in Bournville will warm to the words of Glenn Caton, President, Northern Europe at Mondelēz International:

“Cocoa Life builds from Cadbury’s proud heritage of sourcing cocoa sustainably, which dates back to a hundred years ago, when the Cadbury family helped establish cocoa farming in Ghana.”