Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Seriously ill Agency Workers in climate of fear.

I only found this by accident but the  the news that a BBC investigation found. Ambulances were called out to the headquarters of one of Europe's largest sports retailers 76 times in two years, certainly deservres more coverage.

According to the report.
Many of the calls, for workers at Sports Direct's complex at Shirebrook, in Derbyshire, were for "life-threatening" illnesses.
Former workers said some staff were "too scared" to take sick leave because they feared losing their jobs.
 It is not clear exactly how many of these calls were for the thousands of agency workers on site. but there I think  we can safetly assume that angency workers on short term contracts are more likely to go to work in such places when suffering from illness.

It might also be intrsting to investigate if the numbers included any who have been assessed "Fit for Work" under the governments  regulations.

According to the report

A total of 76 ambulances or paramedic cars were dispatched to the distribution centre's post code between January 2013 and December 2014, with 36 cases classed as "life-threatening", including chest pains, breathing problems, convulsions and strokes.
A further seven calls for ambulances were made but cancelled.

The figures, which came from a Freedom of Information request made by the BBC's Inside Out team to East Midlands Ambulance Service, also revealed the service received three calls about women having pregnancy difficulties, including one who gave birth in toilets at the site.
The details have since been passed to the Health and Safety Executive which has said it will examine the data.
Of the 999 calls, six were about car accidents on a road or car park next to the centre, one was for a dog bite and at least two were for a store on the site.
A list of the ambulance calls
The list of calls includes 36 cases classed as "life-threatening" (from BBC)

A document produced by one of the agencies states: "Any person who exceeds six strikes within a rolling six-month period will have their assignment at Sports Direct ended."

Workers can receive a strike for a range of "offences" including:
  • Period of reported sickness
  • Excessive chatting
  • Excessive or long toilet breaks
  • Using a mobile phone in the warehouse
The document adds agencies can end an assignment "at any time without reason, notice or liability".

The Union Unite said it had been told that last year there were about 3,000 agency workers at the Shirebrook headquarters of Sports Direct, which was founded by billionaire Mike Ashley.
Sports Direct has also reported accidents in its warehouse have doubled in the past financial year.
The firm put the rise in accidents down to on-site building work, which has resulted in "increased footfall and decreased workspace".

 Just as this Government are attempting to weaken the Trade Unions further  it is clear that the millions of agency workers who are not Unionised are living in a climate of fear  and are risking thier own health by going to work when they should  be seeking medical treatment.

We can only wonder how far this is replicated amongst Agency Workers else where .

The sad thing is that we are unlikely to find out.

Monday, 5 October 2015

Poltician accuse another Poltician of "Playing Polotics".

The BBC have come up with the shocking David Cameron has accused First Minister news that Carwyn Jones of "playing politics" over the assembly's powers ahead of next year's elections.
The prime minister denied Mr Jones's claim that the UK government's plans could reduce the assembly's powers.
Mr Cameron said his government agreed to protect Welsh government funding by putting a "floor" under the formula that decides its share of UK spending. 

Mr Cameron said: 

"First of all, my government actually held that [2011] referendum on powers for the Welsh assembly, so that's already been delivered.
"Stephen's been working with others to put together the St David's Day agreement and this work is ongoing.
"It requires agreement, and we've been talking in good faith with the other parties in Wales and that's what needs to happen. 

"This needs to be an agreed measure but that shouldn't stop what I would call 'real devolution' which is giving people in Wales more power over their lives.
"We have cut taxes for people in Wales, we're keen for people in Wales to be able to own their own homes, to take greater powers over their lives, so that will continue while the politicians are still talking."
 In other words the Tories will carry out their own policies and make sure the Welsh Assembly never really get powers similar to Scotland by preforming the con trick of claiming that the Bill would completely recast Welsh Devolution as a reserved powers model along the lines of that which has applied in Scotland since 1999.So instead of the current situation in which specific legislative powers are conferred on the National Assembly for Wales, the Assembly would be allowed to legislate in all areas not specifically reserved to Westminster.

But without devolution of a separate  Judiciary   it is likely that we will still find  that the \\law \lords will still be called on to decide whether the Welsh Government have the legal powers to carry out the functions it wants to.

Prof Richard Wyn Jones from the Wales Governance Centre said recemtly

"The problem that we've identified with the proposals is that frankly the Wales Office haven't thought this through properly.
"They seem to be suggesting a model of devolution which is actually going to be convoluted rather than clear, which is going to be unstable rather than robust and which frankly doesn't really stand much of a chance of lasting very long."

In a statement last month  Carwyn Jones said: 

"The people of Wales would not accept unworkable or overly complex legislation that's not in the best interest of Wales.
"I made this abundantly clear to the Secretary of State for Wales in our meeting last week. Any attempt to row-back on the current settlement will not be acceptable to them.
"As I've said before, if we are not satisfied that the Bill meets the needs of Wales, we will not support it.
"The challenge is there for the UK Government to produce a straightforward Bill that does not restrict the powers of the people of Wales and gains their support."

The Tories  have simply ignored anyone else interpreted the  so called "St Davids Day" agreement in their own way and are seeking to put a permanent break on Devolution or even make it so unworkable it could be put in reverse.

 According to Tacitus, Calgacus a Caledonian Chieftain claimed of  the Romans that

"they make a desert and call it peace"

It seems an apt metaphor for all that Cameron and his Tories say and do 

Sunday, 4 October 2015

Drones seem like the "Dirty Harry Approach" to International law.

David Cameron has promised to increase Britain's military capability to fight Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, including a doubling of the RAF's fleet of drones.

The prime minister told the Sunday Telegraph the UK would spend hundreds of millions of pounds on equipment and resources for special forces.

He said it was essential to meet the terrorist threat facing the UK.

He was speaking as the Tories gather in Manchester for their party conference.

Earlier this month, the prime minister was heavily criticised for authorising an RAF drone strike that killed Britons Reyaad Khan and Ruhul Amin near the Syrian city of Raqqa as as an "act of self defence".

It was believed to be the first targeted UK drone attack on a British citizen,
He insisted it was an "act of self defence", saying Khan, originally from Cardiff, was plotting "specific and barbaric" terrorist attacks in the UK.
Caroline Lucas, the Green Party's only MP, and Baroness Jones have joined forces with human rights charity Reprieve to take the first step towards a judicial review.

 In a letter to the Defence Secretary and Attorney General, lawyers for the politicians claimed the Government had failed to formulate a "targeted killing policy" or failed to publish it.

 The Raqqa strike, and the intention of the Government to pre-authorise targeted killings in the future in countries where the UK is not at war, is of concern to the claimants and many others.
The concern is heightened by the lack of clarity about the circumstances in which the Government reserves the right to kill British citizens outside of an armed conflict.
Such a lack of clarity as to the test which is being applied by the Government in deciding whether to pre-authorise the targeted killing of British nationals or individuals overseas raises real and serious concerns over the lawfulness of the Government's past and expected resort to the use of lethal force.
It is unclear what, if any, policies, procedures and/or safeguards are in place to ensure that this 'new departure' is only exercised in accordance with domestic and international law.
– Caroline Lucas MP and Baroness Jones

Even if you agreed with  the principle of such Drone attacks it seems an expensive way to "execute" such people or for a Prime Minister to get much needed publicity and claim he is protecting us.

Drone attacks are likely to  increase support for such militant and we can wonder if they can discriminate as effectively as it is claimed.

If we are to be the "Good Guys" then we should not be behaving like Dirty Harry.

A Policeman who decides that he has the right to choose to execute  rather  than arrest a suspect no matter the evidence has no place in the modern world and  we must also ask if governments should also be subject to similar scrutiny and rules as our law officers.

Saturday, 3 October 2015

Leanne is wrong. Plaid need to campaign for Independece.

Leanne Woods was good on Question Time on Thursday but one response irked me  in part of a response to a member of the audience (where did the BBC find such a right wing Anti Welsh audience)  questioner ask why Plaid Cymru has achieved nothing like the success of the SNP 

She also struck a defiant zone, pointing out the SNP was once written-off as well: 

“Everybody told them it wasn’t possible for them to form a Government, too.”

Unfortunately  she also claimed

“We’re not campaigning for independence.”

She argued

 “Our economy is too weak. We’re already facing a situation where workers in Wales earn 85% of the UK average.”

I am not some one who believes Wales should be Independent even if the economy was to resemble Albania before or after Enver Hoxa.

But I believe that it is a vital road to take if we are to improve our economy.

I accept that a manifesto for the next Assembly Election and beyond may look radically different to one for an Independent Wales but there is no reason not to explain  the latter at the same time 

We are faced with years of Conservative rule who intend to carry on with the Austerity program  even if the UK was to enter a Boom period. 

I sincerely wish Jeremy Corbyn well, but I suspect  that the Blarites who are now masking themselves as centralist moderates will use any failure for Labour to rise in the polls to epose him within three years.

This will pave the way for a Blair 2 candidate who might well win in the converted Middle England and becuse the Welsh Assembly will not receive the necessary powers  who will do little to change the Welsh economy.

Even a Plaid Assembly  Government will find it difficult to change the  current state of us being poor West Britains.

Plaid need to give the electorate a vision of a Vibrant, Confident and Independent Wales. Campaigning to be in charge of how we spend Westminster's Pocket Money is not going to take us anywhere.

Friday, 2 October 2015

Crab moves sideways.

Welsh Secretary Stephen Crabb has said the likelihood of the UK and Welsh governments reaching agreement on the next stage of the devolution is now “very, very low”.

A Draft Wales Bill will be published later this month which is due to put the National Assembly on a Scottish-style footing, so AMs can make laws in any area not specifically “reserved” by Westminster.

For many it looks like its aim is to limit any further  Devolution and Pedryn
Drycin clearly has a better understanding of the complexities of this so maybe you should look here .

First Minister Carwyn Jones has pushed for the creation of a separate Welsh legal jurisdiction, warning that without it any settlement is bound to be “phenomenally complicated”.

Mr Crabb resists this argument, stating:  .
“Carwyn and some of the academics and some more nationalist lawyers have been talking about a separate legal jurisdiction for Wales. The vast, vast majority of the body of law that affects Wales and the interests of Wales is done on an England and Wales basis.
 However you don't have to be an Engineer or Trainspotter to realise the Wheels of a Locomotive needs Oiling.

To somehow try to unpick that now is a massive, massive exercise – hugely costly. The members of the judiciary in Wales that I speak to, who have made their careers – and many of them very successfully in the High Courts in London – think, actually, it would be a massive detrimental step to try and recreate that on a very small basis in Wales.”
Why hasn't Crabb talked to the judiciary here in Wales? and many polticians from wales have made their careers in London is that stil an argument against Devolution?

and anyway Scottish Advocates have stil made London Carrers some like Lord Mckay and Lord Irvine reaching the heights of Lord Chancellor before the Constitutional Reform Act 2005

Crab comtinued : 

 “This idea of a separate legal jurisdiction is something of a red herring. It’s quite a dangerous one because it risks Wales losing out and at the moment Wales punches above its weight in the judiciary.
“I don’t think it’s impossible to carve out a much clearer devolution arrangement in the context of a single jurisdiction for England and Wales. It presents challenges, of course it does, but it’ not impossible.
“Those people, particularly those of a nationalist mindset, want to use this as an argument for furthering their ultimate goal which is the separation of Wales from the United Kingdom, which I absolutely don’t support.

To be fair to Crabb he and his fellow Unionist have realised long before many Nationalist or those seeking parity with Scotland that preventing a separate Welsh legal system like the Scottish one that existed even before the creation of the current Parliament will make any further devolution to Wales in the same mode as Scotland  difficult if not impossible.

Instead we get measures claiming to make the current settlement clearer but in reality hamstring the Welsh Government of whatever makeup . 


Thursday, 1 October 2015

Are the Armed Forces, targeting children in deprived areas?

The Wasting Mule Online  reports that 

The Welsh Government has said it will not prevent the Army from visiting Welsh schools after an Assembly report said schools should treat such visits with caution.
Claims that the armed forces make “disproportionate number of visits” to schools in deprived areas surfaced in a report earlier this year.

The Assembly petitions committee looked into military visits to schools after more than 1,000 people signed a petition urging government to ban the armed forces from going into classrooms, claiming the visitors were targeting children in deprived areas. 
The committee found “no compelling evidence” personnel crossed the line between informing and recruiting pupils.
But it concluded the Army made a “disproportionate number of visits” to schools in deprived areas, saying the Welsh Government should conduct more research.

In the report, the cross-party group asked ministers to review guidance for future visits to make sure pupils and parents understood what soldiers and other personnel did. 

Julie James, ( Never heard of her before) deputy minister for skills, wrote to the committee and said:

“Restricting armed forces access to schools, as the petition suggested, may possibly disadvantage some young people as they will not have access to information about a full range of careers, including some which offer training of a very high quality.”
A debate in the Senedd on Wednesday heard claims from Conservative AM for Clwyd West, Darren Millar, that none of the armed forces attend schools to recruit.

He said they only attend on invitation and that they

 “seek to contribute to the life” of the schools they go to, “helping to deliver the national curriculum.”

 What part of the "national curriculum" is that I wonder?

Committee member South Wales West Plaid Cymru AM Bethan Jenkins, however, disputed that the army was only ever invited

Ms Jenkins, talking about a committee visit to a school in Prestatyn, said she was told 

“that they had an ongoing conversation with the army, and they told us that the army were very keen and very proactive in getting in touch with them to go into the schools.”
“Lets be honest here, the armed forces teams are not, in my view, presenting the profession as one fraught with danger,” she said, saying it wasn’t in the military’s interests to talk about the downsides of the job.

So could it be that the Military contact  Schools and suggest that they be invited?

Whatever  it seems the committee failed to ask or answer some questions.

  • Is there a  “disproportionate number of visits” to schools in deprived areas and if so why?
  • Are the dangers of the job explained or are they presented in the same way as Television adverts which shows military life as an exiting career. and which Julie James, ( Still never heard of her before) claims  "offer training of a very high quality".
  • Are they told  that up to up to 9,000 British soldiers  who served "Queen and country" are homeless after leaving the military, and that Shockingly, ex-service personnel account for one in 10 rough sleepers across the UK.

It seems that the  Assembly committee  has failed to investigate the petition properly accepting the Armed service claim that none of the armed forces attend schools to recruit without examining the nature of these visits.

It is a cause for concern that pupils from deprived areas are seen as natural recruits for the armed services and are seduced with the prospect of a future life beyond the unemployment queues.

This is not an argument about pacifism its about explaining the role of the military properly and not  simply presenting it as a career opportunity for thos who may feel thety have none.    

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Corbyn has responsibility without power

The election of Jeremy Corbyn may well not lead to a new dawn for the left . Inded the indications are beginning to prove that he has responsibility without power

For instance in his Conference speech speech he said

“I don’t believe that £100bn spent on a new generation of nuclear weapons taking away a quarter of our defence budget is the right way forward.” 

However the  conference  denied
a debate being aired on Trident. a debate that activist  might well have won . But in not having a debate it appears Labour are not to change it stance anytime soon.

When it comes to Iraq  he said

“It didn’t help our national security when we went to war with Iraq in defiance of the United Nations on a false prospectus. It didn’t help our national security to endure the loss of hundreds of brave British soldiers in that war while making no proper preparation for what to do after the fall of that regime.”

Not really the apology that was trailed in the media before his speech, but is this an indication that he  will be prepared to do so in the future or that he is already watering down his approach.

and he has not ben helped by his shadow chancellor John McDonnell saying

Labour MPs should be given a free vote on military action in Syria, shadow chancellor John McDonnell has said.

Mr McDonnell told a meeting hosted by The Guardian at the Labour conference that Syria and the renewal of Trident were issues on which he did not expect consensus within the party.

He said he believed a vote on military action in Syria should be made "on the basis of conscience".

 This could lead to Corbyn walking through the No corridoe with more SNP,Plaid Green and some Northern Ireland MPs than his own. 

McDonnel had the previous day  turned on the SNP, and told conference: 

 “Let’s be clear the SNP has now voted against the living wage, against capping rent levels and just last week voted against fair taxes in Scotland to spend on schools.
“So, here is my message to the people of Scotland – Labour is now the only anti-austerity party. For those in Scotland who want to campaign against austerity, now is the time to come home – come home to Labour.”
 Which is an appaling twisting of the facts

However, the SNP hit back and said McDonnell had offered Scotland nothing new from Labour, and had continued to commit the party to voting for Chancellor George Osborne’s austerity plans.

Deputy leader Stewart Hosie said:

 “Mr McDonnell’s comments confirm that when it comes to Scotland Labour haven’t changed.

“Rather than learning from their mistakes and setting out a positive vision for the country, they are repeating the same negative and ill-informed rhetoric that saw them all but wiped out in Scotland at the last election. They may have changed the messengers but it’s the same tired old message.

“Labour’s economic plans are all over the place. While the SNP went into May’s election opposing austerity and campaigning for a real terms increase in public spending, Labour ran scared of the Tories and backed their draconian cuts and welfare reforms.”

He added: “While the SNP remain firmly opposed to George Osborne’s pro-austerity fiscal charter, John McDonnell just last week mandated Labour MPs to troop through the lobbies with the Tories yet again to back the plans, just as they did when they voted for £30bn of cuts in the last parliament.

“Labour have now lost all credibility and no one will take these claims remotely seriously.”

The problem for those who are rushing towards Labour  because they have elected a Progressive Left leader and who people like myself admire  is that  the majority of Labour MPs  are miles away from him  and even those on the Left like Mcdonnell are not wiling to work with others on an agenda that could  see not only a Anti-austerity campaign ( Mcdonnell  claim that Labour are now the only Austerity party being nonsense) but a move to working towards more peaceful solutions.'

THe sad thing is that Corbyn may well become  a prisoner  not only of the Blarite and other Red Tories in his Parliamentary Party but of Dinosaur of the left who see other parties with left leaning views as a threat.

I hope I am wrong but its not looking good.