Archive for the ‘Limits of capitalism’ Category

This piece of writing is up on the Facebook ‘Save the Fire Service’ page and begins with ‘”Sent to us at STUKFS, powerful and emotional story from a firefighter who attended Grenfell Tower” (STUKFS is Save the UK Fire Service); we’ve corrected a few typos and put in a number of paragraph spaces.

I’m not sure if this is something that I should vocalise or whether or not it should be shared with the world but as I sit at home thinking about the other night the Grenfell Tower I feel like people might want to know how the incident went from the point of view of a firefighter who was sent inside, while the tower burned all around us and how after years of cuts to the service I work for, how I feel about what we do and how the past few years have been for us.

I’ve always been very proud of the job my colleagues and I do week in week out as part of the fire service. At times its hard, at others not so much but the uncertainty of what might happen is always there.

We are a funny bunch, we like to laugh to play jokes on each other, sometimes we are silent and won’t tell you what we are thinking about.  We laugh off the good-natured banter directed at us from outside the service and mostly manage to do the same with the insults we get as a public service, even when it’s not always easy to do so.

It is especially hard to think about those insults during times like this. When I think about all the occasions I’ve heard and seen on the news or social media where people are calling us lazy or greedy because we dared to show anger at the 1% pay rise we’ve had imposed year after year. While MPs sit in Westminster drinking and eating in a subsidised bars and restaurants while they make £100+ a hour all on the tax payers money, getting a 11% pay rise and increased pensions to go with it.

When people think we have some sort of golden-plated, over-generous pensions. Ignorant to the fact that we pay over 12% of our wages into it every month.  That’s £300/£400 a month, every month! That we are worse off now than we were 7 years ago.

And we weren’t (more…)

In New Zealand, the trend of educational institutions has been to out-source cleaning, leading to a decline in the pay and conditions of cleaners, ‘invisible’ workers without whom tertiary education institutions could not function!  In London, however, an important victory has been won by cleaners at the London School of Economics.  This victory shows what can be achieved by ‘precarious’ workers when they decide to fight and have a union which is focused on serious struggle.  The union is called United Voices of the World and consists almost entirely of migrant workers, especially from Latin America.  UVW recruits its members mainly in the low-pay and outsourced London economy – cleaners, porters, construction, childcare workers, people working in customer service and security, etc.

The following statement was released by the union on June 10:

UVW is proud to announce that the LSE cleaners will be BROUGHT IN-HOUSE and become employees of the LSE from Spring 2018! This will ensure they get, among other things, 41 days annual leave, 6 months full pay sick pay and 6 months half pay sick pay, plus proper employer pension contributions of up to 13% of their salary.

This is the most significant victory for any group of workers in UK higher education today, and will hopefully set a precedent to follow for other degraded, outsourced workers across the country.

This announcement comes on the back of an awe-inspiring 10-month battle for (more…)

A six-part series by Laurence Peterson documenting an example of downward mobility in Post-Meltdown America

Part 4: Characters

Surveying the Costco Avon Habitus

George was a diminutive 70-year-old who was known as “Tweety Bird” for his resemblance to the Disney character and the way he moved, with an outsized bald head and rapid, back-and forth lateral swaying gait. He came in every day, just about, and often twice or more. He employed two greetings, and two greetings only, directed both at old timers and newcomers at CDS: on some days, he’d growl “I’m taking what I want and I don’t give a fuck!”; on others, he would remark that every day was a beautiful day that we should all be grateful for.

Once an advisor had been at CDS for a little while, George would generally stop for a while and regale the chained advisor with the story of his children, both of whom, he claimed, had died in a clinical sense and had been revived thanks to divine intervention. He would then offer the advisor the chance to read a religious tract he promised to bring next visit, an offer which was, in my experience, without exception declined. George would then employ a strictly businesslike demeanour toward the new advisor for a while, defaulting pretty much to observance of the disjunctive greeting solely.

After a while he would chat a bit, but only about the most banal topics, and only very briefly. One exceptionally slow afternoon, I saw George propelling toward me and was so desirous of meaningful human contact that I tried my best to get him to stay and talk to me for a while. But he would have none of it; and as he hustled away I was sorely tempted to shout after him “GEORGE, THERE’S MORE TO LIFE THAN JESUS BRINGING YOUR DAMN KIDS BACK FROM THE DEAD! But I held my fire and retreated into the usual, post-encounter stupor.

Sorrowful post-industrial

He of the Sorrowful Countenance came in regularly, but not nearly as often as George, maybe twice a month. He either walked with a cane and heavy limp, or, much more frequently, used a motor cart provided by Costco for elderly or infirm shoppers, of which there were proportionately very high numbers of in the Avon store. Avon is wedged between Brockton (and the Costco store is just over the Avon border), where I live with my mother (whose family have been here since colonial times), a truly benighted, impoverished and violent post-industrial city whose chief legal industry appears to be storefront churches, all too many of which sport an altogether delusional affiliation with the prosperity gospel (“Winners City Church;” “The Church of God, Inc.”), and Randolph, which is popular as a retirement community; and between the two towns, along with Avon and Stoughton, already mentioned, residents are either too poor to buy much of anything or, in the case of the elderly, too infirm to take much out of the big box store, other than meds: hence the popularity of the chemist’s shop, whose sales (funded largely by government-subsidised Medicare and Medicaid), along with those of the off-licence, pretty much keep the whole store somehow ticking-over. (more…)

London News Pictures

Statement of November, 2016:

“Grenfell Action Group have reached the conclusion that only an incident that results in serious loss of life of KCTMO (Kensington & Chelsea Tenants Management Organisation) residents will allow the external scrutiny to occur that will shine a light on the practices that characterise the malign governance of this non-functioning organisation.

“We believe that the KCTMO have ensured their ongoing survival by the use of proxy votes at their Annual General Meeting that see them returned with a mandate of 98% in favour of the continuation of their inept and highly dangerous management of our homes. It is no coincidence that the 98% is the same figure that is returned by the infamous Kim Jong-un of North Korea who claims mass popularity while reputedly enslaving the general population and starving the majority of his people to death.

“It is our conviction that a serious fire in a tower block or similar high-density residential property is the most likely (more…)

Fire Brigades Union London organiser Paul Embery (2014):

“Boris Johnson will have blood on his hands. It will be only a matter of time before someone dies because a fire engine did not get to them in time.

“You cannot close ten fire stations and slash (more…)

Ex-firefighter Justin Plimmer:

“The one thing that really pissed me off while being a serving firefighter was when the government changed legislation around fire deaths.  If any of those poor people fighting for their lives die in hospital, they will not be counted in the government figures.  Which means that when they say fire deaths are reducing, year on year, they are talking utter bollocks!!!

“They have changed the goal posts to reduce funding in the emergency services.  None of this was ever mentioned in the Commons or the press (surprise!).

“They did, however, decry our (more…)

by Phil Duncan

Tonight’s Newshub Reid Research poll contained yet more bad news for the ‘B’ team of the NZ ruling class.  Labour has slipped even further behind National, dropping to just 26.4% support three months out from the 2017 general election.  National, meanwhile, is sitting on 47.4% support.

Labour leader Andrew Little is on 7% support in the preferred prime minister stakes, less than a third of current National Party prime minister Bill English’s score.  Little has also fallen behind NZ First leader Winston Peters (9.7%).  He has, however, managed to overtake his deputy, Jacinda Ardern – but only because her support level fell even more than his!

It looks as if more of Labour’s support has drifted to the Greens (up 1.3 points to 12.5%) and NZ First (up 1.8 points to 9.4%).

Labour is in a real bind because (more…)