The Tories to make Strike Action “impossible”

The Conservatives are “the party of the working people” according to David Cameron. He said this in the same week that it was announced by his party that strike laws would be significantly changed to prevent working people from taking industrial action. We know that this Tory government has absolutely no regard for human rights (they plan to scrap the Human Rights Act), and this proves it further. Companies will be allowed to treat their workforce horrendously, and workers will be virtually powerless to fight back.

The new law will state that any strike affecting essential public services will require 40% of eligible union workers to back it, and there will have to be a turnout of at least 50% at the strike ballots.

It’s time to do some maths. Let’s say that our imaginary union has 100 members (because this makes the maths bit a lot easier for me). We are all members of this union, and we are being treated unfairly in our workplace. The wealthy people at the top don’t care and won’t listen to us. We decide to strike in order to make a positive change.

Our union holds a strike ballot. We rally around and get a big group of workers to vote. The votes are counted up, and the decision is unanimous. 100% of votes say YES, LET’S STRIKE! We cheer, but the cheers come prematurely. Only 49 people voted in the ballot. And despite every single one of the voters agreeing with strike action, this doesn’t meet the new 50% turnout criteria that will be put in place.

This is very hypocritical of the Tory government because if these new rules were to be applied to the General Election vote, the Tories would not be in power, and therefore wouldn’t be in a position to impose these voting conditions on unions. The mind boggles!

That’s not where the attack ends, though. Read this BBC article for further information on how the Tories plan to put restrictions on picketing, and how they want to lift restrictions on using agency workers to replace striking worker: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-32702585

I’ll leave you with the words of the TUC general secretary:

“This is a government not so much on the side of hard working people, but Britain’s worst bosses – those who want their staff to be on zero-hours contracts, poverty pay and unable to effectively organise in a union so that they can do something about it,” said Frances O’Grady.

“The government’s proposals on union ballots will make legal strikes close to impossible. Union negotiators will be left with no more power than Oliver Twist when he asked for more.

“After five years of falling living standards, the prospects for decent pay rises have just got a whole lot worse.”

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Our Flawed Electoral System #2

As a follow-up to my last blog, “Our Flawed Electoral System”, I thought I’d point out the approximate percentage spread of votes for the UK General Election 2015. The following figures come from the BBC website (keeping in mind we’re waiting for 40 more seats to be confirmed at the time of writing).

CON 36.4
LAB 30.7
UKIP 12.4
LD 7.8
SNP 5.1
GRN 3.7

So, despite getting only 5.1% of the votes, the SNP will get 56 seats in parliament. On the other hand, UKIP have 12.4% of the votes and will get 1 or 2 seats. The Green Party have 3.7% of the votes, not too far behind the SNP, and will struggle to get one seat. The % difference between Labour and the Tories isn’t very big, but it looks like the Tories will have a majority government.

This underlines how flawed our voting system is.

For the last month we have been told how important it is to vote. If it’s so important, who don’t they switch to a fairer system? Proportional representation is the way to go. If voting is so important then they should put their money where their mouth is and make the change! Every vote should count. Every vote should be equal.

Don’t get me wrong, I despise UKIP, and I’m glad they’re going to be irrelevant during the next political phase. But that’s not the point. Democracy should reflect what the people of the state want.

On another note, David Cameron will be in power for another 5 years (or until Boris Johnson takes over!), which is depressing, especially considering that this time he may not even be tempered by the Liberal Democrats. Expect grey skies and empty bellies for the foreseeable future while his Dave’s upper class friends sip champagne and hunt foxes.

Anyway, mustn’t grumble too much. Things could be a lot worse. Think about (or, even better, donate to) those poor people suffering in Nepal. I’ll leave you with this Billy Bragg song that sums up my mood perfectly right about now.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5xC9nSkZ1ZI

Our Flawed Electoral System

Our current voting system is flawed and outdated.

On Thursday, when we go to the polling booths, we may find ourselves in a position where we feel we have to vote for a party we don’t support in order to prevent a party we oppose from getting into power. This isn’t how democracy is supposed to work – we should be able to vote with our hearts, without having to play games.

The “first past the post” suits our two major parties to the ground, and helps them maintain their stranglehold on politics. We should have adopted “proportional representation” long ago in order to give people more choice about how their land is run. However, the switch wasn’t made. Now the British public are forcing the issue. The Labour and Conservative Parties are no long able to gain a majority government, and the people are giving power to smaller parties (in the sense that they are giving them enough seats to be able to form coalitions with one of the two major parties).

But this shouldn’t be something we have to think about. Yes, we can vote tactically, in an attempt to get the result we want, but, at the end of the day, we don’t know what the parties are going to don when it comes to making deals and/or forming coalitions. I know many people who voted Lib Dem last time in an attempt to keep the Tories out of power – that didn’t turn out too well for them, did it? Our current voting system is ridiculous in this sort of situation because we have no way of knowing who we’re voting for! We might as well do an “eenie-meenie-miney-mo” and put our X next to anything.

Many of you will be in constituencies where one party dominates every time there’s a vote. You might decide not to vote at all – after all, what’s the point when Joe Bloggs always wins by a mile? If the voting system changed to proportional representation you would be more motivated to get up and vote, because you would know that it wasn’t a waste of time. Even if you’re party only gets 10% of the votes, and no majority in any one constituency, you can rest assured that they will get their just desserts overall, and gain political power on your behalf.

If we adopt proportional representation we will be able to vote with our hearts.  Let’s get rid of this outdated “first past the post” system!

What is your Social Class? Find Out!

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you a scientific, airtight, 100% reliable way to calculate your social class, and it will take less than a minute of your time. BEHOLD: The Great British Class Calculator:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-22000973 (BBC Website)

OK, maybe it isn’t as infallible as I made out. But it’s fun, and the BBC say that they worked with sociologists from leading universities to come up with it (oooooh). Feel free to reply to this blog with the result the test gave you, and whether or not you think it’s a correct assessment.

Mine is…

Emergent service workers

This class group is financially insecure, scoring low for savings and house value, but high for social and cultural factors. According to the Great British Class Survey results, lots of people in this group:

  • Are young
  • Enjoy a cultured social life
  • Rent their home – almost 90%

Dodgy Journalism

We tend to believe what we read. At least, we usually believe it until (or if) we get the other sides of the story. Then we draw our own conclusions.

The Dutch philosopher, Baruch Spinoza, did a lot of work on the belief of information. This is a great article, which discusses his work alongside the work of Descartes, and provides the results of a study: http://www.spring.org.uk/2009/09/why-you-cant-help-believing-everything-you-read.php (since this is an article about us believing what we read, I feel I should provide comprehensive references to what I say so I’m not accused of b*llsh*tting you all).

With this in mind, we should be very careful about what we believe in the media – especially now that we are closing in on the General Election. There is a lot of good, impartial journalism out there, but you need to be vigilant because we live in a time where wealthy, powerful people use media outlets for their own personal gain. They are willing to leave truths out of their work, emphasise the points that suit them, and straight up lie to get what they want.

Look at the recent Daily Mail headline that coined Nicola Sturgeon (SNP Leader) as “The Most Dangerous Woman in Britain” based on nothing more than conjecture, and a very un-scientific projection of the future if the SNP were successful in the elections. Similarly, the Telegraph released a despicable article about a conversation between Nicola Sturgeon and a French Ambassador without going to either of them for a quote (both deny the content of this conversation that the Telegraph reported on, so the report amounts to fiction projected to us as the truth).

As a species, we are very trusting. As humans developed, information was life and death. When we lived in nomadic tribes, we passed information to one another about things such as the availability of food in an area. We are hardwired to follow this sort of guidance. When we were toddlers, our mothers and fathers told us not to go near the fireplace because it was hot, and it would have burnt us. We believed them automatically because it was essential for us to believe them. Our minds are filled with loopholes when it comes to believing what we’re told, and there are people out there who will take advantage of that.

I’m an advocate of free speech. I like it when people give their opinions and speak their minds, no matter how controversial or outlandish (when things are out in the open, you know what you’re up against). But there is a big difference between this and purposefully deceiving people for personal gain. As I write this, the media is producing something designed to benefit a political party (and to hell with the truth!). And let us not forget that it is the lower class masses that are most influenced by the media – because there are more of us, so we watch more TV and buy more newspapers, etc.

Don’t let the media set the terms of our democracy!

The ITV Debate

When I turned over to ITV for the 7-way debate I thought I’d stumbled across an old episode of the Weakest Link. The set-up was the same, the “contestants” were stabbing each other in the back in an attempt to win, and even the presenter was in on the joke, trying her best to look like Anne Robinson.

It didn’t seem to achieve much. The debate was very tame and watered down. It was exactly what David Cameron wanted – he just hid in the corner and avoided any sort of direct debate with the other political leaders. Damage limitation.

The most exciting thing about the debate was the lady in the audience who heckled the PM. David Cameron was in the middle of thanking the country’s servicemen for their work when the lady spoke out. She pointed out that many of our service men and women end up on the streets after leaving the armed forces, and have very little support. David Cameron said they she brought up a good point, and proceeded to speak over her until she was dragged out of the studio.

This was the most genuine moment in the debate, and it was hardly mentioned in the debate analyses. Maybe it was a bit too real. People don’t like facing up to un-glamorous every day issues. It’s easier to turn the other way and go on and on about the “long-term economic plan” – something a bit more faceless and general that might garner a few more votes.

I’d like to congratulate the heckler, Victoria Prosser, for standing up and speaking her mind. It was the only part of the debate worth viewing.

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Our Unfair Society (and Cavemen)

The current systems in place within our society do not work. They breed inequality, undermine democracy, and completely ignore important topics, such as the many environmental issues we face. We need change in a big way, but there are many obstacles in the way.

The main obstacle is ourselves. People are naturally resistant to change (ask anyone who works in HR). This probably stems back to instincts instilled in us when the world was a much more threatening place. Biologically, there is virtually no difference between us and cavemen. Born in the same environmental conditions, you and a caveman would be equals (the caveman would be a little bit hairier, granted). Cavemen had to live in a very specific way to survive in their world. Changes in their lifestyle could be fatal. Today, we still have that instinct that tells us, “if you are alive, you’re doing something right, so don’t change anything!”.

Just in case anyone’s reading this thinking “I’m using a computer – I’m way more advanced than a caveman!” – that’s due to accumulation of knowledge i.e. the people before us figuring things out and writing things down (which started with cavemen drawing on the cave walls). All I’m saying is, if you were dropped naked onto a desert island, how long would it take you to send an e-mail?

So, we are very cautious about disrupting the status quo, even if we can see, rationally, that we are being cheated. We feel secure when things stay the same.

There is also a well-established pecking order in our society, which provides another obstacle to reform. The powerful people at the top of the pecking order are constantly telling us that things are okay the way they are, and to change anything would be a big risk. But, of course, they would say that, wouldn’t they, because they’re benefiting from the systems in place.

The people at the top of the pecking order are the mass communicators too, so their voice is the loudest, and it resonates in our ears constantly. They tell us that the people who want reform are crazy, idealists, and troublemakers. The people benefiting from the systems in place are the minority, so they have to turn us against each other to maintain their position. They also have to make us believe that social reform is out of reach, an impossibility. But maybe it’s closer than we think.

The philosophy we live by doesn’t make sense. One person starves to death while another is born the Queen (two people who are both shaved cavemen). Since the philosophy doesn’t make sense, the supporters of the philosophy lose touch with reality or use their influence to suppress real-world issues. All we get are minor changes designed to appease the masses – we are seeing plenty of them in the run-up to the general election!

As it stands, we are not in control of our own lives; we are used by the ruling class. We need to pry our lives from the desperate grasp of the powerful in order to live in a fairer society.