Real wages for workers fall while executive pay rises 11%

Real wages for British workers have again fallen, whilst top pay in the UK increased by 11%. This means wages still remain below 2010 levels. Nominal wages for chief executives at Britain’s biggest listed companies rose 6x times faster than that of the average worker. Executive pay nominally rose 11% with the average worker seeing their wage increase by 1.7%, a rate that is below inflation.

A worker on a median salary of £23,474 would have to work 167 years to earn the median annual pay of a FTSE 100 boss, an increase from 153 years in 2016.

John McDonnell, the shadow chancellor, said:

Most people’s wages are still below 2010 levels and are barely keeping up with inflation. So when they see the fattest cats get fatter yet again with an 11% pay rise, it’s no wonder people question the fairness of our society.

Real wages continue to fall despite unemployment reaching record lows.

Frances O’Grady, general secretary of the TUC, said that workers on boards are part of the solution stating:

Workers should get seats on boardroom pay committees to bring a bit of common sense to pay decisions. And the government should put the minimum wage up to £10 an hour to give more workers a fairer share of the wealth they create.

Analysis from Iwan Doherty- Editor in Chief

The headlines may have as well been Neo-Liberalism continues. For 40yrs the wealthiest in society have got richer and richer whilst the average worker has seen little increase in their own takings.

The policies of slashing top taxes and destroying Unions have guaranteed complete corporate power in our society, seen when companies like Amazon avoid millions in tax. Labour’s attempts to strengthen union rights and encourage collective bargaining will increase the earnings for workers, and help narrow the gender wage gap, but for a full solution, they must learn from Germany and other European economies.

As Frances O’Grady stated having workers on boards is part of the solution to helping control the injustice in wage inequality in this country. Tax can play a role but allowing workers a say in management and decision making of companies can only provide common sense solutions to this decades-old problem.

This is a proposal that Theresa May talked about in her bid for the Tory leadership, but she swiftly dropped when she became leader. It’s time for Labour to pick up that policy and attempt to bring it into law.

Boris’ comments provide perfect smokescreen for dismal economic performance

There were 2 big stories last week that TPN wanted to cover but couldn’t muster the writers to do so. Boris Johnson’s comments on Burkas and Friday’s business news including the UK’s 0.4% growth and the announcement manufacturing had gone into recession.

Boris’ comments were offensive but clever. The lack of knowledge on Islam in this country breeds mistrust and fear, and Boris has fed on these to make comments that according to a sky poll 60 percent of the public think aren’t racist. The really scary stat in that data is that 59% believe the Burka should be banned. And this is data that the Labour media team should know about.  Yes his comments are offensive but they will not top the polls of voters political priorities. Economic management is currently 2nd, just behind the NHS. Yet the Conservatives were able to hide their fallings behind racist remarks.

The news that growth was only 0.4% and that our manufacturing sector had slid into recession should have been the news Labour were pushing. The widening trade deficit and struggling manufacturing sector show one thing clearly. Theresa May’s Brexit plan is completely inadequate. Labour must convince voters on economics, and that starts with showing voters that Austerity and Tory fiscal policy is killing economic growth, especially wage growth. Workers have just lived through the most desolate decade on record for GDP growth.

 

The statistics on GDP growth for austerity are dire reading, whilst the stats for wage growth are just as poor.

But Labour always seem resistant to talk about economic management, it’s baffling when Corbynite economic plans have worked in nations like Portugal. Labour needs to go after the self-interest vote far more than they currently do, and that works by convincing the vast majority of people that their policies will bring an end to the misery of low economic growth.

Economic policies will always win over more voters than social ideology. Labour remain untrusted with the economy, they need to be out there talking up their economic vision instead of fighting uphill PR battles against bigots. This matters, especially to the 16 million workers who have less than £100 in the bank. These aren’t just numbers, this is missed rent and evictions from housing. This is parents skipping meals to feed their children. Labour must engage in the economic debate and know that improving lives by economics can help destroy the culture of scapegoating that leads to horrible discrimination towards migrants and Muslims in this country.

Sterlite Industries: The under reported truth

A copious number of copper smelting plants owned by Vedanta were started in the outskirts of the Thoothukudi district and many other villages. After a decade of increased cancer rates, breathing issues and polluted groundwater the people of Tuticorin have been coming forward to show their frustrations and demand a change.

Western media outlets have failed to report on this recurring issue despite the fact that there is an increased number of deaths and illness’ in the villages of India, thousands of people within the districts of India are being affected by these plants. Many people have failed to understand the intensity of the issue,  it is difficult to know or pinpoint which factory, in particular, has caused this outbreak. There has been no official proof that these cases are due to Sterlite.

According to Senior correspondent journalist Smitha from ‘The Quint’ who I recently interviewed on this issue. She states that “there are several factories and power plants who could also be responsible. But villagers and the people of Tuticorin have been believing that Sterlite is to be blamed, these accusations are based on the visible harmful effects they have seen near the factory. The main contention here is, in spite of so many complaints, why has the state government not taken any initiative to conduct a health survey to find the cause.”

Whilst journalists like Smitha continue searching for the truth and helping those that are affected the government has failed to do even the most basic of surveys to find the cause of this perpetual cycle of death and illness. Even with the continuous protests and marches, there was no immediate action.

The most recent march was on March 24th 2018 where thousands of frantic and angry citizens gathered with their loved ones on the streets of this south Indian coastal town in a bid to close down the Vedanta Sterlite’s copper operations. An article by Nityanand Jayaraman explains the long history of gas leaks, discharging chemicals in water bodies and scrutinises the beginning times of ‘Sterlite’ which was 1992.

Smitha explains the process of change

“So, in January, people went to the district Collector to submit a petition asking for the factory to be shut down. Their petition was accepted but they didn’t get any response. So they decided to protest for 100 days. People of all religions and castes would come together from even the outskirts to voice their dissent. The 100th day was supposed to mark their victory as they marched towards the Collectorate to submit a  petition asking for the factory to be shut down . But all hell broke loose when the police opened fire in order to control the crowd, but that killed over 14 and injuring at least 250. This only angered them more. Their agitation and wails grew louder that the government was forced to order a shutdown of the factory. “ said Smitha

After a frustrating time of protests and demanding, the factory was at last shut down. It was reported by Smitha that The district Collector and Superintendent of Police were transferred and new officers were appointed in their place. Since they have taken an oath, they have cleaned up all water bodies, installed new water pump systems, ensure water lorries sent at regular intervals.

Although, it was a glory to see the factory shut down this now means an increased process of copper and huge losses. Sterlite being one of the largest producers in the country means that everyone that was once depended on them will suffer and possibly lose out on profit due to the increased prices. It has been argued that if the state government been cautious and ensured the factories worked along the norms specified, people wouldn’t be facing this issue.

Smitha says that it “Shows the lethargic attitude and irresponsibility of the government.”

Vedanta’s response to the closure seems to ignore the recent protests and demands of the community, in an interview with BT economy said: “The closure of Sterlite Copper plant is an unfortunate development, especially since we have operated the plant for over 22 years in most transparent and sustainable way, contributing to Tuticorin and the state’s socio-economic development. We will study the order and decide on the future course of action,”

Theresa May’s promise on an energy cap comes too late as prices rise again

Theresa May’s promise to cap energy bills may be coming too late as British Gas have announced they are set to raise prices again.

The increase in prices will affect 3.5 million customers with the standard variable tariff increasing by 3.8%.

This will raise the average bill by £44, rising to £1,205 a year.

This is the second price increase this year, with British Gas raising its price by 5.5% in April

The prices will go into effect on the 1st October.

EOn, SSE, Npower, EDF, ScottishPower and Bulb have all increased energy prices, blaming wholesale energy costs for the increases.

Theresa May promised in the run-up to the 2017 General election to cap energy bills for 17 million Brits but the Queen’s speech that followed made no mention of the manifesto commitment. The cap was originally a policy suggested by Ed Milliband for the 2015 General Election.

Shadow Secretary for Business and industrial strategy Rebecca Long Bailey responding to energy price hike stated:

The energy companies have gone way too far in ripping off their customers. If it wasn’t for the Government’s delay implementing their promised energy price cap, customers would have been protected from this rise. Now, the cap will not be coming into force until later this year and energy companies are hiking their tariffs before it does.

Labour have promised to bring energy companies into public ownership to reduce prices. A strategy that has worked at a local scale in Nottingham and Leeds where Labour-run councils have created non-profit public energy companies, like Robin Hood energy, that greatly reduce the price of energy for consumers.

77% of the public believe energy should return to public ownership.

Analysis from Iwan Doherty- Editor in Chief

This sort of mess is why vast numbers of moderate voters will continue to vote Labour. Parliamentary politics will never transform our lives, but small things to help pay bills can make big differences to the lives of millions of struggling families, and this fact seems lost on the Conservative Party.

Corbyn’s promises on housing, energy and water are massively appealing and the Tories failing to implement a Labour-lite policy shows where their priorities lie in Westminster.

Retraction: We originally printed that Theresa May had broken a promise on the energy cap. As alluded to in Rebbeca Long-Bailey’s statement the government is due to bring in the cap so technically she has not broken a promise. We apologise for this error.

UKIP suspended three party members responsible for an attack on London book store.

Police were called to Bookmarks, a socialist bookshop in central London, on Saturday after protesters wearing Donald Trump masks and hats harassed customers and workers.

The three UKIP Elizabeth Jones, Luke Nash-Jones and Martin Costello can be seen here, threatening staff and chanting in support for far-right activist, and founder of the English Defence League, Tommy Robinson who has recently been released from prison.

In a statement, UKIP leader said: “It is understood that the three members were involved in an incident at the Bookmarks bookshop in London on Saturday,” they will now face an internal investigation.

Bookmarks is one of London’s most popular socialist bookstores and has received several messages of support from MPs and writers as well as thousands of activists from around the world.

Noel Halifax, an employee of Bookmarks, said: “There were a dozen of them bellowing and saying that we are this, that and the other and it’s a disgrace. One was saying something like ‘We wish you burn down’. There were two of us, a dozen of them. I’m 67.

“They’d clearly been on a demonstration, because their placards were nothing to do with us. They were attacking the BBC, and they were wearing baseball hats saying, ‘Make Britain Great Again.”

No arrests were made and no reports of any injuries following the incident.

Dave Gilchrist, the manager of Bookmarks, said: “This horrific attack on a radical bookshop should send shivers down the spine of anyone who knows their history. The Nazis targeted books because they knew how important radical ideas are for challenging racism and fascism. The same is true today and that is why we have to show that we won’t be intimidated.”

Bookmarks will hold a free public solidarity event this weekend Saturday (August 11th) with appearances from authors.

Labour drop disciplinary action against Hodge despite her not apologising

Labour has dropped their disciplinary action against Margaret Hodge MP after she “expressed regret” to the chief whip. No further action will be taken.

Despite this Hodge tweeted that she has not apologised for her remarks, the condition that Labour stated would end the action against the MP.

Hodge faced disciplinary action for a verbal attack on Jeremy Corbyn, shouting in Parliament he was a “fucking anti-Semite and a racist,” She also demanded that Labour sign up to the full IRHA definition of antisemitism but this has nothing to do with the action taken against her.

The Labour Party stated the action was “concerned with the alleged abusive manner in which your client behaved.”

More follows

Analysis from Iwan Doherty- Editor in Chief

If I did what Hodge did, I’d have been fired.

The disciplinary action into her abusive remarks is separate to her efforts to get Labour to adopt the full IRHA definition. There are many appropriate ways to try and persuade the leadership to do adopt her view, there is nothing wrong with disagreeing with the leadership on a political issue but screaming insults in the Commons is unfitting of Labour MP. Equally believing Corbyn, a lifelong campaigner against racism, is either antisemitic or racist is a fantasy. He has never make antisemitic or racist comments and accusations like that should not go unchallenged.

Corbyn must find a way to halt the abuse he receives from his rebels, but clearly, he doesn’t believe punishing those guilty of doing such is the best way. Many unruly backbenchers have damaged the party with their lack of discipline and getting Hodge to publicly apologise for her remarks would have been a good end.

The criticism of Tom Watson is justified, but we should beware of the consequences of his resignation.

Back in 2015, I (along with  198,961 other Labour supporters) voted for Tom Watson for the Deputy Leadership of the party. Suffice to say, he won me over with his record of public service, having been a committed campaigner on social issues and civil liberties. However, three years on, his statement of “I promise to back our new leader 100%” has come back to haunt him.

I have the greatest of respect for his past endeavours, with his role in exposing child abuse within the establishment being key. However, as Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, he has a responsibility to support the leader and the party. Granted, in such troubling times, supporting Corbyn fully is difficult for some including myself. My message is this: Its okay not to support the leader, but it is not okay to actively work against the party. And this is what Watson has done.

Let me be clear, I am not writing this article as a result of his intervention over Anti-Semitism within the party. Because in some ways, I agree with him. Not in that we should adopt the IHRA definition of Anti-Semitism, but in that we should have done more sooner. His view that Dame Margaret Hodge shouldn’t be punished for her outrageous outburst in Parliament, in which she launched an expletive-ridden attack to Corbyn’s face by labelling him a “F****** Anti-Semite and a racist”, is entirely wrong. If I went up to my boss and said that, I’d be severely punished on the spot. Why should an MP be any different?

But this is not the point. The point is, the criticism of Watson is justified because all I have heard from him since he was elected is a divisive rhetoric that I’d expect from the so-called ‘Blairites’ within the party. Considering Watson was opposed to Blair himself, you’d expect him to be supportive of a more progressive, left-wing leadership. But no. Before him and the moderates were forced to eat ‘humble pie’ following Labour’s better-than-expected election result last year, he was vocally critical of Corbyn over his leadership and issues such as nominating Shami Chakrabati for a peerage. And at the end of the day, it is everybody’s job to hold Corbyn to account. But when Watson publicly goes on the attack, labelling many in the party as ‘Trotskyite entryists’ that are “manipulating the younger members”, and saying Corbyn wouldn’t get elected as he did pre-2017 election, all that serves to do is weaken our position.

We all want a Labour government at the moment. Maybe not the moderates, with many being quoted as saying they would never vote for a Corbyn-led Labour government, but most of us do want to see him in number 10, if not purely to get rid of the Tories for those of us who aren’t his biggest fan. Im sure Mr Watson is no different. I’m sure he too would like to see Labour get into power. However I’m not certain of it because of his divisive rhetoric.

With the #WeAreCorbyn twitterstorm earlier in the week, it was only a matter of time before we say one that was aiming to get rid of those opposed to the leader. This is why #ResignWatson gained so much traction. by 11PM on Sunday night, it had seen 83,100 tweets fire it to the top of the Twitter Trending list. With such a huge amount of tweets against the Deputy Leader, it was only a matter of time before the Shadow Secretary for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport responded. And respond he did, appearing to be bemused by the twitterstorm. In his tweet, he said he never expected to be facing demand to resign for “standing up for people who are facing prejudice and hate”. Now its all well and good to say that, but its a shame that he’s focused his efforts on attacking the leadership far more than on the Tories.

On the other hand though, it is worth noting that he has publicly backed Corbyn on a few occasions. While they are Few, and the criticism is Many, the fact is, he’s been one of the few Labour MP’s who is obviously opposed to Corbyn who’s backed him on occasions, urging members to “stick with him”.  Should he be forced to resign because the members don’t like him? Not in my view. I completely understand why many think he should. But you cannot just get rid of people you don’t like. Thats not to say that if he goes one step further and publicly attacks Corbyn in the same manner of the ‘traitorous’ Chukka Ummuna, he shouldn’t resign. Because if he goes any further then yes, he should. But for now, it would be easier for the party to keep him in his place where he can be reasonably controlled by the leadership rather than shove him on the back-benches to be as critical of Corbyn as he wants.

And if you think about it, look at the response of Labour members to the resignations of Tory Cabinet Ministers. We’ve used it to our advantage. The Tories will do exactly the same. They’ll simply use it to show that we are once again a divided and split party.

So should he follow the demand for his resignation? In my opinion, no he should not. This will be an unpopular opinion within the party membership. But I think it’d be safer for the Party to wait and see if he falls back in line and supports the leadership than simply sack him and cause yet further controversy that will play right into the Tories hands. He is, at the end of the day, a good man. He does want to stand up for those who need help. He’s just gone about it in the wrong way.

A resignation would also be used by the Blairites to launch an inevitable second coup against the Leadership. This would of course fail, and they know it. But what they also know is that it would damage Corbyn to the point where the Tories would have a good chance of winning the next election, and this would lead to the downfall of Corbyn. A resignation by a senior Labour figure would set in motion a chain of events that would severely damage the party.

Criticising the leadership must be dealt with, because its doing so much damage to the party. But forcing Watson out could do more harm than good.

We should be miles ahead in the polls by now. And there are two reasons why we aren’t. The biased media, and the moderate Blairites like Chukka Ummuna and Dame Margaret Hodge who use everything they possibly can (including the Anti-Semitism) crisis to damage the Leadership and in turn, ruin our chances of election. Granted, Watson has now subscribed to this viewpoint, but unlike Ummuna et al, he’s in a senior position within the party. His resignation would make us look weaker than we already do. For now we must put up with him, as hard as it may be for many.

 

 

Far right protesters attack Socialist bookshop

A dozen far-right activists attacked Bookmarks, a socialist bookshop in London, yesterday 4th August.

They tore up books, overturned displays and threatened staff. Holding up a book by a Jewish socialist who died in Auschwitz they called the staff antisemites.

A Met spokesman said: “Police were called at approximately 18:35hrs on Saturday, 4 August to reports of a protest inside a shop on Bloomsbury Street, WC1.

There were no injuries and no arrests have been made.

One of the attackers wore a Donald Trump mask and some of the attackers carried placards reading “British Bolshevik Cult”

The attackers may have attended the far right protest against the censorship of conspiracy theorist website Infowars on Saturday where protesters appeared with the same placards as the attackers.

Michael Bradley, from Stand up to Racism, said:

“Luckily no one was hurt this time, but this is a sinister development that indicates the growing confidence of the far right who feel they can attack a bookshop in central London in broad daylight. Attacking a bookshop also exposes their claims to be defenders of free speech as hollow.”

More follows

Analysis from Iwan Doherty- Editor in Chief

It’s 2018 and the far right can attack a bookshop in broad daylight, that’s scary.

The far right is growing in the UK and various groups have turned a blind eye to their violence and hate. They are not the defenders of free speech, my colleague Chris Rose wrote a great piece on this recently, they are nothing more than thugs. Attacking Union leaders and bookshops reveal them for what they truly are. Authoritarians.

The media must do more to expose the far right, this attack will get next to zero coverage, and the way the left and right are treated differently by this country’s mainstream media has allowed radicals on the right to be compared to serious moderate left-wing figures. Exposing movements like the FLA is the key to destroying them.

Tory run East Sussex council initiates drastic cuts to stave off bankruptcy

East Sussex council has said it is preparing to cut back services to the bare legal minimum following problems with funding. The council has estimated it could be bankrupt in 3 years.

Many of its services will be severely cut or shut down completely.

Under new arrangements, many elderly citizens would not qualify for social care and this would leave family and voluntary groups left to care for such citizens.

The council has admitted without increased central government funding even this model might be unaffordable by 2021. The government insist their funding strikes a balance between fiscal responsibility and public services but large numbers of councils are struggling.

Cuts come despite the wealth of the region with individuals in the South East being paid 11% than the national average.

East Sussex does not want to follow fellow Tory-run Northamptonshire council into effective bankruptcy. Northamptonshire county council adopted an emergency cuts plan to reduce services in attempts to close a £70m black hole in its budget during the next few months. These councils are not alone in struggling for funds. Kent, Surrey and Torbay are all Tory-run councils facing significant financial problems. Surrey Council is facing a £100 million cash crisis.

Analysis from Iwan Doherty- Editor in Chief

TPN has studied lots of councils in the last year, we’ve written pieces on Preston, Nottingham, Northamptonshire, East Cheshire, Torbay, Warwick and we have established a simple rule that has yet to be broken. If it’s run badly, they’re wearing blue.

Despite running councils that have wealthier residents Tory councils all over the country are going bankrupt. It’s not completely the councils’ fault but in many cases, ridiculous commitments to low taxes and vanity projects have caused residents to suffer. And whilst many can forgive their councils selling land, leisure centres and libraries, cutting off social care to our most vulnerable citizens is simply not acceptable.

The central government is playing a role in the funding crisis, the political project that is austerity has slashed council budgets by 38% since 2010 but Tory councils like Northamptonshire, Somerset and Surrey despite their affluent taxpayers and favourable central government funding are suffering worse than Labour councils. Many Labour councils like Preston and Nottingham have produced spectacular public services when the central government is giving them peanuts.

The problem is Tory economics, not just in Westminster where austerity means slashing spending, which only leads to negative wage growth, but in councils where councillors commit to not raising taxes. Tory councils must become more fiscally responsible and start asking us all to pay a little bit more tax so we don’t reach bankruptcy.

 

Amazon avoid millions in tax paying only £1.7m (2.4% of profits)

Amazon UK has revealed its corporation tax bill dropped to £4.5m last year despite their pre-tax UK profits soaring to £72m last year meaning it would have had an effective tax rate of 6.25%. The corporate tax rate currently is 19%.

However, despite having a bill of £4.5 million, it only paid £1.7m in tax. An effective tax rate of 2.4%.

Amazon’s tax bill should have been close to £14 million. It received a tax credit of £1.3m from the UK authorities in 2016.

Amazon UK only handles the packing and delivery of parcels and functions such as customer service, the revenue and associated prices for retail are processed in Luxembourg and therefore avoid tax from the British government. Revenue from UK sales hit $11.3bn last year.

It’s reduced bill comes partly due to employee ownership of stock.

Amazon has recently moved into the public sector providing items like office supplies and medical equipment to Yorkshire’s schools, social care providers, local government and emergency services across 13 local authority areas in a deal worth £600m.

Amazon lost out to Apple in the race to become the first corporation to reach $1 trillion in value.

Analysis from Iwan Doherty- Editor in Chief

Yet another story of crony capitalism. Though is there any other type of capitalism?

Many may see Amazon and Google’s minimal tax returns as a sign of an administration that is corrupt and the fault lies in government, not in the corporations. And whilst the Conservative Party are very happy to look the other way whilst corporations don’t pay their fair share, and hand out huge welfare checks to companies who treat their workers like animals, it is naive to think allowing single individuals like Bezos to have such economic power, in a system where profit is king, will not result in corporations breaking our rules.

The fact the government can’t get them to pay their greatly reduced bill is a sign of where power lies in our capitalist system. 2% whilst workers on average pay over 10x that amount.

Would Corbyn’s Labour stop such tax avoidance? They might change the rules, beat such companies for a bit, but with the civil service and the private sector being divided by a revolving door the sad fact is capitalism is always crony.

The government can do more to halt tax avoidance. When the average Brit can uncover how these companies avoid tax it can’t be that hard to stop but corporations are at fault, and the solution lies in replacing them.

Encouraging co-operatives, worker-run companies, is the solution to our two-speed tax system. In Germany, there is both a thriving co-op and corporate banking sector. The difference between the two sectors is shown clearly in tax receipts. For every one billion in assets, German co-operative banks pay 2.5 million in taxes, compared to big private banks that pay only 0.5 million. Encouraging co-ops who have the morality of workers, not corporates, could be a key step in helping our public sector.