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Make garment factories in Bangladesh safe

13 May

Bangladesh building collapseHundreds of garment workers were killed and injured when an 8 story building housing five textile factories collapsed on 24 April.

Large structural cracks appeared in the Rana Plaza the day before and an evacuation order was given. The building and factory owners ignored the warning and insisted work continue hours before the building collapsed.

This, the worst ever industrial accident in Bangladesh, comes only months after more than one hundred garment workers died in two factory fires.

Working for a minimum wage of US$38 per month, less than one percent of garment workers in Bangladesh are represented by a union. The Labour Law leaves workers unable to join a union and fight for safe workplaces, improved working conditions and better wages.

IndustriALL Global Union and IndustriALL Bangladesh Council is calling on the government to take urgent action to guarantee freedom of association and improve building and fire safety and the minimum wage for the more than 3 million garment workers in Bangladesh.

Send your message supporting these demands to the Bangladesh Prime Minister and Minister for Labour and Employment today. You can help by clicking here.

Our Welfare State

28 Mar

Today, Unite the union has launched a new website to tell the truth about our welfare state, attacking the key myths that have been used to promote cuts in welfare. #OurWelfareWorks

Society’s safety net has been much-maligned by the Coalition government. ‘Open many newspapers or listen to some politicians speak and you’d think that the only people who received benefits were cheating the system or living a luxury lifestyle. This just isn’t the reality,’ and the campaign sets out a few home truths about benefits:

  • A tiny 3% of the welfare spending goes on benefits to unemployed people, but 42% is spent on the elderly and 21% spent on working families.
  • If you were in a couple with two kids and lost your job (like the 100′s of people from Jessops) you would receive £111.45 a week in Job Seekers Allowance, out of this you’d have to pay for food, heating, water, clothes, travel etc…
  • A single person just laid off, from somewhere like HMV, will only have £71 a week to live on.
  • People talk a lot about welfare fraud, but 0.7% of the welfare budget is claimed fraudulently……but at the same time, up to 24% (£11.77bn) of benefits go unclaimed.
  • Experts also reckon that the gap between what the government thinks it should receive in tax, versus what it actually gets (the Tax Gap) could be as high as £120 billion.


The launch of the site coincides with the start of a new, hard-hitting advertising campaign attacking government welfare cuts, using two digital ad vans. Supplemented by national online advertising, the billboards will tour London and starkly contrast cuts to welfare and tax credits which will leave an estimated 11.5 million households worse off from 1 April, made even worse by the government’s insulting £100,000 tax give away to millionaires.

Attacking those who rely on welfare, and using divisive language like ‘strivers and skivers’ serves only to pit people against each other, and wear away the reasons that the welfare state was established in the first place. ‘Generosity, mutual support and cooperation’ were the watch words of the post-war era, leading to a determination to build a better society for all. This community spirit led to the creation of the NHS and our welfare state. The current government is not only implementing devastating cuts across all public services, but is attacking long-accepted arguments that society should care for its vulnerable, and those who may have fallen upon tough times.

Of course there are things that can be improved upon, and of course there are people who take advantage, albeit a tiny number. But this is the case for a number of institutions in society that can be exploited but we all agree must exist – a classic example being the law against rape and sexual assault. There are a tiny number of people who might make false accusations of rape or sexual assault, but nobody argues that this therefore means we should abolish the laws against these crimes.

It is great to see that someone is finally making the arguments for the welfare system. If you agree that #ourwelfareworks, please share this campaign with everyone you know. It’s time we started sticking up for a decent and caring society.

Blacklisting: the scandal continues

1 Feb
by Sarah Glenister

It is shameful that so little has been done to acknowledge the scandal of blacklisting and scandalous that even less has been done to compensate those who have suffered from this vile practice. Last week the Institute of Employment Rights released a comprehensive resource document on blacklisting.

Last week saw an opposition debate in Parliament on blacklisting in the Ruined Livesconstruction industry which called for an immediate investigation into the extent of the practice and an assurance “that appropriate and effective sanctions are in place to tackle and prevent blacklisting”.

During the debate, many passionate speeches were heard from Labour MPs, some of whom have themselves been the victims of blacklisting, and many of whom know of constituents who have had their livelihoods snatched away from them by the practice.

With evidence coming to light through the Scottish Affairs Committee’s Inquiry that the police and the Security Service colluded with the activities of blacklisters in the construction industry, and that blacklisting practices have been rife in public works, including the construction of the Olympic Park, it was also argued that a Leveson-style inquiry must go ahead. Blacklisting has been given important exposure by the Scottish Parliament and we must congratulate MSPs for their determination in forcing this issue up the political agenda.

But the practice of blacklisting is not restricted to the UK alone. The construction companies identified as participating in the blacklisting operation include household names based and operating across Europe including: Skanska (Sweden), Bam (Netherlands), Vinci (France), Laing O’Rourke (Ireland), Sir Robert McAlpine, Balfour Beatty, Kier, Costain, Carillion (UK) to name but a few. It is important therefore that European wide action is taken in response.

The Blacklist Support Group and Professor Keith Ewing of the Institute of Employment Rights fought hard to bring blacklisting to the attention of the EU Commissioner in 2011 and there is now much work taking place at the European level with Stephen Hughes MEP and Glenis Willmott MEP taking up the issue in the European Parliament.

In the light of recent evidence and based on the information gathered in Scotland, EU and now at Westminster, we believe the current blacklisting Regulations now need to be strengthened in the following ways:

  1. There should be a positive right not to be blacklisted and workers who find themselves on a blacklist should have an automatic right to compensation without the burden of proof being placed upon them.
  2. A retroactive compensation scheme should be established to compensate blacklisted workers.
  3. Protection against blacklisting should be extended to include “trade union related activities”.
  4. Blacklisting should be a criminal offence and companies who make use of blacklists should be open to criminal prosecution.
  5. The government’s recently announced Advisory Council for the Construction Industry should be a tripartite body.

Last week the Institute of Employment Rights released a comprehensive resource on blacklisting which looks at the historical practice, Government responses, the legal context, evidence from various investigations and case studies. This resource is free and we encourage you to share it widely.

This post was originally published by Class.

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