Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Cutbacks crisis - more action on the cards

I'm uninspired. I've just spent an hour and a half at the TUC General Council with Alastair Darling. With many people you can say they talk a good fight - but he didn't. Even when challenged on the government's punitive welfare reforms he simply denied they were punitive. If taking away the benefits of those who don't get a job when two million are unemployed is not punitive then I don't know what is.

General Council members raised lots of valuable points about the failure of regulations, the growing gulf between the rich and poor whilst also welcoming moves to raise the top rate of tax but we remain bemused by the failure to act decisively over the tax avoidance of the big corporations (costing the UK economy billions a year) and halt the repossessions affecting thousands of people and an increasing number of journalists who are losing their jobs.

I was able to raise in the subsequent discussion the cuts at Newsquest in Glasgow and the obscene manner in which management there are threatening everyone with the axe but allowing people to reapply for their own jobs on worse terms and conditions. There's a great clip from Newsnight Scotland of a senior manager trying to justify it. Watch the reporter's reaction when he admits that if it was another company acting in this manner the paper would call it a scandal. Priceless.

But we did get some good news - the European Parliament have voted by a huge majority to call for the end of the UK opt-out of the Working Time Regulations. Hurrah! Thousands of journalists are forced on pain of losing their job to sign an opt-out and work excessive hours, damaging their health week in, week out. No journalist minds putting in extra hours when a big story breaks but the culture of long hours is wrecking people's lives and it allows media organisations to get away with cutting jobs and making up for short-staffing by forcing others to work longer hours. There;s still a long way to go before the opt-out ends but the unions' lobbying - we wrote to every UK MEP last week - has won us the first round.

Our campaign against the job cuts and pay freezes continues. Down in Exmouth staff are fighting to save their office and we've sent them a message of support. Strike votes have been successful at Darlington and in York. We've launched a new web area with a fancy google map highlighting some of the cuts taking place. And we've been discussing co-ordinated protests in different cities and co-ordinated action with our sister union Unite.

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