Letter of Support to Leeds HMRC PCS Over Campaign Against Nursery Closures

YFJ members supporting Leeds HMRC PCS member on picket line on M10 earlier this year

Dear Brothers & Sisters,

We are writing to express our support for the campaign against the closure of nurseries in HMRC offices across the country including in Leeds.

We are frankly outraged that this government whose MPs have often been in the press claiming that British people are lazy and don’t work hard enough is going to take away vital childcare and potentially deny even more people the opportunity to be able to go out and work for a living, on top of the devastating impact their cuts and austerity agenda has already had on the public sector.

Families are being hit hard already by the governments cuts to tax credits, as well as being hit like everyone else with soaring food, utilities and other bills. Now parents in the civil service will be faced with higher childcare bills or the prospect of having to leave work to look after their children. This is simply unacceptable.

We in Youth Fight for Jobs support the idea of decent, affordable childcare available to all, including provision in workplaces, educational institutes etc. If the government claims this is unaffordable then perhaps they should hire more workers in HMRC to collect some of the £120bn which your union estimates goes evaded and uncollected in tax from the 1% at the top each year. Hopefully, supporters of Youth Fight for Jobs should be attending the protest in Leeds this Thursday, which we hope will be a success.

Yours,

Iain Dalton
Yorkshire Organiser, Youth Fight for Jobs

Young People and October 20th – Why You Should Go

This article was originally published in Clocking Off, official newsletter of Yorkshire & Humber TUC

Ask any young person what they think about politics and many will reply that that’s nothing to do with them. Instead it’s to do with MP’s living the high life, racking up massive expenses claims, whilst deciding on things in a manner that makes life more and more difficult for them.

If they are trying to find work the youth unemployment remains perilously high, and instead of a job creation programme that can provide well paid meaningful work we have work-for-your dole schemes that even the Department for Work and Pensions which is promoting such schemes say don’t help people find work.

If they’re in work then the minimum wage hasn’t been increased for under 21s this year and we’ve still got around 10% of the cuts to public services to come which will have knock on effects on the private sector too.

If they want to go into education then the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) for college students has now been scrapped and tuition fees have been raised to £9,000 a year for those starting at university this September. And that’s before mentioning the cuts there too which are even putting some universities, such as London Met at risk of closure.

Given all this, it’s no wonder that over 50% of young people don’t vote in elections. If only somebody was doing something to challenge all these policies that are devastating young people’s lives?

Well, on October 20th the TUC is organising a massive demonstration in London to show the huge opposition to such policies. Trade unions, as well as campaign groups, students and others will march through London demanding a future in their interests rather than in the interests of the super-rich chums of the Tories.

But hang on, you may say. Didn’t we have a demonstration a year and a half ago? But after that the Tories and their Lib-Dem allies carried on attacking our jobs, the NHS and everything else?

That demonstration was before the impact of these cuts really started to be felt, it’s one thing to announce cuts to people’s living standards – it’s another to be able to implement them without those people trying to stop you.

And we’ve seen people trying to stop them – we’ve seen young people protest over workfare forcing companies to pull out of that scheme, we’ve seen construction electricians defend their terms and conditions and strikes of public sector workers too. Some have been successful, unfortunately others haven’t – but this government has made an awful lot of u-turns – in fact as I write this my friend who works in the tax office has let me know that his union’s  (PCS) campaign has forced the government to create a 1,000 extra jobs in HMRC.

October 20th will hopefully be a million strong, which of itself will be a tremendous encouragement for those in the trade union movement fighting to defend their jobs and services, but also encourage those angry at the closure or privatisation of their local library, A&E unit and other public services to try and fight to reverse such decisions.

October 20th can be a rallying call, but a rallying call to continue the campaign against austerity in all areas of the country in the aftermath of the march. A mass movement of this nature could sweep away the Con-Dems and their policies of misery for young people.

Austerity should be replaced with policies to benefit young people – reintroducing the EMA, reversing the tuition fee hikes as a step towards free education, a programme of building social housing to provide homes for all on the council house waiting list, a programme of investment into public services to end understaffing and other ills caused by relentless cuts – all of which would create jobs, of course paid at a living wage, to end the scourge of unemployment.

Let’s fund this through companies and the rich paying taxes to support society, rather than constantly dodging their responsibility by loopholes such as moving funds abroad. Let’s have banks that support people by giving cheap loans for mortgages and to small businesses, rather than banks that need the poor to bail them out – after all given the as a country own a few of them we should at least have the right to decide what they should be doing. Let’s have a future that works in the interests of ordinary people, not just those who are already well off.

Iain Dalton (USDAW)

Young Tenants Fightback Launched

Young Tenants Fightback campaign logo

Young Tenants Fightback, a campaign to defend the rights of young renters initiated by Leeds Youth Fight for Jobs, launched last Wednesday with a lobby of and deputation to the city council.

Joe Muller, Leeds Youth Fight for Jobs

Supported by local GMB activists whose union branch had already generously donated towards the campaign, we braved the rain swept streets of Leeds outside the council chamber to leaflet the general public and council workers before short speeches were made by Iain Dalton, YFJ Yorkshire organiser, and Katrine Williams, PCS DWP group Vice President.

Our deputation of three then went into the council chambers. Iain Dalton made an impassioned five minute speech to the council and the Lord Mayor (see full transcript below). Our deputation was well received, with spontaneous applause even breaking out at one point, and the council quickly moved for our concerns to be moved to the Executive Board. We await their response.

Upon leaving the chambers our group was immediately surrounded by several Labour and Green councillors eager to show their support for the campaign. Whilst we welcome support for what we are putting forward, we need action not words from local councils; by refusing to implement the government’s cuts to Housing Benefit, which will massively affect young people, as well as imposing rent caps and offering better protection for tenants in the massively overpriced private rental sector. We recognise and welcome the council’s initial opposition to the so-called ‘bedroom tax’ whereby housing benefit claimants could see their payments cut for daring to live in a property with a spare bedroom (potentially affecting 30,000 households in Leeds alone), we now urge the council to continue the fight for their communities around all the other housing issues.

Young Tenants Fightback, though still in its early days, has already received huge support from local union branches, housing groups and the local media. The strong interest in our campaign shows the very real need for a voice for young people struggling to live independently and for a viable solution to an increasingly urgent housing crisis.
Speech to Leeds City Council

There is a crisis in housing – a crisis in the social housing sector with around 27,000 in Leeds on waiting lists for council or social housing.

A crisis in the private rental sector with average rents across the country consuming around half of people’s incomes.

A crisis in the home-owner sector where only 1,380 homes were built in Leeds last year and to buy even the lowest priced one you would have to earn over £40,000 per year.

This is a crisis that is hitting many young people acutely.

We believe that everyone should be able to live in a decent quality, affordable home. But for young people it’s becoming harder and harder to be able to do this. A record almost 3 million people between the ages of 20 and 34 still live with their parents, an increase of half a million in the last 15 years.

And when you do move out, it is usually into a HMO, a house of multiple occupancy. For some people this is a choice – they like living with other people, but for most it is a necessity to be able to afford to do so, particularly under 35s on housing benefit

In the area I live in, young people, especially students, get crammed into houses, sometimes up to 3 or 4 into what would in the past have been a two bedroom house, because although the rent charged is cheaper for each individual, the total rent taken from a house is greater. This also limits the properties available to couples and families. In effect HMO landlords benefit at the expense of all tenants.

Low pay is a factor in this. Many young people are unable to find full time work, and have to make do with part-time jobs. The TUC estimates that in the UK there are 3.3million people in work who would like to get more hours up to full time work. This is up from 2.3million in 2008. Those in work under 21 years of age have a lower minimum wage than the rest of the population which scandalously will be frozen this year – yet there is no discount on rent or bills to go with the discount employers get on staff aged under 21.

This has an impact on housing benefit, with 93% of new housing benefit claims being from households where at least one person is in work.  Housing benefit is also important for the unemployed, who with the government’s cuts to housing benefits will be expected to make up the shortfall. But with the new proposal to scrap housing benefit for under 25s, then some young people face the harrowing prospect of losing their home as well as their job if made redundant. Whilst we welcome the stance the council is taking on the ‘bedroom tax’ issue, this is only of one the damaging effects of the governments changes to housing benefit.

HMO’s in particular can often be poorly maintained – sometimes because tenants live there for less than a year. I have heard friends tell me countless times about leaky pipes not being fixed, broken ovens and washing machines and other issues. But also because it’s difficult sometimes to know who is responsible for it – the buck gets passed between landlords and letting agencies.

There has been a proliferation of letting agents with various extra charges levied by them on tenants such as credit check charges and the Guardian a few weeks ago even reported about someone who was charged £440 for cleaning that wasn’t even carried out.

This council has a choice over these matters – it can act or not. Whilst we are aware you do not have powers over every aspect of housing, you could, for example, increase the resources to the environmental health team to carry out regular inspections of tenanted properties. You could refuse to carry out the cuts to housing benefit and campaign for the additional funding to make up the shortfall from the government.

There have been councils in the past that have opposed government policies on housing to defend the interests of ordinary people in their areas – such as in Clay Cross in the 1970s and Liverpool in the 1980s.

Where you do not have direct powers at present – you should put pressure onto the government to act on these matters or give you those powers. We think a mass social housing building programme is necessary with good quality housing, as well as a cap on rents at an affordable level. Empty housing could be compulsory purchased and brought back into use.

The money is there for this. The housing benefit cuts at just over £2bn are less than half of what Vodafone were let off tax last year, £7bn out of a total of £120bn each year evaded by the wealthy and large corporations. The government could use its ownership of some of the banks, such as HBOS and RBS, to run them in the interests of ordinary people and, for example, to make cheap, affordable mortgages available for first time buyers.

We believe a mass campaign would be needed to build up the political pressure for this money to be used to start to resolve the housing crisis.

So I ask again, the choice is yours – will you act on this or not?

Westfield Occupiers Evicted, But Battle Must Continue

Occupy: Westfield Solidarity Protest

Members of Leeds Youth Fight for Jobs joined a solidarity protest with the Occupy: Westfield group outside Bradford Crown Court on Tuesday 3rd July. The group have been occupying the area in the city centre where Westfield had started laying down foundations for a new shopping centre, more commonly known as ‘the Bradford hole’, and like the derelict Odeon building on the other side of town, is seen by many in town as a symbol of the city’d economic decline. The occupiers were in court as Westfield were seeking a possession order for the site.

Iain Dalton, Youth Fight for Jobs – Yorkshire Organiser

Occupy Westfield had been established in May, shortly after the election of five Respect councillors in the local elections, and prior to that of George Galloway as Respect MP for Bradford West. Unemployment, stands at 6% in Bradford, higher then both the regional average of 4.9% and the UK average of 3.9%, whilst youth unemployment has increased alomst 30% in the last year, now at 11.1%, again higher than the UK average of 8.3%. For a town that has seen a decline in its economy and prospects of young people, Galloway’ election victory marked a political earthquake and the Westfield occupation is but the first major repercussion on the life of the town of this.

In 2003 Stannifer became the guarantor for a retail development project on the site, who were soon bought out by Chelsfield who in turn were quickly acquired by Australian shopping centre group, Westfield. It was Westfield who, in 2007, mothballed the development claiming they could not secure enough pre-lets and anchor tenants. The latest plans, supposedly close to completion around a year ago, would see a smaller shopping centre, but there doen’t even seem to be any real progress on even this scaled back development. Whilst Westfield can find £1,743m to invest in a shopping centre in Stratford near the Olympic site, they can’t come up with the lesser amount of £345m to invest in Bradford.

In response a group of young Bradfordians occupied the site, demanding that the site be developed immediately. Initially, official society attempted to ignore them, they did gain a meeting with the new leader of Bradford council, only for the council to tell them there was nothing they can do, the original contract didn’t include any provisions for penalty clauses etc.

It is becoming increasingly clear that Westfield seem to have little immediate interest in developing the site, let alone developing the site in a manner of providing facilities that would be a real boon to Bradford. Instead they have persued the occupiers, going through eviction proceedings no doubt with the hope of silencing their campaign. After Westfield were granted a possession order, the occupiers have decided to leave the site, but are camping on the ‘Urban Garden’ which surrounds the site and have vowed to continue the campaign.

The next step must be to demand that the land is removed from the control of Westfield and developed in a socially useful way for the people of Bradford. The council could compulsory purchase the land (the council estimates this would cost £80m), but we would argue that Westfield deserves no compensation given their failure to develop the land and the associated consequences of that (a 2007 report concluded that the failure to develop the site had stifled the cities economic development). A democratic plan for the site could be drawn up by local community groups, trade unions, the occupiers and others as to how the site could be developed.

No doubt the Labour leadership of the council, who have implemented cuts budgets the last two years will say there is no money for this. But this is only because they are refusing to fight the imposition of the Con-Dem cuts, instead of organising a mass campaign to demand the funding the city needs. In the 1980s, the group of 49 councillors on Liverpool City Council refused to implement Thatcher’s cuts and their mass campaign gained the funding to build new houses, leisure centres, nurseries as well as creating council apprenticeships and new parks amongst other things. If Liverpool could do that then, why can’t Bradford do this now?

Given the support that Respect councillors have offered the occupiers, and being elected on a platform of opposing cuts and being in favour of the regeneration of the city, they could be asked to table a motion to this effect at the next full council meeting. The occupiers and other could organise a mass lobby of councillors as they enter the meeting, and they could also use the opportunity to present a petition to this effect to the council. Such a course of action would clearly show which side the councillors were on – developing thecity to imporve the prospects of workers and youth or on the side of the profit-mongering multinationals.

Over 20,000 have signed the occupiers petition in support of them, and as we marched up from the occupation site to the courts we saw people applauding us and joining the protest. It is clear on whose side the ordinary working people of Bradford are on.

Solidarity with the HMRC strikers

Striking PCS members at Shipley HMRC office

Today activists from Youth Fight for Jobs in Yorkshire have been present at PCS HMRC picket lines across the region. Yorkshire YFJ Organiser, Iain Dalton, visited the picket line at Shipley and below we publish some of his thoughts on the day.

“Tax workers have been on strike today against the privatisation of their service which is being trialled in several call centres across the country. I received a warm reception from all the PCS reps picketing outside their office, which included several members of the Young Members Network. But the reps were angry about a whole number of issues, from job cuts (around 10,000 to go in HMRC) to the tax avoidance of the rich which will only increase as a result of these cuts.

“There was also a lot of anger about Cameron’s latest plans to cut housing benefit for under-25s. This came up on numerous occasions as I had to interrupt our discussions to do radio interviews on this issue where I called for rent caps rather than benefit caps and also raised awareness of the strike. Several reps were worried about the situation that could put some of their children in who have moved away from home and currently work, but like many workers their jobs are currently under threat.

“Shipley is where the main processing centre for HMRC, and as such security there is really strict. Last year I came to speak to the branch about the then upcoming Jarrow March for Jobs and I had to wait to be escorted past to checkpoint, and usually the security check everyone’s passes coming in. However, all the security guards at the site are members of PCS so today the security booth was being manned by management who simply waived everyone through. Funny how things like security and health & safety go out the window when there’s a strike to undermine!”

Support the SOVA Strikers

SOVA Dump-It workers picket line, Sheffield

Workers in ‘Dump-It’ recycling centres in Sheffield, employed by SOVA, have taken 15 days of strike action against cuts and job losses. The Dump-It sites have been contracted out by Sheffield City Council to Veolia, who have then subcontracted the service to SOVA, but as the service is self-funding both Veolia and SOVA are making healthy profits off the service. The workers have now voted to take indefinite strike action and require both moral and also especially financial support. Please send to Peter Davies (Sova Strike Fund), GMB office, 188/190 Norfolk Street, Sheffield, S1 1SY. Please make cheques payable to GMB. (Email peter.davies@gmb.org.uk)

See below message of support from Yorkshire Youth Fight for Jobs & Education.

Dear Brothers & Sisters,

We have been following the progress of your dispute with Sova (and ultimately Veolia and Sheffield City Council) and wish you the best of luck in winning your dispute. Just like Cameron and co are trying to make young people work for free, so employers in the public and private sectors are trying to cut the pay, conditions and hours of those in employment. It is urgent that other workers follow your strident example in defending pay, terms and conditions and stop the race to the bottom that big business and the government seem to desire. Services such as the one you work in should be taken out of the hands of profit-mongering private companies and brought back into the public sector. Hard working ordinary people should not be made to pay for the crisis of the banks, rather big business and the rich should be paying to give us a decent standard of living rather than continually pocketing huge profits, bonuses and pay packets whilst unemployment, poverty and homelessness are on the increase.

A few years ago in Leeds, Youth Fight for Jobs supporters offered our support to bin workers in Leeds as they fought to defend their pay succesfully. We will be encouraging our supporters across Yorkshire to offer support and solidarity with your struggle.

Yours,

Iain Dalton,
Yorkshire Organiser, Youth Fight for Jobs and Education
yorkshireyfj.wordpress.com

End the Farcical Trial of Human Rights Activist Vadim Kuramshim

Please see articles for further details on the Campaign Kazakhstan websitewww.campaignkazakhstan.org

Dear Sirs,

We yet again read further curtailment of basic democratic rights in Kazakhstan. Vadim Kuramshim, who is currently being framed in trial blamed for a corruption he was trying to expose, has seen the judge in his trial, Samat Tulesbai, dismiss the jury. The only reason for such an undemocratic move must be that the evidence clearly proves Vadim’s innocence and blows holes that the jury could see in the prosecutions case. This is going on at the same time as the disgraceful trial of workers who took part in the oil workers strike last year and were brutally repressed in Zhanozen but are now incredibly being blamed for the violence.

Earlier this month Youth Fight for Jobs activists in Leeds distributed leaflets during on the annual May Day March highlighting Vadim’s case and the brutal suppression of dissent in Kazakhstan with one of our activists speaking about this at that events rally. We will continue to highlight the attacks on the rights of workers and the poor of Kazakhstan as they make their just demands for a decent life and will step up our campaigning to fight for the freedom of Vadim and others whose only crime was that they wouldn’t kowtow to the demands of a dictatorship.

We demand:

End the farcical trial of Vadim Kuramshim – drop all charges against him now!

Yours,

Iain Dalton,
on behalf of Yorkshire Youth Fight for Jobs

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