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Manchester

Manchester SolFed is the local of the Solidarity Federation covering Greater Manchester.

Under the government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme you will receive 80% of wages up to £2,500 per month. Below is the latest update on how the scheme will work.

The situation is changing all the time but as far as we are aware the following is correct as we understand it as of Wednesday 23rd March.

Which companies are eligible under the scheme? All UK businesses are eligible, including charitable, non-profit, public sector, local authorities and so on.

Which workers are eligible? All workers on P.A.Y.E will qualify for 80% of their earnings. This is likely to include most workers, apart from the self-employed who have yet to receive any real support from the government.

THE VIRUS OF CAPITALISM

Over the last few days, a post has been circulating on social media identifying capitalism as the virus that needs to be extinguished as dangerous for our health. Of course, it would be untrue to suggest that the coronavirus has somehow been produced by capitalism but we can say that the effects that the virus entails have been exacerbated by the capitalist mode of social organization. The first concerns of the Tories were for the economy, not for people. The economy and profit are what drives them and people’s welfare is only relevant in so far as they can produce for this economy. The very fact that in the UK the last ten years have seen excruciating cuts to social services, the NHS and anything public, including youth clubs and the like, has made it all the harder to respond adequately and quickly to the crisis caused by the virus.

Coronavirus and the collapse of neo-liberalism

The differences between the various national and governmental responses to the Covid-19 (coronavirus) outbreak aside, what they hold is common is a crumbling defence of ultra-neo-liberal policies. By this we mean, as the UK government has shifted from its primary concern to shore up the economy to showing concern about the health of the population, the idea that the state should not intervene in the financial sphere has practically been thrown out of the window. Even the most ideologically-led and fervent advocates of the “minimum state” have had to cave in to a looming disaster that would spell even the end of market capitalism. While anarchosyndicalists are not in favour of a minimum state – we want to abolish the state – we have constantly criticised the politics that sustain this approach.

CORONAVIRUS: YOUR RIGHTS TO SICK PAY AND WAGES

The government is full of talk about “supporting each other” but is doing little to compensate workers who are forced to take time off work due to the coronavirus. The message seems to be “do the right thing” and self-isolate but do not expect any financial support from us. Below we set out your rights to sick pay and wages when having to take time off work due to the coronavirus epidemic.
The information below is based on things as they currently stand on the 15th March 2020.

LAY-OFFS DURING THE CORONAVIRUS

As in other countries, the government may at some point begin to close workplaces, such as bars and restaurants, as the virus spreads. In which case they may announce special arrangements but as things stand at the moment if you are temporarily laid off due to the coronavirus the following applies:

Higher Education talks enter crucial stage

The University and College Union (UCU) is now in its third week of strike action over pensions, pay, equality issues, workload and casualization of the sector. Although developments are being kept pretty much in secret, branches have pressed the Union leadership for an open discussion and ratification of any agreements that we may collectively come to. Some branches have also been discussing what the next step could entail if there is insufficient progress. While the sector does not have a huge amount of power in some senses, unless railway unions or NHS workers, universities are increasingly concerned about their reputations in a competitive education “market”, especially when it comes to high fee payment international students and loss of income due to a lack of grant applications from governments, agencies and trusts.

FOR A DECENT PUBLIC TRANSPORT SYSTEM

The lamentable state of public transport in the North of the country, not to speak of elsewhere, has even reached the tables of ministerial discussion in the government in London. The fact that Northern Rail has been taken from Arriva and given to the Operator of Last Resort (OLR), as the jargon goes, that is, the state, is a reflection of the decline of our public transport system and the need for a proper solution. Northern Rail was plagued by late and cancelled trains and over-crowding on a scale that if it had been in London would have seen a rapid solution. While privatisation has evidently failed the British public, it cannot be guaranteed that a process of nationalisation will be better – what we can be sure of is that it couldn’t be worse.

THE BIGGEST EDUCATION STRIKE IN HISTORY AND HOW WE CAN WIN IT.

We are in the midst of the country’s biggest university strike ever in a dispute over pensions and the “four fights” of equality, pay, workload and casualization. On the last front, in some universities, there are up to 70% of lecturers who are on hourly paid or fixed term contracts. These are convenient for universities in what has grown to be a highly casualized sector but provide no security for workers who have often trained for up to ten years in their chosen subject. The representation of women and BME workers is also a key issue that the University and College Union is seeking action on. If we consider those in the higher positions of what is a heavily hierarchical university world, most are white and most are male.

WORKING CLASS WOMEN BEAR THE BRUNT OF AUSTERITY AND ARE PAYING THE PRICE WITH POOR HEALTH AND EARLY DEATHS

A new report into health inequality by the UCL Institute of Health Equality clearly shows that the health gap between the rich and poor is growing. The report highlights the fact that life expectancy has stalled for the first time in a hundred years, with life expectancy actually falling among the poorest 10% of women. The report also found that those living in the most deprived areas of Britain can now expect to spend more of their lives in poor health.

THOUSANDS OF UK COMPANIES STEALING WORKERS WAGES

Last week, the government announced it would resume naming and shaming employers who fail to pay the National Minimum Wage. While welcome, this will do little to deter companies from paying workers poverty wages and getting away with it.

Currently, rule-breakers are allowed to simply repay the wage arrears and fines issued by HMRC can be discounted for early repayment, meaning the average penalty in 2017-18 was only worth about 90% of the wage arrears owed. The availability of self-correction, in effect, means that, in many cases, employers can underpay wages with no financial consequences, even if they are caught. Research shows that, currently, only one in eight companies not paying the minimum wage are caught by government inspectors.

What Next After Labours Defeat?

Some optimism in a dark time…

This isn’t about saying “I told you so!” We have close friends and solid comrades who put their faith and energy into Corbyn and the Labour party. We have nothing but sympathy and condolences for them. The loss of hope must feel like a bereavement. We’re sorry, collectively, for the anguish that millions of people are feeling today.

Manchester & Salford Anarchist Book Fare

Manchester SolFed out leafleting for the Manchester and Salford Anarchist Book Fair this Saturday 7th December at the People's History Museum 10.00 to 1600

Manchester & Salford Anarchist Book Fare

Manchester SolFed out leafleting for the Manchester and Salford Anarchist Book Fair this Saturday 7th December at the People's History Museum 10.00 to 1600

Sorry, the program of the Labour Party is just not that radical!

Given all the hype emanating from much of the left about the wonders of the Labour Manifesto, it is hard not to get carried away. After watching the latest uplifting interview with Labor’s John Mcdonnell you can suddenly find yourself unconsciously humming “oh Jeramy Corbyn” as you set about washing the dishes. Given all this hype, it is perhaps then worth having a bit of a reality check and assessing what the Labour Party is actually promising should they get elected.

Labour is promising to increase overall public spending from the current level of 38% of national income to 43.3%. Though billed as almost revolutionary, this increase is fairly moderate when compared with much of Europe, for example, in Sweden public spending amounts to 48.4%  of national income, Italy 48.8% and France a wapping 55.7%.

Company Targeted Low Income Elderly People to Mis-sell Funeral Plans

Staff at a call centre where customers were described as “gazelles” to be hunted have been subjecting, low income, elderly people, to dozens of calls a week to sell them expensive funeral packages. The company, Prosperous Life,  based in Stockport, Greater Manchester, sells more than 1,000 pre-paid funeral plans every month. Staff at the company report that they are put under pressure to push people to sign up for schemes with little regard for their income.

Prosperous Life runs a workplace culture inspired by The Wolf of Wall Street movie, as a means to pressurise staff into mis-selling funeral plans to vulnerable people. Staff were encouraged to refer to themselves as “lions” and potential customers as “gazelles”. A life-sized cardboard cutout of Leonardo DiCaprio as the disgraced fraudster Jordan Belfort in The Wolf of Wall Street movie was placed in the office.

TUC SURVEY HIGHLIGHTS GROWING UK POVERTY

A new survey by the TUC highlights the real problems many workers have in just making ends meet in one of the wealthiest countries in the world. The survey found that:

● 1 in 5 workers (19%) have gone without heating when it was cold;
● 1 in 5 (20%) workers are skipping meals to make ends meet with the number missing out on meals increasing by more than half in two years;
● 1 in 10 (10%) could not pay their rent or mortgage on time;
● 1 in 5 (20%) had pawned or sold something because they were short of money;
● a quarter of respondents report running out of money at the end of most weeks or months, while a further 16% have to cut down or stop spending many times a year;
● two fifths of those polled (41%) say that pay not keeping up with living costs is among their biggest concerns at work.

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