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Resistance to the Government's Trade Bill 2019-21:
Workers' Weekly Internet Edition: Article Index : ShareThis
Resistance to the Government's Trade Bill 2019-21:
The Necessity to Limit the Power of the Monopolies to Impose Trade Agreements on Society
Parliamentary Constituencies Bill:
Necessity for a Renewal of the Political Processes and Institutions so that the People Are Empowered
Bank of England's Attempt to Whitewash its History and its Present Role:
The Bank of England and Slavery
Upsurge against State Racism:
Statues and Symbols of Slavery, Genocide and Racism Come Crashing Down
Resistance to the Government's Trade Bill 2019-21:
The Trade Bill, which the government rushed into Parliament during the height of the coronavirus pandemic with its Second Reading on May 20 , has been in the Committee stage, which was due to have reported back to Parliament on Friday, June 25.
During the Committee stage, evidence was presented to the Public Bill Committee in writing and in person by individuals and organisations. Written and verbal evidence presented by the Trade Justice Movement  summarised their position with the following points: "The government is pressing ahead with trade negotiations with the US and elsewhere, despite there being no system of transparency or democratic scrutiny of trade deals. The Trade Bill provides an opportunity to set out a democratic process for trade agreements. MPs should support amendments which provide for this. The Trade Bill should also include amendments which maintain UK food and animal welfare standards and protect the NHS and public health from provisions in trade deals. The Covid crisis has hit global trade. It is essential that the UK trade policy maintains the right to regulate, protects the NHS and supports countries in the Global South."
The TUC also made a written and verbal submission in which it pointed out that the Trade Bill "makes no mention of the role for unions or parliament in negotiations and scrutiny of 'continuity' agreements  - provides no representation for trade unions on the Trade Remedies Authority - makes no commitment that UK trade deals will enforce respect for core International Labour Organisation conventions - makes no commitment that UK trade deals will protect public services - does not affirm that UK public procurement rules will support good work, fair pay, trade union recognition and collective agreements."
In addition to the evidence and verbal submissions, a number of petitions are being presented to government alongside the opposition all over Britain. A Change.org petition calling on government "to guarantee that our health service will never form part of any trade deal" has now reached over 1.3 million signatures, and a National Farmers Union petition with now over 1 million signatures calls on the government "to make sure food imports meet UK production standards." 
The latest amendment paper to the Bill listed on June 25 contains all the paper amendments made in Committee stage . These are all amendments made by the Labour Party, Scottish National Party and Plaid Cymru MPs, and reflect many of the concerns raised by the written and verbal submissions and the movement against the Bill at large. However, in the face of this massive opposition to their Trade Bill, the government has argued against even these amendments. It has presented no amendments itself to the Trade Bill and evidently has every intention of ignoring the voice of people.
What is more, the government denies to the Committee any details of its trade agreement negotiations with the US, which are currently being discussed. Greg Hands, Minister for Trade Policy, said during the Committee meeting of June 23: "I was being very generous in saying that my door was open, but it is not open to discuss the content of the current negotiations with the US. That, of course, is a matter - in the proper way - for statements to Parliament, but that is a live negotiation, so what may or may not be in that negotiation is probably a matter for that negotiation." In other words, all of the assurances that the government has given in the past and in its election manifesto - that the "NHS is not on the table" and that "we will not compromise on our high environmental protection, animal welfare and food standards" - are no longer stated when the negotiations have started with the US. This clearly reveals that these vital issues over which the people should have control are being discussed with the US negotiators.
What is more, the Minister's claim that the "proper way" is via statements to Parliament sounds pretty hollow when the amendments highlight that the Bill in its current form makes no provision for parliamentary scrutiny of any deal. In fact, Parliament has no legal right under this Bill to debate or vote on a trade deal, or even to know what it contains, as the Committee stage discussions show. Further, the governments of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are also granted no formal role in negotiating or approving trade treaties.
This rule by the executive is to enable international trade deals on behalf of international global finance capital and the global monopolies to dictate social conditions to the people at home and abroad from food standards, to working conditions, and to the provision of healthcare. It enables other financial arrangements that dictate neo-liberal privatisation in the rationing of social housing, water, gas, transport and other vital parts of the social economy that should instead be guaranteed for all. Most of these international trade agreements also contain a provision for "investor state dispute settlements", which enable corporations to sue governments in secret offshore tribunals over any government policy that might affect the "future anticipated profits" of "investors".
The resistance that is continuing to the Trade Bill demands an outcome that is in favour of the working class and people. The movement is at the stage of resistance to a government and its Trade Bill that imposes international agreements in favour of the global monopolies. The working class movement has the experience of opposing TTIP successfully in 2014 alongside the workers' movement in Europe . The necessity is to limit the power of the monopolies to impose trade agreements on society that are against the rights and interests of all at home and abroad. The movement must get organised with new initiatives to further build this resistance movement to the Trade Bill and the international trade agreements it enables, in the struggle for a new society that implements trade on an equal basis and for the mutual benefit of all.
The Necessity for Trade on an Equal Basis and
Mutual Benefit, Where the People Decide
 Written Evidence: Trade Justice Movement
 Trade Bill Evidence to the Trade Bill
2020 - "Continuity" Agreements
The TUC submission points out that: "Trade unions were not consulted on the text of any of the nineteen continuity agreements that have been finalised [now 20 continuity agreements with 48 countries - WW] This is particularly concerning as many of these deals were with countries where labour and human rights abuses are widespread, such as Colombia and South Korea. In South Korea, trade union leaders have been thrown in prison for peaceful protest for workers to claim their rights. Colombia, meanwhile, remains the most dangerous country in the world for trade unionists with around two thirds of murders of trade unionists taking place in Colombia."
 Petitions: Change.org: Calling on our
guarantee that our health service will never form part of ANY trade
https://www.change.org/p/keep-our-nhs-out-of-us-trade-deals (1.3 million)
National Farmers' Union: Food standards petition
https://www.nfuonline.com/news/latest-news/food-standards-petition/ (1 million)
 Public Bill Committee Amendments as of 25
 The Transatlantic Trade and Investment
The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) was a Euro-Atlantic free trade agreement that was the subject of ongoing negotiations between the US and the EU. The deadline for finalising the TTIP free trade agreement was in 2015. Its goal was to create a Trans-Atlantic Free Trade Area (TAFTA) and to cement the European Union with the United States as one supranational trading bloc. In 2014, protests against TTIP on October 11 took place in 22 countries across Europe - marches, rallies and other public events - in over 1,000 locations in Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Greece, Netherlands, Poland, the Czech Republic and Scandinavian countries. The resistance movement persuaded many countries to distance themselves from the deal, which completely collapsed when US President Trump withdrew the US from the talks, although there are reports that talks have continued in secret. The EU did sign the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) with Canada. (Source: Workers' Weekly)
The Parliamentary Constituencies Bill 2019-21, which was introduced into the House of Commons on May 19 and had its Second Reading June 2, is now moving through the Committee Stage. The Public Bill Committee is expected report on its examination of the Bill on July 2, when it will return to Parliament for further debate. Notably, this government Bill abandons long-standing plans to reduce the number of MPs from 650 to 600. Furthermore, it proposes that recommendations by the boundary commissions for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland should not be voted on by the House of Commons and House of Lords, but that these changes would automatically become law. As such, the Labour Party has accused the Conservative Party of making a "power grab", and using the constituency changes to its own advantage, while the government asserts that it strengthens the independence of the boundary review process.
The proposal to reduce the number of seats to 600 was approved by parliament in 2011 during the Coalition government. As part of the "fairness" agenda, the 2010 Conservative manifesto pledged to review parliamentary constituencies so that "every vote will have equal value". However, since approval, neither of the two boundary reviews made under the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Act, one in 2013 and another in 2018, have been implemented.
The plan was to introduce a single quota for each of the 600 constituencies (with four island constituencies exempted) based on the average electorate, allowing a margin of 5% above or below that quota. Constituency boundaries would be reviewed every five rather than ten years to ensure this criterion remains satisfied. At the time, Labour accepted only the principle of equal-sized constituencies; however, its opposition only succeeded in winning a concession on the matter of a requirement for Public Hearings to be part of the consultation process, which the government had wished to prevent.
The 2013 boundary review succumbed to parliamentary infighting and was abandoned, parliament opting for a five-year delay. More recently, the 2018 review recommended decreasing the number of seats by 32 in England, six in Scotland, 11 in Wales and one in the North of Ireland, but this has not yet been approved either. The scale of the changes proposed would, if carried out, be the largest rearrangement of parliamentary constituencies in modern history.
The new Bill partially drops the 2011 rules. It keeps the requirement for a standard average quota with an allowed 5% tolerance. It sets the number of constituencies at 650 rather than 600, under the justification that Brexit will require more work, and therefore more MPs, though it is likely that this is also a result of contradictions within the Conservative Party itself, whose own MPs' seats faced removal. Reviews will be held at eight-year rather than five-year intervals. If enacted, the Bill would require the Boundary Commissions to draw up 650 new constituencies by July 1, 2023.
Most significantly, the new Bill proposes that future boundary commission recommendations will automatically become law rather than be voted on in either parliamentary House. The mechanism by which boundary commission reports become law is as Orders in Council. These are a form of executive order, made by the Queen in person on the advice of the Privy Council. Some Orders in Council are made by Royal Prerogative; others, such as the enactment of boundary commission proposals, are via an Act of Parliament. The new Bill removes this requirement for an Act of Parliament, effectively converting boundary changes into an arbitrary power.
Responding, Shadow Cabinet Office Minister Cat Smith, whose brief covers voter engagement, said: "The government's decision to end parliamentary oversight by denying MPs the chance to vote on the boundary review process is yet another attempt to diminish scrutiny and concentrate power in the hands of the executive."
"The new boundaries will be dangerously unrepresentative of the current electorate," she said, commenting on the choice to base the new boundaries on the electoral register of December 1, 2020, a choice she called "politically motivated". "The December 2020 register will be heavily affected by Covid-19 as local councils will struggle to update electoral registers whilst dealing with this crisis."
The assertion of the government is that the plans improve fairness while keeping the boundary review process independent of "interference" from MPs. In her written statement to the Commons, Minister of State for the Constitution and Devolution Chloe Smith, who sponsored the government Bill, said: "This change would provide certainty that the recommendations of the independent boundary commissions - developed through a robust and impartial process that is open to extensive consultation - would then be implemented without interference."
On one level, this issue of "interference" is about blocking the opposition. The government has sought to pacify dissent within the Conservative Party through the move to preserve the existing size of the Commons, and open the door to unopposed constituency changes on that basis in future, with the self-serving aim of creating a boundary system in its favour. The choice to use the December 1 register is particularly brazen, given that this year is not an election year and, under the conditions of the coronavirus crisis, is sure to result in the exclusion from the figures of many people who will not have registered, especially amongst younger voters and students.
On another level, "interference" is a reference to the crisis-ridden nature of parliament itself, in which all has become reduced to factional infighting. A vicious circle has arisen whereby the fact that parliament does not represent the people but instead powerful interests have destroyed the party system itself as representing competing political interests, and has given rise a cartel party system with turf wars between factions, which then act as a block on resolving the situation, divorcing parliament even further from the electorate. In this situation, the government is using its absolute majority to roll through police powers and preserve their position as the faction in power. The whole thing, within its own terms, is an unsolvable mess. The Bill and the opposition to it are symptoms of and further reveal the quagmire that the arrangements of governance are now in.
The question that poses itself is what members of parliament and their constituencies actually represent. At all stages, including the original proposals made a decade ago, the notion used as justification has been that numeric equivalence is the basis of fairness, and it is fairness that is required by democracy as such. This is characteristic of a “democracy” that reduces itself to a purely numerical aggregation over the population, with the promotion of “democracy” as merely casting a vote, which is impotent to crystallise the will of the electorate. Considered numerically, the quota system will inevitably produce large rearrangements at each review, people allocated first to this region and this MP, then to that region and that MP. Rather than considered as they are, people engaged in various productive activities of various kinds and with definite interests, and developing their own outlook, the people are considered a uniform herd of cattle to be fenced into equal sized pens to achieve "fairness".
People face the problem of how to ensure their interests are represented in a meaningful form. A modern constituency has to represent that. It is the party system itself that has had its day and is now to be done away with. Neither the fielding of candidates nor the constituting of the government should be done on a party basis. Rather, candidates should be selected, and their agenda should be set, in the workplaces, universities, and other places defined by the productive, social and cultural activities in which people are engaged in a particular location. Such a selection process would fundamentally change the nature of the constituencies; it is only once this quality exists that the question of equality and quantitative representation can be addressed. The aim is a system through which people exercise decision-making directly, without mediation by any gatekeepers to power, be they political parties, warring factions, or any other force.
On June 19, in the wake of the global upsurge following the killing of African American George Floyd, and protests in Britain about the glorification of slavery and empire, the Bank of England issued a statement "about its historical links to the slave trade".
According to the Bank of England: "There can be no doubt that the eighteenth and nineteenth century slave trade was an unacceptable part of English history. As an institution, the Bank of England was never itself directly involved in the slave trade, but is aware of some inexcusable connections involving former Governors and Directors and apologises for them. The Bank has commenced a thorough review of its collection of images of former Governors and Directors to ensure none with any such involvement in the slave trade remain on display anywhere in the Bank. The Bank is committed to improving diversity and is actively engaging with staff, particularly with our BAME colleagues, to help us identify and shape concrete steps that can be taken now to progress the Bank's efforts to be as inclusive as possible."
It would be difficult to compose a statement that more blatantly falsifies history, nor one that is more at variance with the demands now being made by the people of Britain.
The Bank of England was incorporated in 1694 alongside the National Debt, originally a loan of £1.2m, both of which were necessary for the government of the day to pursue two major wars - the War of the League of Augsburg (1689-1697) and the War of the Spanish Succession (1701-1713). In return for the loan, at a rate of 8% interest, the money lenders were allowed a monopoly on the issue of banknotes and effectively became the state bank. The creation of the Bank of England and the National Debt led to a tremendous growth of banking, credit, the City of London, the Stock Exchange, and all the main financial institutions of the capital-centred economic system that still exist today. In addition, they contributed to the modern system of taxation, in order to transfer wealth from the working people to the moneylenders and speculators who greatly profited from the wars.
The War of the Spanish Succession ended with the Treaty of Utrecht by which, amongst other things, the British government gained the asiento - the right to supply Spanish colonies in the American continent with enslaved Africans. Although Britain already possessed colonies in North America and the Caribbean in which thousands of enslaved Africans were exploited but acquiring the asiento led to Britain becoming the world's leading trafficker of enslaved African men, women and children throughout the 18th century.
No doubt the present Bank of England wants to distance itself from the most notorious criminals amongst its former governors such as Humphrey Morice, who has been referred to as "the prince of London slave traders" during the 1720s. However, the Bank of England's entire history is inseparable from Britain's involvement in human trafficking and slavery, wars and empire, just as it is inseparable from the exploitation of the working people in Britain and the entire capital-centred system. The capital-centre system and all its financial institutions can therefore be held responsible for profiting from the trafficking of enslaved Africans, colonial conquests and empire.
In 1833, when the government of the day was compelled to abolish slavery throughout the British Empire, the major slaveowners were compensated with the award of £20m. As is well-known, neither those who were enslaved, nor the societies where they were enslaved or from where they were kidnapped, have ever been compensated, nor granted any reparatory justice. In 1833, £20m was equivalent to 40% of total annual government expenditure, and was added to the National Debt in the form of a government bond or gilt, which pays interest to the holder, normally the major financial institutions or their investors. The gilts in question were not redeemed until 2015, meaning that it was a burden on the taxpayer until that time, as well as a means of speculation and profit.
Slavery and empire were indispensable in and integral to the emergence of the capital-centred system in Britain and throughout the world. Racism was and is the world view of the slave traders, financial oligarchs and all those who defend the capital-centred system. It is not just the statues of the criminals of the past that must be torn down in order to end racism and empower the people but the entire capital-centred system. The old authority must fall.
Peoples express abhorrence of glorification of
racism and genocide and
institutions, traditions, social relations and accumulation of wealth based on them
In many places in the US, as well as in Britain and throughout Europe, the ongoing protests sparked by the police killing of George Floyd on May 26 are also giving expression to a vehement rejection of the glorification and exaltation of slavery, genocide, racism and the institutions, traditions, social relations and accumulation of wealth based on them. Statues, monuments and other symbols of slave traders, slave owners, advocates of slavery and racial segregation, a well as those responsible for the dispossession and genocide of the Indigenous peoples or promotion of racism are being torn down, defaced or, in some cases, pre-emptively removed by local authorities. Justice-loving people have fought for the removal of such symbols for decades. Today's actions express the determination of the people to bring an end to the social relations and institutions which harbour within them the promotion of enslavement and oppression of Blacks, indigenous peoples and the oppressed peoples of Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean and racism today. Tearing down these symbols is an expression of their striving for empowerment, for equality and a system which upholds the right to be and dignity of all.
In England, people have removed or are demanding the removal of statues of slave traders and notorious racists, symbols of the ruling elites' glorification of empire, racism and slavery.
In Bristol on June 7, the statue of Edward Colston was torn down by protesters and thrown in the harbour. Colston was a notorious human trafficker in the late 17th century who was associated with Bristol, one of the main ports connected with trans-Atlantic trade in enslaved Africans. From 1680 onwards, Colston was chiefly connected with the London-based Royal Africa Company (RAC), which had a monopoly of Britain's slave trade in that period transporting Africans to Britain's colonies in North America and the Caribbean. In 1689 he became deputy governor of the RAC. He was also involved in sugar production, another industry based on the labour of enslaved Africans. On the basis of his great wealth as well as a Tory MP he was associated with the Society of Merchant Adventures in Bristol, a monopoly that controlled local government and trade, including the trafficking of enslaved Africans. The Society, with Colston's support, petitioned to end the royal monopoly on the trafficking of Africans and he became a major benefactor to various schools and charities in Bristol to advance his own business interests, not those of the Crown.
Several Bristol schools have been named after Edward Colston as was until recently Colston Hall, a major concert venue. A statue was erected in his honour in 1895 with a plaque reading: "Erected by citizens of Bristol as a memorial of one of the most virtuous and wise sons of their city."
Protest about the statue have been ongoing for more than 20 years. In 2018 a second plaque was proposed which added:
"As a high official of the Royal African Company from 1680 to 1692, Edward Colston played an active role in the enslavement of over 84,000 Africans (including 12,000 children) of whom over 19,000 died en route to the Caribbean and America. Colston also invested in the Spanish slave trade and in slave-produced sugar. As Tory MP for Bristol (1710-1713), he defended the city's 'right' to trade in enslaved Africans. Bristolians who did not subscribe to his religious and political beliefs were not permitted to benefit from his charities."
There was opposition to this wording and after several other attempts no resolution was reached until finally the statue has been brought down altogether.
In London, a statue of Robert Milligan at West India Quay in the Docklands was removed in a pre-emptive move by authorities on June 9. Erected in Milligan's honour following his death in 1809, there have long been demands for its removal. In early June, a petition from a local councillor to remove the statue received thousands of signatures. The Museum of London Docklands issued a statement prior to the statue's removal that said in part:
"Now more than ever at a time when Black Lives Matter is calling for an end to public monuments honouring slave owners, we advocate for the statue of Robert Milligan to be removed on the grounds of its historical links to colonial violence and exploitation.
"We are currently working with a consortium to remove this statue and are aware of other legacies and landmarks within the area. The statue presently stands shrouded with placards and is now an object of protest, we believe these protests should remain as long as the statue remains."
Milligan inherited sugar plantations in Jamaica and was the owner of over 500 enslaved Africans. He later led the consortia that built West India Dock in London to facilitate the import of slave produced products from the Caribbean.
Also in London, a statement from Guy's and St. Thomas' Charity, Guy's and St. Thomas' National Health Service Foundation Trust and King's College London announced on June 11 that the figures depicting Robert Clayton and Thomas Guy will be taken out of public view. "Like many organisations in Britain, we know that we have a duty to address the legacy of colonialism, racism and slavery in our work. We absolutely recognise the public hurt and anger that is generated by the symbolism of public statues of historical figures associated with the slave trade in some way," the statement said.
Clayton, a former Lord Mayor of London, had ties to the Royal African Company while Guy invested in the South Sea Company, which was also involved in the slave trade of 4,800 adult men every year.
Another statue the public is demanding be removed is that of Cecil Rhodes at Oxford University. Rhodes was an ardent advocate of British colonialism and the supremacy of the "Anglo-Saxon" race. A petition on Change.org has nearly 190,000 signatures calling on the university to remove the statue. The petition states in part:
"We believe that the colonialism, racism and patriarchy this statue is steeped in has no place in our university - which for many of us is also our home. The removal of this statue would be a welcome first step in the University's attempt to redress the ways in which it has been an active beneficiary of empire. While it remains standing, the statue of Rhodes remains a celebration not just of the crimes of the man himself, but of the imperialist legacy on which Oxford University has thrived, and continues to thrive. While the statue remains standing, Oxford University continues to condone the persistent racism that shadows this institution."
The university has voted to remove it but has not said when. Students have sought to have the statue removed since at least 2015, taking up the Rhodes Must Fall campaign that began at the University of Cape Town in South Africa, which succeeded in having a statue of Rhodes removed.
A statue of a more recent figure, that of former Prime Minister Winston Churchill in London's Parliament Square, has been targeted during recent protests, with the slogan "Churchill was a racist" spray-painted across its plinth. There are numerous accounts of his racist outlook directed against East Asians, South Asians and Black people, and his belief in white supremacy, as part of his ardent British imperialist outlook. The statue has now been boarded up to prevent further defacement.
In Edinburgh, protesters are calling to end the glorification of Henry Dundas. Reporting on the ongoing protests for the removal of his statue, 570 News notes: "The late 18th-century Scottish politician was responsible for delaying Britain's abolition of the slave trade by 15 years until 1807. During that time, more than half a million enslaved Africans were trafficked across the Atlantic." In an attempt to avoid the inevitable, the City of Edinburgh responded with a plan to leave the statue in place, atop a high column, and signage to explain that he was "instrumental in deferring the abolition of the Atlantic slave trade".
There are many statues across Belgium to honour King Leopold II "of the Belgians", who plundered the Congo Free State and carried out atrocities and crimes against the people including mass murder, mass mutilation, forced labour on pain of death, rape, assassinations and more besides expropriating Congo's wealth, especially for the production of rubber, in the period of 1885-1908.
The statues aim to sanitise and glorify Belgium's and King Leopold II's crimes in the Congo They have been desecrated on an ongoing basis in recent years, especially since the killing of George Floyd. In Antwerp, authorities removed a statue of King Leopold II on June 9 after it sustained serious damage during protests.
United States and Canada
The majority of statues and monuments being torn down in the US at the present moment are those glorifying the Confederate side in the US Civil War because they exalt those who promoted slavery and the dispossession and disenfranchisement of African Americans. More than 50 such statues and monuments have been torn down, defaced or pre-emptively removed by authorities since George Floyd was killed by the police on May 26.
This includes various statues of Robert E Lee, a commander of the Confederate States Army during the American Civil War. Protesters removed the statue of Robert E Lee at the high school that bears his name in Montgomery, Alabama, on June 1. Alabama, along with some other southern states, has legislation in place which makes it an offence which carries a $25,000 penalty to remove Confederate memorials. However, in Birmingham the city itself removed the Confederate Soldiers and Sailors Monument that had become a converging point for the protests, saying the fine would cost less that the security the city had to provide to preserve the monument. Similarly, the Sons of Confederate Veterans removed a bust of Robert E Lee in Fort Myers, Florida, on June 1.
In Raleigh, North Carolina, two Confederate monuments were toppled by protesters such that, on June 20, Governor Roy Cooper ordered that all such monuments on the grounds of the state Capitol be removed. Cooper said he did it "to protect public safety". He said, "I am concerned about the dangerous efforts to pull down and carry off large, heavy statues and the strong potential for violent clashes at the site. Monuments to white supremacy don't belong in places of allegiance, and it's past time that these painful memorials be moved in a legal, safe way."
In Washington, DC, Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House of Representatives, on June 11 ordered the removal of four portraits of Confederate slave owners from the gallery of the House.
Confederate monuments were in the main erected during the period of Jim Crow laws from about the 1870s up to the period of the civil rights movement in the 1960s, to buttress state-organized racism, dispossession and lynchings of African Americans.
Protesters have also singled out some of the so-called founding fathers, many of whom owned slaves to one degree or another and relied on the labour of enslaved peoples to enrich themselves. One is George Washington who is said to have "owned 317 slaves" on his estate at the time of his death in 1799. Protesters in Portland, Oregon, toppled a statue of George Washington on June 18. His counterpart Thomas Jefferson is said to have "owned" more than 600 enslaved labourers throughout his life. A statue of Thomas Jefferson was pulled down at Thomas Jefferson High School in Portland, Oregon, on June 23. Officials at Hofstra University in Long Island, New York, relocated a statue of Jefferson from outside the student centre to a museum.
Statues of Christopher Columbus have also been targeted, to highlight the enslavement of the Indigenous peoples of the Caribbean, Mexico, Guatemala, Peru and all countries of the Americas by the Spanish conquistadors, including the near genocide of the Taíno. The first was brought down in Richmond, Virginia, on June 9. Another was toppled in Saint Paul, Minnesota, on June 10. A third was decapitated in Boston on June 11, with the remainder removed by the city. Another 16 have either already been removed by municipal authorities, or are pending removal.
Along similar lines, statues in New Mexico and California dedicated to those involved in the genocide and enslavement of Indigenous peoples in the Americas have been removed by protesters or local authorities, including monuments praising Spanish conquistador Juan de Oñate and Catholic priest Junípero Serra y Ferrer,
In Canada, recent protests and petitions are calling for the removal of statues of the historical figures directly involved in the dispossession and acts of genocide against Indigenous peoples, as well as those involved in promoting slavery.
A petition started in early June titled "Remove white supremacist John A Macdonald's Monument in Montréal" reads in part:
"We are calling to Montréal Mayor, Valérie Plante, as well as the city council to remove the monument of 'Canada's' first prime minister, John A. Macdonald. There is absolutely no reason or room for a racist, colonial, white nationalist to be celebrated on unceded Indigenous land. The very fact that this monument exists is an example of the white washing of cultural history, and true 'reconciliation' does not include the glorification of those that actively pursued Indigenous genocide.
"Some of Macdonald's lifelong projects include:
- Establishing the first residential school and creating the system in which over 130 more could be made.
- Openly promoting the preservation of a so-called 'Aryan' Canada.
- 1885 Electoral Franchise Act.
- Gradual Civilization of Indians Act.
- Chinese Exclusion Act and the Chinese Head Tax.
- Worked to ban the teaching of French in schools across numerous provinces.
- The death sentence of Metis leader, Louis Riel. 'Riel shall hang though every dog in Quebec bark in his favour.'"
Already in 2018, a statue of MacDonald was taken down in Victoria, BC. The artist who created it recently told CTV that "he is ashamed to admit that he didn't know about residential schools until after he crafted the statue and now believes these monuments should also be taken down".
In Toronto, there is a call for Ryerson University to remove the statue of its founder Egerton Ryerson. Also in Toronto, there is a petition to rename Dundas Street, which honours the British Empire's representative Henry Dundas. The petition explains that "As the MP for Midlothian in Westminster and as Secretary of State he actively participated in obstructing the abolition of slavery in the British Empire from 1791 to the end of his political career in 1806. Slavery was eventually abolished in 1833 and officially in British North America in 1834. But Dundas' actions to preserve the profiteering of his friends in the slave trade, cost tens of thousands of lives, if not more."
Recent removals of symbols glorifying those who committed acts of genocide against Indigenous peoples include the renaming of Amherst Street in Montreal to Atateken Street on National Indigenous Day (June 21) 2019, realising a decades-long demand of local residents and businesses. British general Jeffrey Amherst is infamous for carrying out biological warfare against the Indigenous peoples by using blankets contaminated with smallpox. Atatekan is a Mohawk word meaning "Brothers and Sisters".
In Halifax in 2017, the statue of Edward Cornwallis was removed from park also named after him. Cornwallis was the British Governor of Nova Scotia who is said to have founded Halifax. In 1749, Cornwallis put a bounty on the scalp of every Mi'kmaq man, woman and child in the province - a move tantamount to genocide. This practice was also used against the Acadians between 1755 and 1763, during the British takeover of part of the former French colonies. The Acadians settled the lands seized by the British when they arrived in 1604.
The proposal for the removal of Cornwallis' status and to rename the park Halifax Peace and Freedom Park, was first made on November 21, 2009, when some 200 people gathered at a rally in the park to oppose the inaugural meet of the Halifax International Security Forum, the warmongering agency based in Washington, DC, and funded by Canada's Department of National Defence and Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency. With Mi'kmaq approval, the activists covered the statue of Cornwallis with a white sheet and took the collective decision to rename the park as their very first act.
Right from the start, workers across the country have been demanding that essential transport workers, such as lorry drivers and workers on public transport, should be recognised as front-line workers who have their dignity and their rights, and have had to fight against been put in untenable situations.
In this context, a proposal for a permanent memorial to transport workers who have died from Covid-19 has been gaining widespread momentum and support.
Appearing before the Transport Committee, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps conceded that the 54 transport workers who died of Covid-19 should be recognised and suggested it would be "appropriate" to have a memorial sited at Victoria Station, where Transport Salaried Staffs' Association (TSSA) member Belly Mujinga worked.
Belly was a Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) ticket office clerk. She had an existing respiratory condition which meant her employer should have kept her out of harm's way. Tragically she was redeployed to the concourse rather than being sent home, where she could have been shielded from the virus. A "Justice for Belly Mujinga" petition has now reached the two million signatures mark.
Speaking in support of a memorial for transport workers, TSSA general secretary Manuel Cortes said: "Our union fully welcomes this proposal from Grant Shapps and is willing to work with him to make sure it happens. It is a tragedy that we have lost transport workers during this health emergency.
"As Shapps himself has said, these are the people who have put themselves on the front line so our NHS workers can get to their jobs, and the wider population has food and essential supplies. They are true heroes and I have no doubt the country will wish to properly remember those we have lost fighting this terrible virus.
"In the meantime, we must continue to make sure every single transport worker has the proper protective equipment needed to go about their vital work. Government must also be clear the only safe way to operate public transport at the present time is by maintaining the two-metre social distancing rule.
"Let us protect the living while we do the right thing in remembering the dead."
Ground-handling business Swissport has announced that it is to make 4,556 workers redundant out of a total workforce of around 8,000. Workers at Swissport handle luggage after check-in. They also de-ice and refuel planes, and manage freight.
Swissport operates at airports across Britain, including Heathrow and Gatwick. The company, in justification for its brutal announcement, has said that its revenue is forecast to be almost 50% lower than last year due to the crisis. In April, Swissport UK threatened it would slash thousands of jobs if more government support for the aviation sector was not forthcoming.
Chief executive Jason Holt called the move "survival", and said: "We must do this to secure the lifeline of funding from lenders and investors to protect as many jobs as possible in the UK and Ireland."
Holt continued: "We are now facing a long period of uncertainty and reduced flight numbers, along with significant changes taking place to the way people travel and the way goods move around the world. There is no escaping the fact that the industry is now smaller than it was, and it will remain so for some time to come."
Unite and GMB, which represent Swissport workers, both described that announcement as "devastating news". Unite, which represents Swissport workers at Bristol and Jersey airports, added that it will be "a further blow to the already stricken South West aviation sector".
The unions point out that a dire situation is being exacerbated by the government's failure to bring forward the promised bespoke support package for the sector to support airlines and airports, Airports International reports. According to Airports International, the government first promised to back the industry on March 17, but only the job retention / furlough scheme has been introduced so far. Unite stressed that the extension of that scheme must be an "immediate priority" to preserve jobs, "giving them support and retaining the infrastructure while the industry works to recover from the pandemic".
Nadine Houghton, national officer of the GMB, said: "With Swissport now considering job cuts on this scale, we have deep concerns about the viability of many of our regional airports and the benefits for regional connectivity that they bring."
Oliver Richardson, national officer of Unite, said: "We can't wait any longer, the UK government needs to urgently intervene with a bespoke financial package and an extension of the 80% furlough scheme for the aviation industry."
The Department for Transport ducked responsibility and has said that while the aviation sector is important to the economy, aviation companies should explore existing government schemes.
It has to be asked, "How long will this trend go on?" There is destruction of capacity throughout the air industry. There are planes destined to sit unused on the tarmac until they rot unless there are better decision-makers making better decisions. The created situation is open to ridicule.
Workers and the economy cannot afford for this to go on any longer. Immediate action is required.
There is much that can be done to revive the aircraft industry in terms of Covid-19 protection, both at airports and in aircraft. Neither can the crisis be wholly blamed on the virus. There were market problems with airlines before Covid-19 came onto the scene. The question is who decides?
The problem with the private industry is that it is divided into mutually-competing parts. In conditions of the pandemic, any restart in operations requires mutual co-operation. The whole industry, including the workers, should be talking to each other to solve the problem.
The workers themselves must be the decisive voice in charting the future of the airline industry. "Business as usual" cannot be the answer, with the market dictating the terms and workers excluded from decision-making by those in control. Workers across the board should be able to take decisions and control over the future of the industry.
Pilots' union, Balpa has said that airline Jet2 is to make 102 pilots redundant
Jet2 is the latest airline to issue formal notice of redundancy and start a consultation process with its workforce.
It has bases at airports in Leeds, Birmingham, Stansted, Newcastle, Manchester, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Belfast.
The airline said it had to apply for emergency loans from the government in order to avoid collapse.
In May, Virgin Atlantic announced that it would be slashing more than 3,000 jobs and would end its operation at Gatwick. In June, German airline Lufthansa said it would cut 22,000 jobs and have 100 fewer aircraft, just weeks after the German government injected ¬9bn to prevent it from going bust.
Ryanair and easyJet have also announced that they will be cutting between 15-30% of their workforces, while British Airways is proposing to make 12,000 of its 45,000 staff redundant.
Balpa general secretary Brian Strutton said: "Many of the pilots whose jobs are on the line in Jet2 have just recently moved there after having lost their jobs at Thomas Cook - these pilots have been through the mill already,"
Mr Strutton said Jet2 played an "extremely important role" at airports in the north of the UK, and it was important that it did not collapse: "Once again, I reiterate my call for the government to step in, call for a job cuts moratorium, and work on a strategic support package to help this industry get through this crisis."
(BBC and union sources)
Food company 2 Sisters has asked staff at chicken processing plants in North Wales and Anglesey to self-isolate after more than 300 cases of coronavirus were confirmed. The number of cases has been a shock and has focused attention on the industry as a hot spot for transmission.
The food group announced in a statement on June 18 that it would halt production at the Llangefni site for 14 days. The 2 Sisters Food Group also announced the details of a £1m welfare fund for workers at the abbatoir on Anglesey.
Public Health Wales said that mass testing of staff is taking place at sites in Langenfni, Holyhead and Bangor.
The first reported positive case at the Llangefni plant was on May 28. The company insists that it has had a full "safe ways of working" action plan in place since early March.
560 people are employed at the factory and will be transferred to other company locations until July 2.
The food producer is one of the largest in the country, with brands including Fox's Biscuits and Holland's Pies, and customers such as the major supermarkets, KFC and Marks & Spencer. The company supplies food to Aldi, Asda, Co-op, Morrisons, Sainsbury's, Tesco and Waitrose. The supermarkets have become a focus of concern throughout the pandemic too, both in terms of suppliers and retail outlets concerning the spread of the disease.
Dr Christopher Johnson, consultant in health protection for Public Health Wales, said: "Public Health Wales can confirm that employees and contractors of the 2 Sisters poultry processing plant in Llangefni have been notified that they are coronavirus contacts, and we are asking them to self-isolate for 14 days to help protect population health.
"We are working in close collaboration with the employer, Anglesey and Gwynedd councils, Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board and other partners, and our priority is to bring this outbreak to a swift conclusion."
Anglesey County Council leader Llinos Medi said: "With a significant number of confirmed coronavirus cases amongst employees, this is a huge priority, not only for us on Anglesey, but for the whole of North Wales."
The major outbreaks in North Wales are not isolated incidents and follow on from nearly 200 other reported Covid-19 flare-ups around the world in food factories. The Guardian reported that there had been more than 180 such outbreaks at meat and processed food plants in the US, with other countries having "highly consolidated meat supply chains" affected, including, Britain, Ireland, Spain, Australia, Germany, Brazil and Canada. Another 650-testing positive at a slaughterhouse in Germany and another outbreak involving a meat packing factory in Yorkshire. Food processing plants are vulnerable to virus outbreaks. Supply of food is essential but there are problems with crowded working conditions. There are difficulties maintaining social distancing.
Asda shut down operations at its meat processing site in its Kirklees, Kober site after staff contracted Covid19.
In Wrexham, North Wales, 38 staff at the Rowan Foods factory have also tested positive for the virus, but bosses said the cases reflected an increase in the locality rather than a spread within the site.
A spokesman for Oscar Mayer, which runs the Rowan Foods plant, said a track and trace process had been implemented at the Wrexham factory, which prepares foods for supermarkets and chains including Greggs and Subway.
2 Sisters is not innocent in its treatment of workers. Jobs were threatened and closure of poultry site in May 2019. It was part of the monopoly's rationalisation programme.
The Birmingham-based business, which has chicken processing plants in West Bromwich and Wolverhampton, proposed closure of its UK poultry Witham processing site in Essex. Chief executive Ronald Kers talked about reducing cost and building a better organisational culture to increase productivity and performance. 2 Sisters had already cut more than 200 jobs at a Fox's Biscuit site in the East Midlands earlier that year.
The outbreak of Covid19 is a shock at a time when the government is relaxing lockdown and reduced the state of alert to what it calls "Level 3". There are fears of a new peak in the coronavirus outbreak.
The health and safety conditions of the workers, including test and trace measures need to be rapidly improved.
2 Sisters cannot continue in the old style of management and make all the decisions concerning workers' conditions. Food distribution and production must maintain the highest standards from now on. The pandemic has highlighted the need to take up social responsibility. Workers, the key productive force in all aspects, need to be the determining factor over their working environment and livelihoods.
A Workers' Weekly correspondent spoke with a Teaching Assistant who works in a North London primary school about her experiences since the partial reopening of schools in early June.
What has been the experience since the partial reopening of schools at the beginning of June?
Only Reception, and Years 1 and 6, were admitted back to full time education. Those year groups were seen as transitional ages. Other year groups continue to use the online schooling forum.
The majority of parents appear to have decided to keep their children at home, and only a small minority of pupils have returned to school since the school reopened on June 1. Parents had to give the school two days' notice if they did wish to admit their children back.
The school week is now only four days long. Fridays are now a day for deep cleaning the classrooms, although the school remains open for the children of key workers on Fridays.
What was the reaction of the school's staff to the return to work?
Most teachers at school felt it was unsafe to return to school on June 1; one possible reason is that this borough still has the highest number of positive Covid-19 cases in London.
How did members of staff deal with the decision to return to school on June 1?
Union [NEU] advice was for staff to refrain from coming in until Covid-19 safety issues were fully addressed by the school's management [the Board of Governors]. The main issues were the high number of cases of Covid-19 in the borough, the absence of track and trace mechanisms, and general anxiety felt about re-opening at this stage of the lockdown.
How are the concerns of teaching staff being dealt with?
A risk assessment form produced by the local council was given to each member of staff, in order that they could voice their concerns and make adjustments and suggestions as to how they would operate in the classroom environment.
All members of staff were given advice about access to Personal Protective Equipment [PPE]. Because of the disproportionately high Covid-19 infection rate of Caribbean, African and Asian people, staff members from these communities were informed of access to PPE and each classroom has been supplied with it. It is up to the judgement of the Teaching Assistant [TA] and the Class Teacher to use it.
What practical arrangements are in place, or have been put in place for pupils and staff since the partial reopening and return?
Union representatives are in constant talks with the Head Teacher about the measures needed to ensure everyone's safety. There are two reps and they discuss with the staff first to get their views, which then get raised with Head Teacher. The school's Head Teacher and Senior Leadership Team ultimately make the decisions with advice and guidance from the Department of Education and the local council.
What about day-to-day issues?
Hand gel is given on arrival and children have to wash hands whenever there is a break or interval. Classes are relatively small with one teacher and TA supervising each class. The maximum number of pupils in one class so far has been eleven, and the lowest number of pupils has been two.
Access to most equipment and toys for Reception Year children are either restricted or have to be cleaned after every use. Social distancing is hard to implement for younger children. Classroom layout has been adjusted, and there are separate desks for each pupils and separate resources.
Each class is separated into a "bubble"; they have staggered start times, lunch times and play times, with classes only being allowed to occupy cordoned-off areas of the playground. Classes also leave at different times.
From the beginning of the lockdown, the school has been opened for the pupils whose parents are key workers. Since June 1, these pupils have had to use a different entrance and they are supervised in a separate part of the school building.
However, the number of key worker children looked after at school has increased due to more professions/job categories returning to work, and this has meant we have had to think about issues surrounding class bubble size and which teachers are allowed to supervise pupils. It's still a learning curve for all staff and pupils to get used to.
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