Moving the trade unions past fossil fuels

August 9, 2017

The Public and Commercial Services union (PCS) has launched a pamphlet, Just Transition and Energy Democracy: a civil service trade union perspective, urging trade union support for the transition away from fossil fuels and restructuring the energy system under public ownership. In this interview SAMANTHA MASON, PCS policy officer and main author of the pamphlet, published in May, talks about combating the pro-fossil-fuel lobby in the unions and the Labour Party, and how to unite social and environmental movements.

Gabriel Levy (GL). Could you describe the PCS’s long engagement with energy and climate policy, which has culminated in the Just Transition pamphlet?

Samantha Mason (SM). We have been engaged with climate change issues, and increasingly with the whole energy debate, for about ten years. This has in large part been due to motions coming to conference from the grassroots membership, and an assistant general secretary, Chris Baugh, leading on

Anti-fracking protesters in Lancashire: the PCS is working with them. Photo from Reclaim the Power

this, which has enabled us to develop our policy and campaigning agenda.We participate in meetings with other industrial and energy unions, mainly through the Trade Unions Sustainable Development Advisory Committee. [Note. This committee was set up as a joint government-union forum after the 1997 Kyoto climate talks, but government participation dried up under the Tories. It is now a meeting place for union policy officers, and latterly, industrial officers.]

Some of the unions there represent workers in the fossil fuel and nuclear sectors, so while we’re supposed to look at sustainable development issues, Read the rest of this entry »

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Russia: ‘extremism’ case against environmentalist collapses

August 9, 2017

The prosecution of the ecologist Valery Brinikh for “extremism” collapsed yesterday in the city court at Maykop in the Adygea in southern Russia.

The case was brought against Brinikh in 2014, for exposing bad waste disposal practices at a pig farm founded by Vyacheslav Derev, a member of the Federation Council (the upper house of the Russian parliament).

Brinikh is a biologist, and had worked as a director of the Daur Nature Reserve (1993-99) and

Valery Brinikh (right) with his defence lawyer Andrei Sabinin this week. Photo from Agora/ the Russian Reader

the Caucasus Nature Reserve (1999-2001). In 2012 he started campaigning, with local residents, against the stench and pollution caused by the Kievo-Zhuraki agro-industrial complex in the Teuchezhsk district of Adygea.

The state prosecutor claimed that an article Brinikh wrote in 2014 in a local newspaper, “The Silence of the Lambs”, insulted the dignity of the Adygean people. (Adygea is a Republic, an enclave in the Krasnodar region in the north Caucasus.) Three years of legal persecution followed.

Brinikh was supported by the Agora International Human Rights Group: they argued that the prosecution was an assault on freedom of speech and the freedom of expression.

The case has been covered by the Russian Reader. Yesterday’s verdict reported here; more stuff here.

 

 

 

 


Ukraine: ‘We need new ways of organising’

August 4, 2017

Amid military conflict and industrial collapse in eastern Ukraine, activists are feeling their way towards new models of worker organisation.

Factories, steelworks and mines, whether in government-controlled or separatist-controlled territory, have shut down, gone on short time, or laid workers off on reduced pay. Military violence has hastened the shift from steady employment to precarity. Workplace-based trade unions have struggled to cope.

The Eastern Human Rights Group (EHRG) – a lawyers’ collective that gives support to individuals, workplace collectives and community groups – is working with other activists to set up territorially-based workers’ organisations that will embrace the employed, unemployed and precariously employed.

Some of the largest factories just stopped paying wages, and thousands of workers are owed six months’ back pay or more, Pavel Lisyansky of the EHRG said in an interview. “In these circumstances, people of Read the rest of this entry »


Ukraine: miners strike back against wage arrears

August 4, 2017

Miners in eastern Ukraine have responded to the build-up of wage arrears and steep inflation with strikes and underground protests.

At the Kapustin mine in Lugansk region, 54 miners staged an underground sit in, and forced from their employer, Lisichanskugol’, a promise to cough up wage arrears dating back two years in some cases.

The cash was promised for Wednesday (2 August). But when it came, it was 10% short of the total, and yesterday (3 August) miners again refused to start work.

Vladimir Ivanshin, head of the local Trade Union of Coal Industry Workers (the “official”, government-linked union) said that the 10% shortfall was a “breach of the first point of the agreement” made after the sit-in.

The dispute at Kapustin first erupted on 16 July. A group of face-workers and ancillary underground men refused to leave the pit. The action began Read the rest of this entry »


Here are the voices of Syria’s revolution. Let’s listen

July 27, 2017

Review of We Crossed a Bridge and it Trembled: Voices from Syria, by Wendy Pearlman (Custom House 2017).

The story of this century’s greatest popular uprising, in 2011 against the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad, is told in this exceptional book by people who participated. They also recount the hurricane of violence unleashed against the revolution and the divide-and-rule methods used by the regime and the “great powers”.

Syrian revolutionaries describe in the book how they became refugees. More than half of the pre-war population of 22 million have been forced from their homes; more than 5 million have fled the country.

We Crossed a Bridge and it Trembled tells these stories through interviews with 87 Syrians, collected in 2012-16 by Wendy Pearlman, a US-based researcher of the Middle East and author of two previous books on Palestine.

Pearlman conducted the interviews mainly among Syrian refugees in Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon, Germany, Sweden and Denmark. They included Read the rest of this entry »


After Grenfell Tower

July 12, 2017

A guest post by CLIFF SLAUGHTER

The number of dead from the Grenfell Tower fire is still unknown. Since the fire, millions of people living in high-rise flats do not know if and when they can be safe.

What is to be done? What can come from the anger of millions of people, especially the victims, and the bitter protests about the fact that it is only ordinary working people who were hit?

One answer came from Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Catholic Archbishop of Westminster:

The thing about anger and its energy is it has to get directed in the right way. It has to get shaped so it becomes a positive source. And I think that what I find most troubling is those who wish to use that anger to deepen divisions in society.

This gentleman of the cloth is telling the surviving victims, and the rest of us, to direct our anger and Read the rest of this entry »


Interrogating digital capitalism

July 10, 2017

The ways that capitalism uses technology as a means of control was discussed on Thursday evening in London, at a meeting organised by the Breaking the Frame collective.

The meeting was called “Interrogating Digital Capitalism”. Ursula Huws, who researches technology and labour at the University of Hertfordshire, started her talk by arguing that terms such as “digital capitalism” and “biocapitalism” are unhelpful. “I prefer to talk about capitalism”, she said.

Capitalism uses technology at each stage of its restructuring, after recurrent crises, Huws argued. She pointed to three main ways that it uses technology for social control.

■ Technology is used to “simplify and standardise work processes” and sometimes – but not always – to substitute for labour.

■ Technologies are used to control work processes, and for surveillance.

■ Technologies are used to “create new commodities, bringing new areas of human activity into alienated, commodified relationships”. This included Read the rest of this entry »