Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Plaque commemorates Robert Tressell

Robert Noonan, formerly Croker, and better known by his pseudonym Robert Tressell (1870-1911) is commemorated with a plaque in Pembroke Place, Liverpool. 

Tressell is best known for his great novel on the building trade, The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists, published posthumously in 1914, the full version not appearing until 1954. Tressell was taken ill en route to Canada and after spending time in the Liverpool Workhouse he died in February 1911 in the Royal Infirmary Hospital. He was subsequently buried in a pauper’s grave in Walton Park Cemetery. 

Monday, 18 May 2015

Silence not golden in GM rice debate

Taken from Big Issue in the North magazine. Please buy a copy when you see a seller. 

Genetically-modified rice has a part to play in preventing malnutrition, according to a leading agricultural scientist. 
Charlie Clutterbuck, former adviser to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee, said Golden Rice – a form of genetically-modified rice – could help combat vitamin A deficiency in children. 
Vitamin A deficiency (VAD) is a major cause of infant mortality in some countries. Worldwide
it is estimated that 200 million children are deficient in vitamin A, which is essential for healthy skin and eyes. Half a million children each year are said to go blind because of a lack of vitamin A. 
Commercially grown 
Rice is the staple food of around 60 per cent of the world’s population. 
Golden Rice is a GM rice variety infused with vitamin A-producing beta-carotene taken from maize. 
The non-profit Allow Golden Rice Society – set up by Patrick Moore, founder of the environmental group Greenpeace – campaigns for approval for the rice to be grown commercially. 
However, GR opponents believe there are more effective ways of solving vitamin A deficiency and last year many, including Greenpeace, called for Golden Rice to be banned by the Philippines government. 
In March, Philippines farmers and anti-GM campaigners protested against Moore’s visit to their country as part of the Allow Golden Rice Now campaign. Moore also visited Bangladesh and India. 
Moore argued that opponents of GM should make an exception for Golden Rice “as millions of lives are at stake”. His supporters add that Golden Rice is not controlled by large multinationals, as is usually the case with other major GM products. But he outraged Philippines campaigners by refusing to debate with them. 
‘Genuine reform’ 
Dr Chito Medina, co-ordinator of MASIPAG – described as “a farmer-led network of people’s organisations, NGOs and scientists” – accused the Allow Golden Rice Society of engaging in a “PR campaign in which they can’t show, like with other GM products, that Golden Rice is safe”. 
He added: “In the proposed debate farmers would have shown that VAD deaths are dropping and Filipinos have a number of natural and local foods that can supply the vitamin. 
“Opposing Golden Rice means we also want support for genuine agrarian reform including just distribution of land among the country’s farmers and tillers.” 
Clutterbuck agreed with Dr Medina that “GR is not the solution – no technical fix ever is and there are other plants rich in vitamin A”. But he added: “Neither should there be a ban on it. 
“There is no evidence of ill-effects from any GM product even though over 300 million acres are now being grown. So for the sake of those children who could benefit enormously then the overall risk assessment on Golden Rice has to be grow it. 

“I would, of course, support demands for agrarian reform but that does not mean Golden Rice should not be grown.” 

Rich seam: new coal mine's well paid jobs

Reproduced from the Big Issue in the North magazine. 
Plans are now well advanced for the construction of a new coal mine in Yorkshire that will be operated by a workers’ co- operative. 
Some £12 million has been raised by New Crofton Co-op Colliery Limited and in September the ground will be broken to begin developing a new shallow drift mine in fields at Crofton, near Wakefield. When fully operational over 200,000 tonnes of coal could be mined annually over the next 20 years. 
Jonathan Clarke 
The venture could create 50 new jobs. Every worker will become part of the co-operative, which will run the mine, by investing £10,000. They will be paid a weekly wage and an annual dividend from half of the anticipated £100 million profits. 
The other 50 per cent profit is earmarked for re-investment in renewable energy projects, co- operative and social enterprises, and housing projects. There will also be a charitable foundation earmarked to receive £10 million from the coal revenue. 
Environmental scientist Jonathan Clarke and mining specialist Bill Birch are two of the figures behind the mine scheme. 
Clarke, who also runs Humberside Co-operative Development Agency, was approached to get involved in 2012. “Initially I thought no way am I getting involved in a coal mine,” he said. “I do work around renewable energy including trying to get wind turbines in Wolds Valley. 
Climate change 
“Then I realised that coal will be used to power industry and people’s homes for the foreseeable future. I thought it would be better to use locally mined coal than have it transported thousands of miles.” 
Although renewable sources such as wind and solar energy are making progress towards meeting the EU target of generating 30 per cent of the UK’s electricity by 2020, coal remains important and currently contributes over a third to the overall capacity. 
In 2013, 83 per cent of the 60.7 million tonnes of coal consumed in the UK was imported. The percentage is going to increase as Kellingley, in North Yorkshire, and Thoresby in Nottinghamshire are both earmarked for closure this year. This will leave only the employee-owned Hatfield Colliery near Doncaster operating in an industry that once employed over a million men nationally. Miners from Kellingley are amongst the 120 people who have already applied for a job at New Crofton. 
Opening new coalmines flies in the face of the views of many environmental experts, who say the use of carbon-based fuels should be phased out as soon as possible if the planet is to avoid catastrophic climate change. 
Asked if it would be better to keep Britain’s vast remaining coal stocks underground, Clarke replied that technology to create carbon capture and storage (CCS) systems should be pursued. “The technological aspects of CCS are unremarkable and we have shown in the past with sulphur dioxide that we can control harmful emissions,” he claimed. 
“The White Rose project next to Drax’s power station in North Yorkshire will burn sufficient coal for over 600,000 homes and will capture 90 per cent of the CO2 emissions and then store it under the North Sea. Hopefully our coal can be utilised in a similar fashion. 
“But the major change is that people must understand that future electricity generation is going to be more expensive. The corresponding price increase will make it viable for us to mine coal here and for CCS to be utilised to cut carbon emissions.” 
Work to get the mine operating is moving quickly. Hargreaves Services, which has agreed to purchase all the coal mined  in its first three years, will start in September the initial drive into the ground of the two sloping tunnels that will allow coal to be extracted from shallow seams. Network Rail is improving access to the site, which runs alongside the main Leeds to London line. This will then enable coal wagons to be able to load up to 1,000 tonnes of coal in an hour. 
Pay rates at the mine will vary. However, the colliery’s financial plan means the highest paid staff will earn no more than twice the lowest. 
If the predictions for the future price of coal prove accurate, and a profit of £100 million is realised, then this will mean the lowest paid at the mine will have an annual income of around £50,000. 
The New Crofton Colliery Investment Fund that will spend half the profits from the mine has been set up. Smaller unemployment, conservation and recreational projects in the local communities of Crofton, Ryhill, Winters and Havercroft will be funded by the £10 million charitable foundation, whose directors will include village representatives. 

“I have always been inspired by the Mondragon federation of workers co-operatives in Spain and I hope we can kickstart a similar creation,” said Clarke. “We can’t change the world but we can introduce radical changes that can make things better for people here.” 

Part of the current site 

Living Wage win for Saria cleaners

Unite reps secure Living Wage 
Mark Metcalf, Thursday, May 14th, 2015 

Unite wants all workers to be paid at least the Living Wage, which is the minimum income a worker needs to ensure their basic needs are met.

Unite reps at many workplaces are increasingly using wage negotiations to persuade employers to ensure that no-one they employ earns below the established Living Wage (LW) rates of £9.15 per hour in London and £7.85 in the rest of the country.

Such an approach has now paid dividends for five cleaners in Doncaster where four sites, including pet food operators SARVAL, operate as part of the much larger SARIA group that has plants right across the world.

Elected Unite reps have been pushing since 2013 for no worker to earn below the Living Wage. Until now they have been unsuccessful during annual wage negotiations in persuading the company to pay it.

Persistence pays off
This year though their persistence has paid off. Because in addition to agreeing a 2.5 per cent pay increase for all workers, many of who earn £8.84 an hour as production workers, the company has agreed to increase the pay of its cleaners from £6.70 to £7.85 an hour. A hefty increase which should enable them to afford the basics for a decent quality of life.

The wage negotiations were led for Unite by the senior steward at SARVAL, Andrew Jones (pictured), who said,  “I am very pleased we have now persuaded management during our wage negotiations to see there was a just case to pay all employees the Living Wage.

“They had previously told us everyone earned at least the minimum wage but this leaves workers relying on government assistance for additional income and does nothing to make work pay.”

This latest victory by Unite workplace reps came just days after David Cameron was unable to specify how much the Living Wage actually is. Asked during a Radio 1 Newsbeat interview on April 22 by a young audience member he said, “It’s different in different parts of the country….. I don’t have the figures in my head.”

He was condemned by the shadow business secretary, Chuka Umunna, who said,“It’s no wonder the Tories have nothing to offer working people.”

The Unite reps’ success will surely inspire others to persist in their fight for the Living Wage.

Chagos islander's 'bitter sweet' return

As reproduced from the Big Issue in the North magazine. 

A prominent member of the Manchester Chagos Archipelago community group has described her first visit to the Chagos Islands as a “bitter- sweet experience”. 

Claudia Naraina’s father and grandparents were born on the Chagos Archipelago. This contains the world’s largest coral atoll, comprises over 60 Indian Ocean tropical islands and, despite Mauritius’s sovereignty claims, is part of the British Indian Ocean Territory. 
Britain expelled all 1,500 Chagos islanders in six years, beginning in 1965. 
This allowed the US to locate 4,000 troops at Diego Garcia, since made infamous by accusations that it operates as a secret US detention centre for terrorism suspects. 
Five years ago the Labour government established the world’s largest marine reserve around the Chagos Islands – a move, as later revealed by Wikileaks cables – that
was aimed at ending former residents and their descendants’ continuing resettlement claims. 
Many Chagossians who were relocated to Mauritius have raised their families there. Britain is also home to two significant communities of Chagossians. 
One is around Crawley in Sussex. Around 200 Chagossians based in Manchester formed their own community group in 2013. 
Last year the British government commissioned a feasibility study, which examined whether a new settlement in the Chagos Islands could be self-sustaining and what the likely costs would be of building houses, schools and secure infrastructure. 
Naraina described the study as a “genuine initiative in response to Chagossians’ constant fight for the right to return home”. In April, she travelled with the London Zoological Society on a conservation trip to the Chagos Islands – her first visit there. 
“It was a great thrill, especially as it gave me the opportunity to see where my father and grandparents were brought up,” she said. 
“It was such a beautiful place and many locations remain in pristine condition. 
“Visiting means I can also report to other Chagossians what I have witnessed and what it will take for people to return.” 
But Naraina was struck by how “remote” the islands are and now understands the stories she was told as a child about how difficult living conditions were in the past. 
She said: “If people are going to return it is going to take quite some time to organise and it will cost quite a lot of money as there is nothing there that could currently support a community of any size.” 
She acknowledged that this view might not be welcomed by some in her community, particularly those who once lived on the islands. 
She said some Chagossians who are seeking a permanent return should be allowed to find work at Diego Garcia and that more holiday visits should also be permitted. 
She called for the feasibility study, carried out by business services firm KPMG, to be extended to further assess the logistics and costs of returning larger numbers of Chagossians in the future. 

She would like to re-visit the Chagos Islands but admitted that her first trip been a “bitter- sweet experience as it revealed that re-establishing a permanent settlement is going to be difficult”. 

Friday, 8 May 2015

EVERYDAY BORDERS documentary reveals immigration controls are becoming part of everyday life

EVERYDAY BORDERS is new 50 minute documentary film on how immigration controls are moving from the margin into everyday life. Consequently, increasing numbers of people are discovering they are expected to act as internal border guards and check up on the status of people who either work for them, rent property, access health care or attend college or university. Everyone is affected as social relationships are broken down and an atmosphere of mistrust is built up. 

Sitting alongside tougher border controls; then these draconian internal controls are intended to  increase hostility towards immigrants in the hope that more will leave and also convince people that immigration is being managed effectively and that those who reach the UK have a right to be here. 

With the 2014 Immigration Act, which imposed a duty on residential landlords to refuse to rent rooms to anyone unable to prove their right to be here and upped the fines on any companies found to have employed illegal workers, having passed with all-Party support then it was certain that whoever won the general election there would be ever more ways of surveying and policing local communities where migrant workers live. 

EVERYDAY BORDERS examines the implications that internal controls already in place are having. It reveals how restaurant owners are finding it difficult to recruit qualified staff and when their premises are raided on busy Friday nights then their reputations are ruined. Universities are finding it increasingly difficult to attract international students who are finding it easier to enter places such as Canada and Australia to study and then remain to set up businesses that employ people. 

In housing, landlords in the West Midlands and Black Country, where the new measures were launched last year as part of phased introduction across the country, are unwilling to risk being fined £3000 if they are found to have an illegal tenant. They are thus turning anyone looking foreign away. With no access to public housing then many of those who are refused are ending up homeless. 

Meanwhile such is the climate that has been induced that many migrant workers are unwilling to access health care services they are entitled to or, if they are a woman, complain about sexual harassment. 

Those who are actually in the country without permission are even worse off as they are unable to open a bank account or apply for a driving licence. Refused asylum seekers who are unable to return home because of war in their country must pay for hospital treatment even though they have not got the money to do so. 

Hardly surprisingly, Everyday Borders reveals an increasing number of people who are living here and are worried about their status who have contemplated suicide. 

In terms of their general impact on society then internal controls are naturally making integration a much more difficult process. According to the documentary in the past new arrivals had much greater chances to integrate. The result has been much more harmonious multi-cultural communities in the UK than in other parts of Europe.The film fears that internal controls will create a network of people who must constantly live in the shadows and 'dodge and dive'. A society that only the most reactionary can desire and rest assured then once the state has refined its network of internal controls on migrant workers it will move on to workers everywhere. 

EVERYDAY BORDERS has been produced by the Centre for Research on Migration, Refugees and Belonging at the University of East London, Southall Black Sisters, Migrants' Rights Network and Refugee and Migrant Forum of Essex and London. 

It can be viewed at 

There are also speakers for discussion panels on the contents of the documentary at 

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Luddites commemorated in Liversedge, West Yorkshire

Taken from Unite Rebel Road project at:-

A statue in honour of the Luddites was unveiled by the Spen Valley Civic Society (SVSC) in Liversedge, West Yorkshre in 2012.

According to the SVSC secretary Erica Amenda, “We wanted the statue to demonstrate that there was a human touch to the Luddites. That their struggle was not just gratuitous violence but was about him protecting his job, income and his family and community. They were not terrorists or crazed out-of-touch workers.”

Who were the Luddites?

They were early 19th-century English textile workers known as croppers. They employed guerrilla tactics in a desperate attempt to prevent the installation in local mills of mechanical shearing frames that threw them out of work. The Luddites took their name from a mythical leader, General Ludd. 

Their resistance arose after laws dating back to Tudor times that made it illegal to use a machine to replace people were repealed in 1806. A new breed of capitalist entrepreneurs seized their chance to break the stranglehold of the skilled craftsmen over the pace, control and location of production. Petitions to Parliament to prevent the cropping machines’ introduction were ignored. 

In an era when unemployment meant starvation and the Combination Acts
made trade unionism illegal, workers held secret meetings and took oaths to support one another in destroying the new frames. 

Liversedge is an ancient township. A Roman Road passes the Shears Pub, which today is run by former AEU steward Paul Black. In 1812, croppers - many from the nearby John Jackson’s cropping shop - held meetings upstairs where they heard of successful Nottingham risings where knitting machinery was smashed. Similar meetings were held across other parts of West Yorkshire. In response the authorities sent hundreds of soldiers to suppress any rebellious acts.

“There were more troops in the West Riding of Yorkshire than on the Spanish peninsular as the ruling class was terrified by the example of the French revolution at the end of the 18th century,” says Erica. 

On 11 April 1812, led by George Mellor, 300-400 men with blackened faces attacked with huge hammers and axes the nearby Cartwright’s Mill. Two assailants, Samuel Hartley and John Booth, sustained horrific gunshot wounds and later died although not before the latter had the last laugh on the hated Reverend Hammond Robertson. Legend has it that in order to obtain information on the names of the other attackers the Reverend tortured the men with nitric acid. Booth asked him “Can thi. keep a secret?” Leaning forward, an excited Robertson said he could and in reply Booth said: “So can I” before dying. 

Two weeks later a mill owner William Horsfall was shot dead by Mellor. After the military tracked down some of those who participated on 11 April, eight were hanged and others transported to Australia.

The Cartwright’s Mill attack was dramatised in Charlotte Bronte’s novel Shirley. It has been commemorated with a SVSC plaque, unveiled in April 2015, on the Shears Pub. There are similar plaques at the Star Inn and the former Jackson’s cropping shop. The latter is now inhabited by Owen’s Corning company who have very generously funded all three plaques, which will be part of a new Luddite trail that will officially open this summer and will be marked by yellow signs each featuring a large Enoch hammer. 

The new trail, which has led to requests from local schools for SVCS speakers on the Luddites, will consist of two circular walks and is one of many successful SVCS projects including a Spen Fame Trail featuring numbered plaques marking the home of a famous person or event location.

If you would like to invite a speaker to a meeting and/or join the Spen Valley Civic Society please email Erica at 

Read:- LIBERTY OR DEATH: Radicals, Republicans and Luddites 1793-1823 by Alan Brooke and Lesley Kipling. Published by Huddersfield Local History Society.