Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Union calls to tackle killer fibre

Taken from the Big Issue in the North magazine

The widower of a teacher who died from the asbestos related disease, mesothelioma, has welcomed support from the National Union of Teachers. (NUT)

Britain’s largest teaching union has added its voice to the campaign for more monitoring of asbestos use in school buildings.

The National Union of Teachers wants the government to survey the UK’s school stock to determine how much contains the fibre, now known to cause fatal tumours years down the line in some people who were exposed to it.

Asbestos is found in many buildings constructed before 1985, when it was banned in this country. Strong and fire-resistant, it was frequently used to insulate pipes and electrical appliances and on floor coverings.

But inhalation of its dust and fibres is blamed for many deaths, in particular from a rare and incurable form of cancer, mesothelioma. Up to 4,000 people die from this every year, with the epidemic not expected to peak until 2020. About three-quarters of Britain’s schools are thought to contain asbestos.

The government was first made of the problems for schools in 1967, but some experts says it is safest to leave the material in place if it is in good condition.

The NUT estimates that at least 253 teachers have died since 1980 from mesothelioma , but since the illness takes between 25 and 50 years to develop, the number of former school pupils who may have died as a result of asbestos in their classrooms is more difficult to gauge.

The NUT now wants the presence of asbestos in schools to be properly monitored, but an ongoing government survey of the UK’s school stock specifically ignores this issue.

A union spokesperson said: “[This would uncover] the overall scale of the problem, identify those with the worst problems and allow the Government to make sound long-term financial forecasts and ensure resources are appropriately allocated for maintenance, refurbishment or replacement.” 

The widower of a teacher who died from mesothelioma following a 30-year career has welcomed the union’s stance on the issue. Michael Lees has been pushing for change since his wife, Gina, died in 2000 - just three months after being diagnosed. She had taught in infants schools in Cornwall, Norfolk and Devon.

 Lees, an artist and former airline pilot, went on to form the campaign group Asbestos in Schools, which seeks to improve its management within the education sector. 

The group’s supporters include MPs, the asbestos consultants association ATaC, six teaching trade unions and three support staff unions.

Lees is seeking to overturn the Department for Education’s omission of asbestos from the schools property data survey, which will be used to decide future funding allocations to schools.

The government maintains that responsibility for asbestos remains with local authorities. This is despite many academy schools no longer falling under their authority.

Lees said: “[The government is] acting “acting irresponsibly and collecting data which will be meaningless, as are they saying they will fund school improvements that don’t include any costs for removing asbestos when works on buildings subsequently take place?

“Burying your head in the sand won’t wash these problems away. I am heartened by the NUT resolution and would like the government to follow the lead of the Australian government which has committed to removing asbestos from their schools by 2030 in order to prevent more deaths of teachers and pupils.”

Dr Dick van Steenis will be sadly missed

Brenda Sutcliffe has asked me to email you in respect to the passing of Dr Dick van Steenis whose work in exposing the harm done to human health by environmental toxins has saved countless lives here in the UK and overseas.

Sadly because of my health problems I was never able to meet Dick face-to-face but spent many hours talking with him over the telephone in respect to various health issues from organophosphates and vaccines to waste incinerators.

His expertise in all these fields was remarkable and he was one of the very few brave enough to openly expose the corrupt practices used to hide the dangers of the toxic effects that harm us all to varying degrees.

When I first spoke with him in 1999 he was trying to persuade the General Medical Council to investigate those doctors who were hiding OP poisoning cases but sadly he found, as many of us have done, that such people are well-protected.

He was involved with clinics offering single vaccines for measles mumps and rubella when worried mothers shunned the MMR vaccine and was able to explain why the MMR was able to damage children in the long term.

He helped victims of radiation, prevented the building of potentially dangerous waste incinerators in various parts of the country and was able to explain why our local incinerator plant frequently breached regulations controlling dioxin release - a problem which had been suspected of causing harm to both human and animal health in the surrounding areas of farmland for many years.

Officials feared his knowledge and efforts were made to undermine his excellent work but he overcame them all.

He warned years ago that people in hospital were dying prematurely as doctors used dubious tactics to clear beds.

At Christmas, the last time I spoke with him, he was wanting to leave hospital so that he could be cared for at home.

Sadly he died himself after a what was described as a short illness on 7th April 2013.

Dick's work has saved many thousands of lives and prevented even more from suffering serious long-term debilitating illnesses and all of us owe him huge gratitude for the considerable energy, time and personal cost in his efforts to protect us all and to have the true facts exposed to the world..
Our deepest sympathy goes to all his family and friends. Dr Dick van Steenis will be greatly missed.
Yours sincerely,
                         Richard A.R. Bruce

Unconscious ad targets fashion chain

Taken from the Big Issue in the North magazine for this week

A spoof campaign aims to highlight the contradiction of a high street fashion chain failing to pay workers who manufacture its “sustainable” clothing range a living wage. 

Activists say the garment workers who produce the Conscious range of sold by H&M do not earn enough to feed and clothe their families.

The Swedish clothing giant markets the range - which features cocktail dresses, evening gowns and tailored suits costing up to £200 each - as ecologically sustainable as it uses materials such as organic cotton. French actress Vanesssa Paradis is fronting a high-profile advertising campaign aimed at boosting sales. 

But the Clean Clothes Campaign (CCC) says the firm - whose manufacturing is outsourced to more than than 800 factories in Europe and Asia, including Cambodia - is failing to live up to its hype. 

It claims thousands of the garment workers employed by H&M suppliers are suffering from malnutrition, and wants the company to take a moral stand by committing to paying a living wage. The Swedish multi-national is the second largest global clothing retailer with annual sales exceeding  £11 billion and profits of £750 million.  

To make its point, CCC – an alliance of organisations in 15 European countries - has launched a spoof ad campaign, in which Paradis is shown sitting in a leafy garden, surrounded by garment workers, with the text “H&M Unconscious Collapses, start paying a living wage.”

A CCC spokesperson said: “H&M and a small number of big well known brands are the main buyers in Asian garment companies. Their collective buying power could be used to bring about real change for workers.

Wages are 1-3% of the cost of garments. A worker gets just 24 to 72 pence for a garment costing £24 in the shops. Doubling a worker’s wage would help raise people out of poverty whilst adding very little to the shop price.”

H&M says it does not own any factories but expects suppliers to meet strict criteria - including the payment of at least the national minimum wage.

But CCC claims the minimum wage in some countries is below established poverty benchmarks. In Cambodia it is just £41 a month. 

Frances O’Grady, general secretary of the Trades Union Congress claims many factory owners are hostile to unions. She added: “Working conditions in many factories are appalling with workers facing excessive working hours, poverty wages and poor nutrition. In 2011 we received reports that 2,000, mainly women workers, had fainted on production lines in just 12 garment factories.”

Last week, hundreds of Bangladeshi garment workers died and thousands were hurt when an eight-storey factory complex which housed firms supplying Primark and other western clothing brands collapsed.

In a statement. H&M said: “We have a basic code of conduct that factory workers must be paid at least the minimum wage guaranteed by law…. and the salary must enable workers to support their families. 

We (also) work to influence developments. In September 2012 the H&M managing director met the Bangladesh government to advance demands for higher wages.”

Thursday, 25 April 2013

26 April 1913 and Sunderland capture the League Championship

Taken from:  http://www.amazon.co.uk/Search-Double-Sunderland-1912-13/dp/1901746828 - Book on Sunderland 1912-13

26th April 1913
League Division One SUNDERLAND 3
(Mordue Pen.10, Richardson 20, 24)) Attendance 14,000
(Jones ?)
Referee: Mr. WS Heath of Burslem
Bolton Wanderers: Edmondson, Baverstock, Feebury, Glendinning, Greenhaigh, Whiteside, Donaldson, Jones, Rowley, Smith, Stokes
Sunderland: Butler, Gladwin, Ness, Cuggy, Thomson, Low, Mordue, Buchan, Richardson, Tinsley, Martin

This game was vital to Sunderland and their decisive victory secured the league championship for Wearside. The Sunderland team had been staying at Rhyl during the week and travelled to Bolton on the morning of the match. It was found necessary to change the selected team and Holley was left out with Tinsley replacing him. Weather conditions were adverse with a brisk wind and occasional showers. The crowd was not more than 14,000. Sunderland were the better team from the start.

They won the toss and took advantage of the strong wind to start with a brisk attack but quickly had to fall back and their goal had a narrow escape. This came when Thomson got into a tangle in the face of a rush by the Bolton front line and Jones took his chance to fire in a shot that was eventually cleared. Bolton were showing plenty of dash but they lacked cohesion and method and were not nearly as quick as Sunderland. The 1st goal came from a penalty kick after 10 minutes.
Low had been about to centre when Jones brought him down and Mordue completely beat Edmondson from the penalty spot to put Sunderland ahead. 

Bolton soon recovered and made several attacks that caused the Roker defence anxiety. Butler once took a big risk in running out of goal to clear a centre by Stokes. Sunderland were not long in scoring a 2nd goal and it was the result of a remarkable piece of work. It was initiated by Mordue who raced down the right wing and beat Feebury before dropping the ball nicely in front of goal where Richardson volleyed it past Edmondson.

Sunderland's 3rd goal came after 24 minutes play and the credit was shared between Thomson and Richardson. Thomson touched the ball nicely to the centre forward who managed to bang it into the net. Although they faced such a formidable deficit Bolton fought pluckily but could do little against the defence put up by Butler, Gladwin and Ness. At last they obtained a goal though it was more down to luck than good play. Whiteside took a throw in and the ball was sent towards the Sunderland goal.

It bounced up in a most unexpected fashion and took Butler rather by surprise. He knocked it up against the bar and when it came back into play Jones headed it into the net. Sunderland had a marked superiority throughout the half and they worked well together. They had a thorough understanding and Richardson had been seen to advantage in every way. Sunderland were in complete contrast to Bolton who although aggressive lacked direction which spoiled many of their best efforts.

Things were much the same in the 2nd half though Sunderland's finishing was not quite as good. Soon after the restart the home goal had a narrow escape when Edmondson ran out to clear and was challenged by Tinsley. He dropped the ball and had only just regained his goal when Tinsley sent in a shot that Edmondson saved at the second attempt. There were several stoppages and Jones was carried off the field while Tinsley received a nasty blow in the face from the ball. There was some trouble between Richardson and Greenhaigh and the referee had to intervene.
Sunderland tried to add to their score near the end and Richardson missed an open goal from Martins centre. It had been an interesting game and Sunderland's fine open style of play added to the attractiveness.

(Newcastle Journal) 

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Should this man be in charge of a government department?

Having mishandled the horsemeat scandal then you’d think Owen Paterson would wise to engage his brain before he opens his mouth. The rural affairs minister had to be forced by Downing Street to withdraw his claims that eating the product could be harmful. Then after his bumbling performance in Parliament in early February the Independent columnist Donald Macintyre likened him to Basil Fawlty from the 1970s iconic British comedy classic, Fawlty Towers. 

Paterson now believes Britain should go it alone in Europe on Genetically Modified (GM) foods. He has announced he is talking to the EU health and consumer policy commissioner Tonio Borg on a “single state” approach. This was despite the fact that this was not part of David Cameron's recent proposed renegotiation of the UK's relationship with the EU. 

Leaving aside the very big if that GM will be never safe - and the technology will only benefit the corporations that control the seeds and chemicals needed to grow the crops - Paterson’s approach could leave Britain isolated from its main market if Europe chooses to remain GM free. 

Then there’s the voter’s views with an opinion poll last year showing only 10% of the British public are not concerned about GM food. Consequently most British retailers do not sell GM foods and if they stock them they must be labelled, as is also the case elsewhere in Europe. Only two GM crops have been approved for commercial growing in the EU. The Monsanto produced maize is banned in France, Germany, Greece, Austria, Luxembourg and Hungary.

Meanwhile both the Scottish Government and the Welsh Assembly have policies which are opposed to GM crops, fearing they will damage their rich environments and threaten their reputation for producing high quality and natural foods. 

Not unlike paranoid bully Basil Fawlty, Paterson has strong right-wing views and when asked about why he opposed gay marriage he replied “Biddies don’t like botties.”

A keen fox-hunter he is estimated to be worth at least £1.5 million. Despite its popularity, Fawlty Towers ran for just 12 programmes and it appears that Paterson’s own stay as farming minister may be similarly short. 

The day Manchester United won their first title amidst allegations of match-fixing

Manchester United have just won their 20th League title. Their first was clinched on 11 April 1908 but it was a day that left their fans outraged in a game where the result may well have been fixed beforehand.

Taken from http://www.amazon.co.uk/Manchester-Uniteds-First-Championship-Metcalf/dp/1859837921

Saturday April 11th
Manchester United 0
Notts County 1
Bank Street

Manchester United: Broomfield, Stacey, Burgess, Duckworth, Downie, Bell, Berry, Bannister, Turnbull [J], Turnbull [A], Wall

Notts County: Iremonger, Morley, Montgomery, Griffiths, Clamp, Craythorne, Harper, Matthews, Gooch, Cantrell, Dodd

Referee CC Fallowfield of Lincoln

Despite being assured of a first ever League championship trophy the Bank Street crowd were outraged at the United performance. Notts County were fighting for survival but had a more than decent defence so a hard game was assured. 

Before the match it had been announced that the move to the proposed new stadium in Stretford had now been agreed. Whilst undoubtedly a sign of the club’s development might not necessarily have been welcomed by all supporters as at least some would now have to spend much more time travelling across the city if they wished to keep watching the champions. 

Yet what appears to have angered the home fans was the feeling that many of the home players hadn’t tried either to win the game or entertain them. People paid good money, which they had to work hard to earn, and if they were willing to spend it on football then the least they felt they deserved was 100% effort from the players, even if the team they followed had won the league! 

What sparked off the sustained abuse from the crowd was a remarkable incident just after half-time when no United player seemed keen to take a penalty they had been awarded. It had been expected that Sandy Turnbull would take the spot kick but when he refused, citing later a couple of knocks to the head and a damaged ankle, Wall stepped forward to send the ball well wide and bring booing from the crowd. Writing in ‘the Football Field’ the following Saturday the columnist ‘the Mancunian’ even reports that some of the Notts County players shook hands with Wall after he missed, which if true must give rise to the possibility that money had exchanged hands on the outcome of the match. This was to be the case seven years later when United played Liverpool in a relegation tussle and players from both sides won money by backing United to win 2-0. One was to be banned for a life as a consequence. 

As the game moved towards its conclusion it was apparent that a number of the United side were apparently indifferent as to how the game ended and so when Notts scored almost on full-time some spectators went absolutely wild with delight and heaped further abuse on the side. George Dodd had taken the ball extremely well on the run and rounded Stacey before beating Broomfield with a low shot. There was some sympathy for the keeper in the Manchester Evening News. The paper’s report said he did not deserve such hard luck and neither did the United defenders.

The hostility from the crowd was such that many of the United players took much longer than usual before deciding to leave the ground, by which time they would have become aware that with Manchester City and Sheffield Wednesday both losing they were league champions. 

The crowd’s actions were subsequently the subject of much comment in many newspapers. One fan who wrote to Football Field, signing himself ‘Play Straight’, had this to say: “I am sure I am only voicing the opinion of 75% of the spectators when I say that it was the most disgraceful exhibition of football that it has ever been my lot to witness between two teams. My complaint is purely and simply against the home team, who after the first 20 minutes never made an honest effort to score.

“Let the directors make a full and complete inquiry and if need be, get rid of the players who are to blame for I am sure the spectators would rather see a team of inferior men who played the game honestly than a lot of men who play ducks and drakes in a match.”

No cause for celebration - the appointment of Di Canio

This is a slightly revised version of my article in the current edition of the Big Issue in the North magazine, which sadly does not cover the north-east of England

I have been a Sunderland supporter since the 1960s and I was set to make this the 20th season in which I have seen every match.  However, on Sunday 31 March I was left distraught when the man appointed to replace Martin O’Neill as Sunderland’s manager was announced as Paolo Di Canio, a fascist.

Anger soon turned to outrage. Within minutes I was contacting fellow fans that I knew would also share my dismay. We had soon set up an informal organisation to marshall our efforts.  Utilising contacts in Sunderland and South Shields Labour Party we were able to make contact in New York with the recently resigned South Shields MP David Miliband, a non-executive board member at the football club and its vice-chairman. When he resigned his post on the Sunderland board on the morning of April 1st then it was clear that the football club was no longer laughing at our growing campaign. 

We wanted the club to make the self-proclaimed admirer of Italian dictator, Benito Mussolini, the shortest managerial appointment ever. For those fans who did not know about Mussolini then the Hope not Hate website proved highly informative. 

I knew all about Di Canio’s past. When he had been appointed as manager of Swindon Town in the summer of 2011 I had blogged to say how sad a day it was for football. I had expressed my dismay at Let’s Kick Racism out of Football’s response to his appointment, which largely consisted of writing to the club about their concerns. In comparison the GMB trade union had withdrawn its sponsorship of the Wiltshire club. Di Canio’s appointment attracted little publicity in the national media and no condemnation. In the following months he was feted as a personality by the sports media. The Saturday night BBC programme The Football League show regularly ran features on him.  

According to Di Canio, Mussolini was “basically a very principled, ethical individual who was deeply misunderstood.” Di Canio has ‘Dux’ tattooed on his right arm -  Latin for Duke, which was Mussolini’s adopted title. Amongst his crimes was the invasion and slaughter of 30,000 Ethiopians, the execution of his political opponents in Italy and his axis of support with Adolf Hitler during the war that led to thousands of Jews being transported to their deaths in concentration camps. Mussolini’s removal in 1943 came at the expense of thousand of British soldier’s lives, including many miners who were serving at the time with the Durham Light Infantry.

Three years ago Di Canio was photographed grieving at the funeral of Paolo Signorelli, who had served eight years in jail for his involvement in the bombing of Bologna train station by the far-right paramilitary group, the Armed Revolutionary Nuclei, in which 85 were massacred.

A Texas millionaire, Ellis Short, owns Sunderland Football Club. Yet like many other fans I still regarded it as mine, my dad and his forefathers supported the club and my five-year-old has a season ticket next to his dad’s in the ground. I did not want Di Canio at my club. Clearly plenty felt the same and I felt proud of the fans’ response. 

As football is tribal I could not help but take a dig at a my Liverpool-supporting friend over what I feel has been a collective myopia when it comes to Luis Suarez and his 2011 ban for onfield racist abuse of another player. 

I quickly discovered I had little to crow about as many Sunderland fans rushed to the message boards and airwaves to say they did not care about Di Canio’s politics. Fans who opposed his appointment were targeted for vile abuse and in some cases harassment and intimidation. 

Dave Bowman, organiser of a Sunderland supporters’ branch in Manchester let it be known on 1 he would not be going if Di Canio stayed. Even so-called friends denounced him.  Jim Fox, a retired teacher and former soldier, was shown on Sky Sports on April 2nd returning his season ticket. With hours he found his photograph posted on various web sites. The implication was clear enough.

I had been secretary of Sunderland Fans against Racism in the 1990s and we had to face down similar threats at the time, clearing the way for the football club to take up its own campaigns that members of the organisation agreed to back. Those involved back then feel badly let down today. 

The fans sticking with the club wanted a saviour. Sunderland is staring at relegation from the Premier League and avoiding the drop was why O’Neill was sacked.

Sunderland’s hapless chief executive Margaret Byrne said Di Canio was “passionate” and he was going to knock some sense into the underperforming players. On April 14, Sunderland beat fierce local rivals Newcastle United 3-0, sparking wild celebrations I did my best to ignore.

What can’t be swept under the carpet is that the North East has a problem with fascism.  The BNP has done well in local elections and the English Defence League has attracted support for its local campaigns against the opening of new mosques. The former mining villages of County Durham are dying. There are few jobs to keep young people occupied and there are few jobs to keep young people occupied. There are high levels of alcohol, drug abuse and anti-social behaviour, all of which are likely to increase because the region is also being hit hard by the government’s attacks on the public sector, on which many of those lucky enough to have a job depend.

The mines have, of course, closed and the huge celebrations over Margaret Thatcher’s death show who miners, as well as former shipyard workers, blame for the destruction of the local manufacturing base and their communities. 

When Monkwearmouth Colliery in Sunderland closed in 1993 the site on which it sat was  converted into Sunderland’s new magnificent football ground, the Stadium of Light, a clear reference to the mining past of the region.  The local miners’ association were happy to rest their banner in the entrance to the Stadium. It has been there for nearly sixteen years. 

In the meantime, despite their being no mines, the efforts of the Durham Miners’ Association (DMA) have revitalised the annual Miners’ Gala and last year around 150,000 people attended the event held in Durham City. 

When Di Canio was appointed the DMA said on 1 April it intended immediately removing the banner in protest. It was persuaded by fans to seek clarification on Di Canio’s statements and even see if he wished to denounce his past.

I had in the meantime asked for the return of  money I had paid for my season ticket for 2013-14.
On speaking to the ticket office it was clear I was not the only one.

A petition was set up by persons unknown and quickly attracted a high number of fans who wanted Di Canio gone. Attempts were made to persuade Show Racism the Red Card to cut links with Sunderland after a press officer for the club verbally abused a fan and defended its actions by pointing out that the anti-racist group was willing to continue working with the club. In a phone call an SRTRC claimed the next Sunderland team photo it plans to promote its work might no include Di Canio. But SRTRC still intend working with a club which has a fascist manager. I find this incredible. 

Di Canio himself had said the controversy surrounding his appointment was “ridiculous and pathetic.” By Wednesday 3 April even the Sun newspaper was on our side and had published a photo of Di Canio at Signorelli’s funeral. Later that day, the Italian sought to distance himself from his previous statements by saying: “ I do not support the ideology of fascism.” It has yet to be clarified if he was to be sacked if he did not make such a statement. 

For some fans this was sufficient to breathe a sigh of relief, as they just wanted him to get on with the job of improving the team on the pitch. There were even some fan websites who tortured themselves into proving Di Canio wasn’t a fascist. Most people remained unconvinced. A Sunderland Echo poll of 4 April found 1,189 (63 per cent) were not satisfied with Di Canio’s statement on his political views.

Working with Hope not Hate, the DMA were able to assume leadership of those opposed to Di Canio. A meeting between the club and the DMA was arranged, the outcome of which is not yet known.

I believe there now needs to be established a new organisation to fight fascism through a positive campaign for jobs, affordable housing and the establishment of some practical solutions such as community cafes, free debt counselling and the acquisition of unused land for community gardens.

Regular supporters like myself are seeking speaking invitations to football supporters clubs meetings to oppose fascism. We hope to leaflet the football match. 

Sunderland Football Club is meantime desperately hoping their gamble in appointing a fascist pays off and they stay up. Whatever the results this season I won’t be there to witness the games and I will not return until Di Canio goes. I’m proud of those who feel the same. 

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Agriculture retains top spot in human tragedies

With 29 deaths in the first ten months of 2012-13 then agriculture has retained top spot as the most dangerous industry to work in. All the more worrying therefore that the Health and Safety Executive has been unable to justify the ending of unannounced preventive inspections in the sector.

The changes were adopted following the Department for Work and Pensions’ March 2011 ‘Good for health and safety, good for everyone’ strategy in which it was declared ‘proactive inspection is unlikely to be effective and is not proposed in agriculture.’ This forms part of a plan by Business secretary Vince Cable to “remove unnecessary red tape and put common sense back into health and safety in order to reduce costs for businesses, giving them the confidence to create more jobs and support the wider economy to grow.” Cable has now introduced a legally binding statutory code explicitly outlawing proactive inspections from April onwards in all but ‘high risk areas.’

According to the international awarding winning Hazards magazine there are now 37 sectors without inspectors, including docks, transport, leather, light engineering and agriculture. By using a global network of union safety correspondents, Hazards provides union answers to workplace problems. The magazine challenged the HSE to reveal the documentary evidence “to support an overall reduction in levels of proactive and reactive inspections and enforcement activity.”

The HSE response was to state: “With regard to your request for evidence-based analyses and arguments on which decisions on preventive inspections were based, the information is not held in the form of documentation you request.

“Our approach to inspection and wider intervention is shaped by intelligence from a range of sources.” The organisation would not share this information.

Hazards magazine has stated: ‘The evidence supporting the watchdog’s no inspections policy for even some dangerously notorious workplaces, if it existed, wasn’t in an identified sources.”

Meantime, Britain’s green fields continue to be the killing fields. In the first ten months of 2012-13 their was a 160 recorded deaths at work in Great Britain. 29 were in agriculture, which is equivalent to 18% of those who lost their lives and yet agriculture employs just 1.4% of the total workforce.

Of those killed, seven were employees, fifteen self-employed and seven, including a child aged just one, were members of the public. Coming into contact with machinery and cattle ended the lives of twelve people. Ten also died as a result of falls from a height, including Dean Henderson-Smith, a former Army Sergeant Major who served in Iraq and Afghanistan and died after falling through a barn skylight on an Oxfordshire farm in October 2012. Landworker extends its condolences to the families and friends of all those who have lost their lives working in the agricultural industry. The fear is there will be even more deaths in the future. 

After the horse has bolted?

After the horse has bolted?

Unscrupulous employers, government cuts and deregulation of the food safety industry are at the heart of the horsemeat scandal and the risk to food safety. So say the International Union of Food Workers, the Labour Party and the trade union which represents trading standards officers. 

The discovery of horsemeat in processed beef products in January resulted in a series of product recalls that threw the spotlight on criminal and fraudulent activity in the UK food industry’s supply chain.

In response the government and supermarket chains are promising to introduce a stricter food-testing regime across Europe.

But will this be enough? The International Union of Food (IUF) workers, a world-wide federation of trade unions that includes Unite, believes the real cause of the problem is ‘low pay, contract labour, unscrupulous employers, fear, loathing and desperation.’

The IUF is currently supporting a walk out at the global research  centre in the Netherlands by Unilever catering workers desperate to secure decent transfer conditions when they are outsourced to Sodexo. Last year, Unite members at Unilever were forced to take strike action following the proposed closure of the final-salary pension scheme.

Sodexo is Britain’s biggest catering company but was forced to remove all frozen beef products after positive tests for horse DNA. The company provides food to 2,300 UK establishments including many schools. It has now promised to offer beef products in future based on DNA tests.

Mary Creagh, Labour’s shadow food minister, would feel happier if this self-regulation was supported by an efficient independent public sector system of checks. 

She has criticised the government for stripping the Food Standards Agency (FSA) of its role as the organisation with sole responsibility for food composition. In a 2010 cost-cutting exercise the FSA retained its food safety responsibilities but lost sole responsibility for food composition and labelling to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. Craigh said: “A more fragmented and bureaucratic system and this horsemeat scandal have shown there are serious flaws to be addressed.”

Her Labour colleagues in the European Parliament mirror Creagh’s concerns. In 2011, new rules were agreed to improve food labelling. However Labour MEPs were left disappointed when their amendment, extending the rules to ensure fresh meat was labelled with the  country of origin, was backed by the European Parliament but rejected by Ministers following pressure from food manufacturers. As a result a compromise was reached to monitor the situation and return to the issue next year.

Linda McAvan, the Labour MEP spokesperson on food safety, believes: “If Findus had been obliged to label the origin of the beef in its lasagne, my guess is that it would have paid much greater attention to its sourcing policies.” She is seeking to bring next year’s promised review forward.

UNISON, the public-sector union, is also concerned by food labelling and has highlighted that the numbers of trading standards officers employed to oversee the issue has shrunken dramatically under the current government. 743 jobs were lost in trading standards at council level between 2009-10 and 2011-12 and funding has dropped from £280 million a year to £213 million last year. There is a further planned decrease to just £140 million next year. UNISON is also concerned that the European Union is proposing to water down proposals for UK meat inspectors in abattoirs to physically inspect all meat leaving the premises.

A spokesperson for the IUF said: “It is clear we need strong legislation but food safety standards go hand in hand with labour standards. Workers organised into unions and with collective bargaining agreements will set the standards to enable food safety to be appropriately monitored by workers. This is something that employers and Governments need to recognise and act upon.” 

Colombia retains top spot as most dangerous place to be a trade unionist

There seems no chance of Colombia losing top spot as the most dangerous place in the world to be a trade unionist. As a result the need for solidarity with some of the bravest people on the planet is more urgently needed than ever. Unite is one of 40 national trade unions affiliated to Justice for Colombia (JFC) and urges all members to consider offering the organisation their support.

On January 28, Juan Munoz, a prominent SINTRAINAGRO member involved in the union’s struggle against labour contractors and the La Cabana sugar mill was murdered as he boarded a bus to take him to work in the nearby sugar cane fields. The South American state has in the past 20 years seen over 2,500 trade unionists murdered. 

Hundreds have also disappeared, including Henry Diaz, a member of the FENSUAGRO agricultural workers’ union to which Unite is the sister union. On April 18 2012, Henry’s clothes were discovered on a road linking two army checkpoints. The following month the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights awarded him ‘precautionary measures’, thus requiring the Colombian government to find and protect him.

As there is still currently no news on Mr Diaz’s whereabouts then there is naturally grave concern that he has been assassinated in order to silence him.  A call for justice for Henry Diaz was made on February 27, when British trade unionists and lawyers, assembled at the TUC. Those present included Ivan Monckton, Unite rural executive member, who said: “We should do everything we can to pressurise the Colombian government into finding out what has happened to Henry Diaz and support all trade unionists fighting for workers rights in the country.” 

The IndustriALL Global Union was founded with the backing of Unite on 19 June 2012 and represents 50 million workers in 140 countries. The union met the Colombian ambassador in Geneva on 4 March 2013  to raise its concerns on the situation facing trade unionists in Colombia. 

The threats made against Sintracarbon trade union leaders, attempting to negotiate a 3% pay rise and improved conditions for outsourced workers at the Carbones del Cerrejon mining company, owned by transnational companies Anglo American, BHP Bilton and Xstrata-Glencore, was just one of many issues aired. Workers took strike action in February and negotiations are currently ongoing.

According to Fernando Lopes, IndustriALL assistant general secretary, the meeting with Ambassador Ms Alicia Victoria Arango Olmos was “hard and frank and we will continue to support Colombian workers and fight for the government to protect workers’ rights in Colombia.”

Olmos promised to take the issues that were raised to the government. This is headed by President Juan Manuel Santos, who has previously promised government protection for labour and human rights activists. However last year, the Colombian largest union confederation, the CUT, reported that the government had reduced funding for protection, including to Aidee Moreno, who is head of the FENSUAGRO’s human rights department.

As a result Unite last year heavily criticised signatories’ to the US/Colombia Free Trade Agreement that labour rights had ‘significantly’ improved calling it “an apparent lack of understanding of the reality on the ground in Colombia.”

1913 FA Cup final report: Villa 1 Sunderland 0

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Search-Double-Sunderland-1912-13/dp/1901746828 - Book on Sunderland 1912-13

19th April 1913
(Barber 78) Wallace missed a penalty
Referee: Mr. A Adams of Nottingham
FA Cup Final (At Crystal Palace) SUNDERLAND 0
Attendance 121,919
Aston Villa: Hardy, Lyons, Weston, Barber, Harrop, Leach, Wallace, Stephenson, Hampton, Halse, Bache
Sunderland: Butler, Gladwin, Ness, Cuggy, Thomson, Low, Mordue, Buchan, Richardson, Holley, Martin

In the hours just after dawn Sunderland supporters were greatly in the majority in the capital and it was surprising to see how many had made the long and tiring journey. Still more surprising to see was how little it had dampened their spirits. They came pouring out of Kings Cross as though 6 or 7 hours of close confinement in a crowded railway carriage was no more than incidental and single mindedly fell upon the eating houses in the vicinity. They quickly made a marked impression on the huge provision made by caterers who obviously knew something of the capacity of the average excursionist.

One of the most interesting features of the final was the growth of the “rubber necking” industry. Parties of sightseers drove around the town under the tutelage of a stentorian guide to be told exactly what was what in tones that commanded attention. There must have been hundreds of such parties with the newest of motor buses evident alongside the oldest of brakes. There is surely no more gigantic or unrestrained merry making in the national calendar of festivities than this annual trek and especially when the streets were flooded with sunshine.

To complete a glorious day the tournament at the Crystal Palace produced one of the best games, perhaps even the best game ever to be played in the shadow of that glazed monstrosity. It gathered together an enormous crowd. The peculiar shape of the Palace pitch makes it rather difficult to judge the pace of the game but there was never any doubt about the pace at which both teams set off. Neither side was playing their customary game and for the first few minutes Sunderland seemed all at sea. There were plainly traces of nerves in all three ranks of the team and Villa were clearly out to score early .

Hampton and Thomson began their eagerly anticipated duel early on and with neither of them standing on ceremony the exchanges were the most conspicuous if not the most pleasing incidents in the 1st half. Thomson once deliberately made a back for Hampton who fell heavily and Mr. Adams found it necessary to caution the Sunderland man. It was a glaring infringement but in fairness it must be said that the Villa player was constantly jumping for the ball in a way that might easily have been penalised as dangerous play.

The Villa forwards were quite distinctly better at the long passing game that both sides were employing. Hampton sent some beautiful passes out to the wings and gave Wallace opportunities that were put to such good use that the Roker defence was often severely taxed to master the rushes that followed his centres. In one of these onslaughts Gladwin brought Stephenson crashing to the ground in the penalty area and there were groans of disappointment when Wallace sent the kick yards wide of the left hand post.

Villa had another disappointment almost immediately afterwards when Hampton put the ball into the net but the point was rightly disallowed for offside. When the Sunderland forwards did get going they reversed the Villa methods. Their halfbacks were too hard pressed to be able to pass accurately but occasionally Cuggy and Low managed to send the ball to their wing men. They were often quick to see Richardson well placed and the centre forward made ground rapidly but was always checked by a half back who was playing with more energy than skill.
By the interval Villa had the better of a well contested 1st half but for a while after the restart Sunderland were just as much on top as Villa had been in the opening stages. All the best play was seen in a tense 20 minutes of absorbing football. It began with Martin sprinting in to catch Hardy with the ball and in the subsequent challenge the keepers left knee was so badly hurt he had to leave the field. Harrop took his place in goal and the Sunderland forwards were soon swarming round him.

Twice he extricated himself from dangerous situations in a way that had only its success as its excuse and the run of play must have raised high hopes amongst Sunderland supporters. Hardy returned after about 10 minutes with a limp and a heavily bandaged leg. He was greeted with cheers that served to put fresh heart into Villa and they attacked immediately with Wallace forcing a corner off Ness. It was placed to perfection, at just the right height and with an awkward swerve to keep it clear of the defenders.

It sailed hard and true to where Barber was standing and there was a hurricane of applause when the halfback promptly headed it out of Butlers reach and into the net. The game was drawing rapidly to a close when the goal was scored and Villa took no chances by kicking out from every position that threatened trouble. The forwards helped them by striving as hard for another goal as though the match depended on it. Near the close Hampton made a great attempt to hustle Butler over the line.

Although Sunderland were playing with every ounce of energy at their disposal they seemed incapable of making any impression. Martin had the goal at his mercy but his shot struck an upright and this failure sealed Sunderland's fate. It is impossible to deny that Villa deserved to win. Their margin of superiority was nevertheless very slight and a little bit of luck might have decided the match either way. The Villa forwards were better but behind them there was little to choose though Thomson’s fine defensive work tipped the balance in favour of Sunderland’s halfback line.

Both sets of full backs played strongly if not brilliantly and Lyons who alone had twice prevented goals while Hardy was off injured was the best defender on the field. Altogether it was a game to live in football history.

Cup Final Stories
As you would imagine there were one or two stories that would subsequently emerge in the years after the match that are worth noting:

Walter Tinsley
George Holley had been carrying an ankle injury and was not expected to play in the Cup Final. Indeed there is a very famous picture of the Sunderland players in civilian clothes, lining up at leisure the day before that shows Holley wearing football boots rather than normal shoes. Charlie Buchan later explained that he was testing his ankle out constantly to see if he could be fit enough to play but in the end looked to have succumbed to defeat.

However in the hour before the game Walter Tinsley, Holley’s replacement, was rumoured to be so overcome with nerves, having seen the massive crowd, that Holley was an 11th hour team member, passed fit to play.

Tommy Barber
Barber was a Geordie who was born in West Stanley towards the outskirts of the Newcastle City limits. For him it was a poignant moment to score the winner against Newcastle’s arch rivals Sunderland AFC.

The Aston Villa goalkeeper had dreamt before the final that Barber would score the winning goal and so it transpired. For Barber though near tragedy would strike during his service in WW1.

At The Somme, Barber was carried from the battlefield, presumed dead, and so a myth perpetuated that he had indeed passed away. In fact, although poisoned by mustard gas Barber made a recovery turning out for non league teams such as Stalybridge Celtic and Crystal Palace when hostilities ended. Barber did return to league football briefly with both Merthyr Town and Walsall but it didn’t last long, the gas taking its toll on Tommy’s body. He died in 1925, aged just 39.

Charity Shield
The Charity Shield was first played for in 1908 and was an evolution from the original Sheriff of London Shield played between the League Champions and the amateur equivalent (Southern League Champions). Due to the furor surrounding the events of the FA Cup final the FA did not invite Sunderland to play Plymouth Argyle in 1914.

Penalty Miss
The FA Cup Final penalty miss by Wallace was ultimately inconsequential. However it was a rare feat and would not be repeated for another 75 years.

The Crystal Palace
FA Cup Finals were held at The Crystal Palace from 1895 to 1914.

Disgraceful Authorities
Following the match the Football Associations handling of the fixture was lambasted by the media and public alike. Over 2,000 spectators were turned away from what was not an all ticket match, with many injured trying to gain admittance. One newspaper was quoted as saying:
“The arrangements were of a primitive type and a disgrace to the authorities. Imperfect terracing was in a shocking state, the foot holding being treacherously insecure”. 

Sunderland move towards fifth League title - a centenary special

Taken from IN SEARCH OF THE DOUBLE: Sunderland 1912/13 by Paul Days and Mark Metcalf


23rd April 1913

(Halse 60) Attendance 59,740
League Division One SUNDERLAND 1
(Tinsley 30)
Aston Villa: Anstey, Weston, Lyons, Barber, Harrop, Leach, Wallace, Halse, Hampton, Stephenson, Bache
Sunderland: Butler, Gladwin, Ness, Cuggy, Thomson, Low, Mordue, Buchan, Richardson, Tinsley, Martin

This match at Aston Lower ground was invested with considerable importance. If the league championship was not absolutely resting upon the outcome it was likely to be affected if Sunderland lost. The position was this. In order to make sure of the championship Sunderland required 3 points which would give then an unassailable lead of one point. Two would probably suffice to settle the business in Sunderland's favour on the less satisfying basis of goal average.

It is not surprising therefore that a big crowd turned up with some 70,000 enthusiasts seeking admission. Of these 2,000 were denied the pleasure of witnessing what proved to be a tremendous match and a glimpse of the English Cup which was carried round the ground. The league honours were not decided for Sunderland could only manage a draw which leaves them with one point to gain to secure the league title for the 5th time. Villas chances of the double were effectively quashed as were Sunderland's last week.

It was a fast and even game and Sunderland acquitted themselves in a much more satisfactory way than at Crystal Palace. For one thing there was more cohesion in their ranks and the side as a whole was better balanced. Villa stuck to their work with a will and there was no lack of exciting incidents. Both goals had narrow escapes and with a little luck either side could have won. The result was a very good indication of the play but what honours there were in sharing the points certainly rested with the home side.

They were without Lyons for part of the 2nd half and Harrop went to full back. Mordue and Buchan were in better form than at Crystal Palace and from their work many good chances were created for the other forwards. The strength of the sides lay in the halfback lines and here spoiling tactics were the order of the day. Villa were without Hardy who had damaged his knee in the Cup Final and Anstey made his 3rd appearance of the season whilst Tinsley displaced Holley.

From the outset the pace was remarkable and clearly showed that the players had recovered from their exertions at Crystal palace. Sunderland were particularly aggressive and Lyons had to dash across to clear a centre from Mordue. The first really dangerous attack came from Hampton who slipped right through in characteristic fashion and forced a corner. Wallace dropped in a beauty but Halse’s header just grazed the bar. Play never flagged and with Sunderland slightly superior they full deserved the goal that came there way after 30 minutes play.

Lyons made a poor attempt to clear and the ball glanced off his foot to Martin whose speed often troubled the Villa defence. He dodged round Lyons as the full back attempted to recover his ground and crossed to Tinsley who made no mistake with a strong shot that Anstey could not hope to stop. Weston and Lyons were frequently tested with Mordue in particular proving a very elusive character. When Villa got going usually through Bache it needed the very best of the Sunderland defence to keep them out.

Butler once rushed out to kick away a centre by Wallace as Hampton advanced but several promising openings were frittered away by ill timed shooting. Villa resumed without Lyons and later in the 2nd half Halse and Gladwin showed signs of wear and tear. There was not the same spirit in the 1st half and several fouls were committed. The defences were kept under high pressure and after 60 minutes Bache dashed down the wing and centred for Halse to head a lovely equaliser. Both Gladwin and Ness had been outpaced and outplayed by the move.

The struggle became keener and Buchan looked an almost certain scorer before Anstey courageously rushed out to the edge of the penalty area and scooped the ball out to Barber. Butler as if envious of the save did likewise when he dashed out as Hampton and Halse were getting past Ness. Towards the end Stephenson had a gilt edged chance when he had a clear run on goal but from 15 yards spooned the ball wide of the upright. (Newcastle Daily Chronicle) 

Challenge to zoos that clip birds’ wings

Challenge to zoos that clip birds’ wings

(A slightly edited version of this article is in the current edition of the Big Issue in the North magazine. Please buy the magazine if you see a seller.)

The right of zoos and wetland trusts to prevent birds flying by removing a part of their wings is being challenged by a new campaign.

Pinioning amputates the final section of the wing from which the primary feathers grow. Skin and muscle are removed in a practice that usually takes place during the first few weeks of a bird’s life.

By preventing a bird from flying then less space is needed to keep a bird captive. It also means humans can get nearer to the birds. 


Supporters of pinioning include a number of popular wildlife locations in the north, including Chester Zoo, the most visited wildlife attraction in Britain with more than 1.4 million visitors last year. The zoo has 142 bird species on its 110 acre site. 

Pinioning was included in the Mutilations (Permitted Procedures) (England) Regulations 2007 and is legal. However the Captive Animal’s Protection Society argues it is cruel and has launched a campaign to outlaw the practice.

“If zoos were amputating the paws of tigers there would be absolute uproar and I see no reason why the limbs of birds should be considered differently,” said Liz Tyson, director of the Captive Animals’ Protection Society. “It is not acceptable so visitors can get a better look at the birds.”

A Chester Zoo spokesperson said: “Where possible we keep our birds fully-winged in large enclosures. To maintain exotic bird species in captivity then under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 we must prevent them from escaping, as it is an offence to release exotic species into the wild. We thus limit pinioning to two bird groups, flamingos and cranes, as these birds are kept in large open enclosures.”

Captive wildfowl 

The Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust’s (WWT) Martin Mere site at Burscough, Lancashire, is one of five reserves managed in England by the charity. Around 100 species of international water birds live in and around the mere, which gives the site its name. All captive wildfowl and flamingos on site are pinioned, forming one part of the 5,650 individual birds on the five reserves that are prevented from flying by the practice.

WWT has defended its practices saying in a statement: “ To help encourage our visitors feel passionate about saving the world’s wetlands and their wildlife we create opportunities for them to get close to the birds.” 

The WWT chief executive, Martin Sprey, has said: “ On the issue of pinioning we actually want to bring people close birds, particularly young children.”

The Captive Animals’ Protection Society has published a report, Mutilated for your Viewing Pleasure: pinioning birds in English zoos, as part of its campaign and launched a petition to end the practice.

With the RSPCA having last year condemned the coalition government record on animal welfare the task of making it illegal is likely to face some difficult challenges. 

Tyson said: “The campaign is going well. Members of the public have reacted with shock and anger when we have informed them that birds are being held captive in this way.

“We are speaking to supportive MPs and that will allow us to plan our next steps. Pinioning is illegal on farmed birds and we wish to extend this to all birds, regardless of where they are kept.”

One leading northern wildlife attraction, Knowsley Safari Park, does not practice pinioning on any of its birds.

Graham Bessant, who runs the Birds of Prey experience at the Park said: “If we pinioned the birds, we wouldn’t be able to fly them, and showcasing the birds’ natural flying capabilities is at the heart of our work in which visitors see hawks, eagles and owls soar and swoop literally above their heads. It is great to see these beautiful creatures in all their glory.

Many people are not aware that birds like vultures are under threat and we aim to connect visitors with species that need human intervention to secure their future. We have purposely built aviaries to mimic the birds’ natural environment as closely as possible.”