Archive | June, 2011

Buses Must Not Pay For the Tram

30 Jun

Unite Scotland comments on Edinburgh Tram Project Report

Ahead of tomorrow’s crucial Edinburgh Council meeting where the future of the trams will be decided, Unite members at Lothian Buses have again warned Councillors not to mess with the city’s successful bus network.

This week, Councillors have been issued with a report on the Edinburgh trams project that ultimately urges them to vote for a tram line running from Edinburgh Airport to St Andrew’s Square in the heart of the city at a cost of over £770 million.

Unite believes the report is a piece of propaganda, a one-sided document that does not consider or present the full facts of the matter.  Furthermore, the biggest losers in this process will be the world-class service provided by Lothian Buses and the travelling public of Edinburgh and the Lothians.

It is clear to Unite that Lothian Buses will be used as a cash cow to help offset the immense cost of this white elephant project should this report have it way.

The position of our members is as clear and incontrovertible as it was before:  The publicly owned status of Lothian Buses must not be compromised and its profitable services should be left untouched.

This means no cuts to routes, workers terms and conditions, no back-door marketisation or attempts to re-introduce integrated transport bodies that would be used to ‘rob Peter to pay Paul’.  Most importantly, it means no more disruption and travel misery for the public who are sick and tired of the whole fiasco.

Please find attached a short brief detailing our concerns with this report and the wider issue of Edinburgh’s transport future.  It has been sent to every Council member’s e-mail this afternoon (Wednesday 29th June) and our reps from Lothian Buses will be distributing this outside the city chambers from 8:30AM on Thursday morning, where they will also be available for comment.

For further details, please contact Peter Welsh in the Unite Scotland Campaigns Office on 07810157931 or Lothian Buses Joint Trade Union Rep Rab Fraser on 07981673899.

Download the Joint Trade Union Committee statement here

Lloyds to shed 15,000 jobs

30 Jun

Unite is horrified at today’s announcement by Lloyds Banking Group that the Group intends to shed a further 15,000 jobs overthe next 3 years.

After three years of job insecurity, integration, more than 27,000  job losses and the sale of branches through Verde, Unite members and colleagues are facing a further three years of insecurity, uncertainty and misery.

Unite members and colleagues are particularly fearful as today’s announcement means that 1 in 8 roles are going to be lost over the next 3 years. Unite is seeking greater clarity as to where these losses will materialise.

National officer David Fleming said:

The long awaited results of the Lloyds Strategic Review will cause deep distress and anxiety across the company as staff face the reality of this arbitrary slashing of jobs. Astonishingly one in eight roles will be lost over the next three years.  This review is merely another box ticking exercise to give this bank, which has already, since its creation two years ago cut over 27,000 staff, an excuse to sack more employees.

The conclusion of this review to make 15,000 staff cuts is yet another extreme example of the financial services industry cutting vital staff in a desperate attempt to create a mirage of acceptability following the financial crisis. But this total failure to take significant action to make appropriate changes to rebuild the public confidence in the sector is deplorable.

Today Lloyds Banking Group is simply attacking the workforce who service local communities and deliver the highest levels of service to the consumers of the bank. This review does nothing to deal with the structural challenges facing the organisation.

From this much hyped up strategic review, there is still no clarity how Lloyds will help deliver economic growth or to give consumers choice on the high street. The massive cuts announced today, coupled with the directive to sell some 600 branches does nothing for customers or businesses to ease the financial pressures they face, only creating more insecurity across the economy.

The Bad News

  • The Group has promised the City and investors a further£1.5bn savings
  • Projected job losses in the region of 15,000

The Good News

  • A commitment to branch network brands such as Halifax, BOS and LTSB.
  • This will include Scottish Widows and SWIPwho will be considered an integral part of the Group
  • A commitment that the Group will not offshore any furtherback office work

Until today, Unite has had no sight of the outcome of the strategic review. However we have immediately called on LBG to:

  • Meet with Unite now to discuss, in detail, the outcome of the Strategic Review
  • Halt the constant haemorrhaging of jobs
  • Undertake a full and proper joint review of temporary workers that are currently working in the Company

Unite will issue regular newsletters when further information is available and as consultation takes place. We will continue to challenge the Company on all job losses. Our success speaks for itself whereby colleagues in Chester and Bridgend have been given a level of job security in a way that has not been seen before in Lloyds Banking Group.

Join Unite the Union

  • At a time of such high insecurity, you need a professional trade union. Unite is that union. Unite continues to call:
  • For a commitment to no compulsory redundancies
  • For the end to the practice of utilising contractors/temporary workers
  • To open the relocation package/travel allowance policy toall impacted colleagues who would be willing to retain a role in LBG
  • To return all offshored work to protect the job security andlivelihoods of LBG colleagues
  • For the Company to share other cost-saving measures other than site closures and job losses

Remember

  • Unite is the only union recognised in all areas of Lloyds TSB
  • Unite is the only union recognised in Cheltenham & Gloucester
  • Unite is the only union recognised in both Lloyds TSB and HBOS
  • Unite has a workplace reps structure of 180+ to ensure your voice is heard at negotiations and consultations

Join Unite online, or by calling the LBG helpline on 08081449595.

Alternatively you can contact your local rep who would be only too happy to help.

If you are interested in being a rep, there is more information here.

We deserve better.

Download newsletter

Download Press Release

Street Fight!

28 Jun

Edinburgh’s trams fiasco and the campaign to keep Lothian Buses public

If you’ve been tuning in to the news over the last week then you couldn’t have missed the furore surrounding the on-going Edinburgh Trams project. If by rare chance you haven’t heard about the controversies impacting this project, well, let’s just say this isn’t how you go about developing a tram line, never-mind a network…

A brief summary doesn’t do the matter justice but here is a snapshot nonetheless of the last few years:

  • Allocated a budget of over £500 million from the Scottish Government, some 80% of this has already been chewed-up while only 24% of the original infrastructure completed;
  • Highly-paid directors at the troubled tram firm TIE are throwing-in the towel en masse ; and
  • An ongoing dispute with the trams infrastructure contractor.

In between times  roads have been dug-up, local traders put out of pocket, further construction (or is that de-construction) is expected and the First Minister has backed calls for a Public Inquiry into the project.  When it’s all said and done (if it ever will be) the final cost is expected to hit the public purse for over £1 billion.   Not bad in the current financial climate…

This Thursday, Edinburgh’s Councillors will meet to vote on the future of the trams project based on the recommendations of this report .  It seems options are on the table, none of which nearly mirror the original infrastructure, projected to cost either £700 million or £773 million.  There is a third way – mothballing the project. However, this has been omitted from the report despite being a previous position of many Councillors.  Apparently this unmentionable option would cost £750 million.

It’s difficult to overstate the depth of public anger about the money being milked by this disastrous project, never mind the justifiable fury being levelled at the politicians overseeing the process – particularly when they treat folk to a little comedy amidst the gloom.   More and more people in Edinburgh are starting to say, ‘enough is enough’.

So, after 300-odd words which probably haven’t made this subject any clearer, why does this matter to Unite?  In a word: Buses.

Lothian Buses is Edinburgh’s main operator, servicing over 350,000 passengers every day throughout the city and the Lothians.  And it is publicly owned.  It is a shining example of how a modern public transportation service can operate in a profitable manner (over £9 million in 2010) while delivering an affordable and frequent service for the travelling public.   No mean feat in these ‘austere’ times.

Only eighteen months ago, the council had a seemingly concrete position that Lothian Buses would be merged with a completed tram project / system / route / line / rail… (Delete as appropriate, dear reader) and its operating arm TIE under an integrated body called TEL.  This set alarm bells ringing among our membership at Lothian Buses.

Rightly so, our members recognised the potential impact this would have on their jobs, terms and conditions and also on the travelling public; namely increased fares, reduced services and creeping marketisation against a trams project spiralling out of control.

By autumn 2010 momentum was building among local councillors and the tram developers’ TIE for the merged transport body.  The workers at Lothian Buses started a campaign to preserve their company’s publicly owned status and to park proposals for a TEL merger.  The October council meeting was lobbied by the workers and their Unite reps spoke passionately about saving the people’s bus service in addition to their own futures.

What happened next was a fine demonstration to other trade union members of a sustained local campaign that shifted the political direction of a squabbling and uncertain group of councillors.

Recognising the lack of strategic direction for transport in Edinburgh among local councillors, not to mention a lack of expressed support for the bus workers across the chamber, Unite members in Lothian Buses set out to achieve a number of campaign objectives to protect their company:

  • Lothian Buses to remain in full public ownership;
  • The disbandment of TEL; and
  • The delivery of a debt free tram line by TIE to be operated by Lothian Buses (if ever completed…perhaps a cheeky request!).

The workforce moved quickly to conduct a massive lobby of Edinburgh’s Councillors via e-mail, mail, telephone and face to face discussion at surgeries to ‘educate and inform’ local politicians of their position.

By the time of the next council meeting of 17th December to debate a refreshed business case for the trams, all 58 councillors had been contacted many times over by workers, their families and their friends leaving them in no doubt about the weight of trade union and indeed public opinion regarding the public ownership status of Lothian Buses.

The outcome of that meeting represented a significant political turn-around in a short space of time.  The council shelved plans for the merger, at least in the short-term, effectively securing Lothian Buses public status for the time being.  The pro-active and organised campaigning of the workers re-shaped the political opinion of the City of Edinburgh Council chamber; an example of how a local-level political focus can create real change in our towns and cities.

Unfortunately, that’s not the end of it.  This Thursday the workers at Lothian Buses, backed by Unite, will lobby the city chambers as Edinburgh’s Councillors arrive to once again debate and vote on the future of a white elephant project.

The workers won’t go away and why should they?  They know that whatever the outcome, be it a £700 million line from the Edinburgh Airport to Haymarket or a £770 million- plus route to St Andrew’s Square, it will impact negatively on their company and the travelling public.  More money, more disruption and more uncertainty for a profitable public service and its workers.

So let’s draw a line in the sand.  After Thursday our members will be ready to re-ignite their campaign and so will their trade union.  If the public ownership status of Lothian Buses is threatened by any re-hashed business plan, its workers terms and conditions brought into question or if there are calls for TEL to be re-introduced, then we will fight against it.

With local elections taking place in May 2012 the Sword of Damocles is very much hanging over each and everyone of the city’s Councillors, irrespective of their party political persuasion.  They are under immense pressure for this fiasco and they know it.

Now, about that unspoken third option…

P.S.  A new twist occurred last night (Tuesday 28th June) with the Deputy Leader of Edinburgh Council calling for a referendum on the future of the trams.  Let the people of Edinburgh decide?  It might be a safer option that letting the Council…

Notes from the Greek socio-political laboratory

28 Jun

Popular Assembly in Syntagma Square - photo by Poulopoulos Ioannis

 

History is a strange thing. For a long time it works fragmentarily and underground with very few paying attention to it. Then, suddenly, it rushes forth to seize great parts of the everyday workings of a society and to reconfigure what we understand as reality. This happens when most people least expect it. You cannot determine in advance where it will happen. And you cannot be certain which path it will take. But you can feel and understand that it happens. You can also participate in it. Quite often, you are forced to.

This is the second time in the past decade that History has thus rushed forth in the Western world since the 2008 systemic crisis. Once again, nothing can be the same again. Yet, our political and economic elites pretend that things can go back to normal again, where “normal” means what they were doing before the collapse. But an ever growing number of people understand that this is not possible anymore. The postmodern extremist neo-liberalism that dominated our societies for so long is crumbling under the weight of its own unimpeded functioning.

Greece is a strange case too. No wonder: it has had a long and turbulent history. For the last 18 months it has become one of History’s favourite sites. In fact, it has been transformed into a socio-political laboratory, in which European futures are shaped and tested in vivo. The Greek default, euphemized as bailout, has been discussed extensively (and exploited speculatively) by all kinds of experts, activists, politicians, think tanks and business elites. For a long year and a half, dominant wisdom has insisted on the need for a socio-economic purgatory that will correct and purify the corrupt and untrustworthy Greeks.

A whole society abruptly found itself being accused of recklessness and corrupt habits that were endangering the common European currency, and told that the only way to make amends was to sink into misery. The indictment was ponderous and the prosecutors were well-respected and powerful, so for some time the accusation was accepted. Some also argued that what appeared as a penalty was in fact a remedy that would cure past and present pathologies and secure a healthy future. Those who dared to question this “therapeutic penalty” were dismissed as either symptoms or causes of the disease that must be defeated. A full year of such treatment later, the patients discovered that in fact their condition had dramatically worsened, while the doctors, uneasy in their failure, prescribed another round of the same remedies, only this time at higher doses.

The patients also discovered that the high cost of the failed treatment has now increased enormously, thus jeopardizing their very survival, whilst it made the doctors even richer. In the end, many of the patients understood that there was no treatment at all in the first place. Rather, there was a method of exhaustion designed to conceal the treatment’s unsuitability and the doctor’s inadequacy, while at the same time increasing the latter’s profits from the treatment and warning other possible European patients of the consequences of asking for medical assistance from the same doctors. They also understood that this method would prove fatal for them and extremely dangerous for all the others that would be subjected to it in the future.

For they realized that what was in fact tested on them it was not intended to cure anything, but only to invent and impose a comatose “sublife”, disguised as a responsible and solvent way of life for all those not feeling very well after the eruption of the pandemic that swept western liberal capitalism from 2008 onwards. This is precisely the reason why every single day of the last month Greek citizens have been occupying the main streets and squares in their cities to declare their elites, as well as their international “doctors”, unwanted and treasonous. And their voices were so loud that the Greek political elites trembled and panicked.

The movement of the “Indignants” (aka the “Syntagma Square movement”) contaminated the “average” Greek citizen like a virus,  got them out of their living rooms and took them into the streets and squares to reject publicly their subjection to collective guilt and to defend their country, their dignity, their families and their very lives that they saw as being attacked for the previous year and a half under the futile and callous austerity of the first bailout. Imported a month previously (May 25) from Spain, the virus of indignation spread quickly within Greek society and generated a new major player in the political arena; one that declared something extraordinary, that is, the revocation of all political authorization from the political class and the recovery of the (constitutionally guaranteed, but now seen as surrendered to other states, multinational organizations and enterprises) people’s authority and national sovereignty.

Indeed, one of the central slogans that the movement has produced is “We won’t leave until they leave”, where “they” stands for the government, the so-called troika (the IMF-EU-ECB supranational directorate) as well as the whole of the political class, as the latter is exemplified by the current Parliament and the political oligopoly that it represents. This message is symbolically conveyed by the characteristic Greek gesture of insult and anathema (the moutza), a gesture that is repeatedly directed, by hundreds of thousands of protesters, towards the Greek Parliament, accompanied by the crowd’s rhythmic shouts of accusation against their MPs: “thieves” and “traitors”. These are relatively well-known snapshots from the protesters’ reactions towards what they understand to be:

a) a tragic failure of their representatives to protect society and the Constitution from what they see as an international, brutal and usurious attack coming from those who, for more than 30 years now, have been (and are still) benefitting from the dismantling of the country’s productive structure as well as from the society’s public and private over-indebtedness, and;

b) a corrupt political class, the members of which shamelessly profited both from their collaboration with multinationals and banks and from squandering public money, thus spreading corruption throughout society and paralyzing all its institutions.

The elite and media wisdom initially ignored this movement and imposed an uneasy silence as regards its activities. Yet, as social support increased, some media showed a hesitant interest while others focused on the movement’s ideological ambiguities and criticized its impressive as well as provocative emphasis on the rejection of the entire political system.

Thus, the “indignants” were systematically presented as irresponsible “lotus-eaters” who pretend that they have nothing to do with the country’s current dramatic situation, which, however, had been developing for the past three decades and went hand-in-hand with the voting majority’s political consensus towards the same political class (and its agenda) that the same people now curse and intimidate by gibbering outside the Greek Parliament. Quite often, the protesters’ anger was attributed to the results of a nasty consumption hangover caused by the country’s irresponsible and excessive spending based on corruption and debt. In the end, the movement was dismissed as mass psychotherapy against an endogenous and/or externally inflicted feeling of guilt that was now scapegoating the democratically elected Greek government and the MPs.

It is well understood that powerful systemic forces felt threatened by the protesters’ anger and absolute denial of their authority and adopted and propagated psychological explanations and interpretations in order to discredit and dismiss oppositional socio-political arguments and perspectives. It is also true that, during the first two or so weeks of its existence, the movement had been focused mainly on the absolute rejection of the political system as a whole, without having a concrete ideological stigma or a realistic political agenda.

It banned any political party from signaling and signification within its actions, while its initial ideological character was unstable and obscure, allowing for the incorporation of virtually all different and/or mutually exclusive ideological persuasions spanning from the extreme right and covering all political spectrums to the extreme left and the anarchists. This meant practically everyone, even the apolitical ones, thus allowing for the divided citizenry to put into parenthesis their ideological and political leanings and preferences and to discover a minimum unity that would allow them to gather in numbers in front of the Parliament, in Syntagma Square at the urban and political centre of Athens.

However, the protesters quickly set certain basic limits to such an ideological openness and rejected publicly and actively fascism, racism and violence. This choice contributed strongly to the social acceptance of the movement, which extended considerably its influence not only in Athens but also in other Greek cities. The movement’s influence and strength increased also by the international character of the Pan European Indignation Days (or Pan European Sunday Mobilizations) that were (and still are) organized every Sunday in cooperation with protesting citizens in other European countries. As the mobilization mechanisms of the existing parties were rejected, it was the internet and the social media that were used extensively to raise social support for the movement, while school and university students, a part of the left and thousands of disillusioned voters from the ruling party and the opposition joined in and spread further its influence.

The organization, coordination and development of the movement had from the beginning been assigned to a daily People’s Assembly that assumed all power and authority and became the movement’s only decision making body. The People’s Assembly was set up from its very beginning on direct democratic principles and procedures that guaranteed everyone’s right to actively participate and co-decide the movement’s mode of existence and actions. A full direct participatory democracy was and remains the objective and the everyday reality of the People’s Assembly that reached a larger audience when it started to broadcast its everyday workings through internet, live streaming several Public Consultations, in which invited experts and activists participated in a series of organized and free public debates on debt crisis, direct democracy, alternative economics and migration, racism and xenophobia.

The Public Consultations and the particular thematic People’s Assemblies that followed them were also broadcast through the internet; they strengthened the movement’s social recognition and, at the same time, refuted its alleged apolitical nihilism and ideological confusion. They also helped the movement to reinforce its cohesion and to coil around a commonly agreed aim, that is to actively reject and cancel the forthcoming second so-called bailout and the wave of austerity measures and public property clearance that it entailed.

This was a key decision, since it placed a concrete objective, around which an even greater part of the population could be mobilized, and in fact it did so during the 24 hour general strike that the public and private sector trade unions had announced for June 15. Hundreds of thousands of strikers and ‘indignants’ surrounded and blocked the Parliament, panicking the government that was forced into a reshuffle after it had almost resigned. The strikers and the protesters were attacked by heavy riot police but they succeeded in keeping Syntagma Square under their control. It was an undisputable victory for the movement, which transformed it into an important force within the current crisis, since it brought on stage popular masses that were excluded from all political decisions and so challenged the parliamentary majority of the ruling party. Following that victory, the subsequent People’s Assemblies decided to prepare and organize for the next battle at the end of June (28th and 29th) when a parliamentary vote for the second bailout will take place. This time the movement plans for a 48 hour mobilization and general strike that is estimated to reach one million protesters and it is hoped to avert the second “bailout”.

The indignants’ movement is a sign of change. A whole era, the “Third Greek Democracy” (that begun in 1974) ends; along with it goes the general socio-political configuration and balance that created contemporary Greek society. The public and absolute refutation of the existing political regime signals such an exhaustion. At the same time new political forces, demands, processes and institutions are on the making within the movement’s ideological universe. Once again the rejection of the past walks hand in hand with the construction of the future. Today, the globalised Greek socio-political laboratory works in turmoil fully understanding that its products cannot remain confined within Greek borders.

That is why it urgently needs progressive international support and solidarity.

– by Vangelis Lagos

Sociologist-researcher

Athens


Strathclyde Students Occupy Graham Hills Building

27 Jun

Strathclyde students occupy the Graham Hills Building

Reporting by Dennis Fallon and Myshele Goldberg

Students at Strathclyde University have occupied the Graham Hills Building to protest proposed cuts to four departments – community education, geography, music and sociology. This forms part of Principal and Vice Chancellor Jim McDonald’s plans to close or “streamline” key areas in social sciences in an attempt to turn the university into “an MIT on the Clyde” – a reference to the world class Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

However, Noam Chomsky, a respected and well known academic from MIT, found McDonald’s plans “quite odd“, and argued that social sciences are necessary to contextualise a technical education. He said

If the goal is to turn Strathclyde into the MIT of Scotland by curtailing programmes in the social sciences, it is the MIT of half-a-century ago that is envisioned, if even that.

Chomsky went on to say that there has been a “sharp attack” on higher education across the Western world, based on dubious economic motives.

In their haste to pursue financial and strategic aims, managers have forgotten that a university does not exist to produce profit. The wealth created within university walls is not easily measurable  – but it is nonetheless important. All students in higher education develop new ways of thinking and engaging with the world. In the social sciences, students learn to question the world around them and understand how that world is deeply interconnected. The skills of identifying patterns, seeking evidence for claims and thinking independently are not only useful for workers in an information economy, they are also crucial for citizens of a democracy.

Management’s zealous enforcement of its ‘strategic plan’ only underlines its own short-sightedness. A ‘technological university’ is pointless if we lack the capacity to understand the meaning of that technology for human beings. Our world’s most pressing problems cannot be solved by technology alone, and technology certainly cannot help students understand their place in the world.

Geography and Sociology at Strathclyde maintain a strong focus on public interest research, examining topics of concern beyond university strategy. These topics include issues of inequality and social justice, culture and identity, the privatisation of public services, lobbying and spin, media and political power, ethnicity and migration, environment and sustainability, globalisation, and even the social and cultural aspects of technology. This department helps students to develop critical and creative ways of thinking about the world and its problems.
One of the strengths of social science at Strathclyde is that students are able to study a broad range of social science disciplines. However,  high-quality programmes that have been under-funded for years and are now being replaced by a narrow ‘social policy stream.’ Maintaining a diverse range of learning is being sacrificed to the whims of finance and strategy, which have been determined by the values and priorities of business.  Running universities as if they were businesses damages not only the experience of students and staff, but also the usefulness of a university in meeting the needs of the society it serves.

Ultimately, we need to consider who and what a university is actually for – is it a profit making enterprise, or a vital educational and intellectual resource for society?

Public meeting

Campaigners feel that the cuts are an ideological attack on the students and staff, and that McDonald has refused to engage in a meaningful capacity. Management have attempted to push through cuts when the majority of the student population are on holiday for the summer, highlighting the undemocratic procedures and lack of consultation. The occupation opposes all cuts and aims to highlight the undemocratic procedures being pushed through by McDonald.

  • No to course closures.
  • No to staff redundancies.
  • No to cuts.

There is a meeting to discuss the occupation tonight, with speakers from UCU, Unite, PCS, Save the Accord, Free Hetherington and students from courses affected.

27  June at 7:30pm

Level 5

Graham Hills Building

50 Richmond Street, 40 & 50 George Street,

Glasgow

Spread the word!

Why Greece Matters – Part Two

27 Jun

– by Andrew Brady

The country people are talking about across Europe is Greece – and not because summer holidays are beckoning.

It seems more likely than not that the Greek Parliament on 28 June will approve a new €120 billion bailout package. The UK directly – some will say quite rightly – is not part of this new package which will draw funds from the IMF and Eurozone countries.

A statement on Friday 24 June said that €28bn in spending cuts will be required and tax rises plus a €50bn privatisation programme as a ‘matter of urgency’. This is not up for discussion – it is a conditionality of receiving further monies.

We have had dozens of Greek citizens thanking us for the article posted last week but it is they who we must thank for resisting the proposed austerity measures. An analogy that could be given is that Greece has been the recipient of medicine (first round bailout) which has left the patient severely ill and now the doctor is returning to give the patient a second dosage but the patient is resisting.

The question everyone’s asking is whether or not default is the best course of action? What is the best course of action for Greece and the Eurozone? What will be the impact of a new round of austerity measures– further General Strikes or acceptance by Greek citizens of a further dose of massive cuts? Extraordinarily difficult questions to answer but what is clear is that the Greek citizens seem in no mood to back down. There will be a 48-hour General Strike next Tuesday and Wednesday.

So would default be so bad? The Guardian reported last week that European financial institutions are exposed to the tune of €92 billion. This led the newspaper in an editorial to call for an orderly default of Greece and for the recapitalisation of European banks with exposure to Greek debt to prepare for such an eventuality.

The train of thought has gained a lot of support in newspapers particularly in the UK. The moral thrust of this argument is that the Greek people have already been through enough pain, it can’t pay the debt back, its economy is broke and a further round is too much for society to take, so leave the Euro in an orderly fashion. The banks are being protected more than the people and contagion isn’t as big a risk as financiers are spinning.

However, what if the level of exposure isn’t truly known – what if the €92 billion isn’t a correct reflection of banks’ true balance sheets? A frightening piece in The Economist last week titled ‘Banks are safe, say banks’ discussed the infamous stress tests for banks which are premised on – yes – you’ve got it – self-reporting.

The same self-reporting that all the Irish banks passed before their collapse. Hence, they should be taken with a large dose of salt like any self-reporting. This is why the European Central Bank is frantically trying to collect all the data for the latest round of toughened stress tests which take account of the probability of default on balance sheets to shore up banks across Europe. Last year’s tests did not model for that problem.

The point of all this is that if Greece does default then what pressure will higher borrowing costs in Spain, Belgium and Italy apply on bank balance sheets in these countries – five out of the seven banks that failed the stress tests were Spanish. The infamous rating agencies are already downgrading banks in Italy on the basis of preparing for Greek default.

So will default – orderly or not – trigger a wider crisis in Europe? Is the Lehman analogy inappropriate because the scale of this crisis could be much bigger? This is why the concept of Eurozone bonds articulated by our good friend Yanis Varoufakis, Professor of Economics at the University of Athens, has a great degree of merit so some of the debt can be transferred on a lower interest rate payment – restructuring the debt and reducing the payments.

It is surely a better way and could certainly help redeem the EU in the eyes of Greeks and us all.

 

– Read this for a perspective on what’s happening on the ground.

Open Doors forums

20 Jun

Open Doors forums

Have you attended an Open Doors Forum? Let us know what you thought by completing this survey.

Since its launch in April, over 22,000 people have joined our  Uniteyou mobile companion service and have been giving us their views on a range of industrial, political and social issues from a Scottish-specific perspective against the backdrop of the cuts agenda.   As part of this new interaction, many people have told us they would like to attend a Unite meeting to discuss what’s happening in their workplaces and communities across Scotland.  So we have acted on this and confirmed ‘open door’ forums for:

  • Dundee –  Thursday 16th June, 6:30-8pm, 110 Blackness Road, Dundee, DD1 5PB
  • Aberdeen – Saturday 18th June, 10:30-12 noon, 42-44 King Street, Aberdeen, AB92TJ
  • Edinburgh –  Saturday 18th June, 10:30-12noon,   Sanctuary Augustine United Church, 41-43 George IV Bridge, Edinburgh, EH1 1EL
  • Glasgow –  Thursday 23rd June, 6:30-8pm & Saturday 25th June, 11am-12:30, John Smith House, 145 West Regent Street, Glasgow, G2 4RZ

These will be informal gatherings, open to members and non-union members alike and we have invited a range of local civic and social justice organisations to participate too.  We need to have a conversation with people across Scotland around work, politics and society and everything else in between.   So if you want to find our more about Unite, local-level campaigning against the cuts or are just curious, come along to one of our venues near you.  Let us know if you plan to do so by contacting us at:

Email: scotland@unitetheunion.org

Twitter: @unitescotland

And if you haven’t already done so;  join UniteYou to receive our free text service:   Text CUTS to 86888