The Pied Piper of Austerity

Melton Mowbray pie-barons, the Samworth Brothers, are rich beyond most peoples dreams, with their fortune valued at just short of £0.5 billion. (November 2013, Leicester Mercury)

Normal social graces are not a concern for these Pie Brothers, who in their rush for easy money are reaping the reward of privatising schools in Leicester and beyond. This greed being intimately connected to their unswerving financial support for the Tories. According to the Daily Mirror, Mark Samworth alone has funneled £585,000 into the overflowing campaign coffers of his Tory chums since 2010.

Profits siphoned off for campaign donations are generated by systemic exploitation, as Samworth Brothers employ hundreds of Leicester workers in their factories on poverty-paying contracts. The Brothers then have the cheek to boast (on their web site) that their company provides “work experience and employment opportunities for local young, disadvantaged people.”

The Samworth Brothers’ darkening stain on local history was felt when the RF Brookes factory in South Wigston was shut in 2012 by 2 Sisters Food Group. The cited reason for the closure owed to the fact that the factories “main customer Marks and Spencer had decided to switch a key contract to a competitor, Samworth Brothers, who – it is believed – offered to supply pies for a penny cheaper.”

Such cut-throat competition is accompanied by a nationwide race to the bottom in terms of pay and conditions in the food manufacturing sector: a troubling tale ably recounted in the union booklet “The Cost of Living Crisis.

Just as the determined organising efforts of workers within the Baker’s Union brought an end to the use of zero-hour contracts at the Hovis factory in Wigan, this booklet provides inspiring ideas for how people can fight back collectively and win.

The union report is also realistic in its appraisal of the failure of the Labour Party to oppose austerity. Indeed, political working-class alternatives like TUSC are necessary precisely because just five Labour MP’s voted against the Government’s proposed program of cuts.

In January, Leicester locals Jon Ashworth and Liz Kendall decided to support the Government’s planned savaging of public services, while Keith Vaz and progressive Labour leader hopeful Jeremy Corbyn were absent from the actual vote.

But Vaz unlike Corbyn is not opposed to austerity. In just one recent example, Vaz declined to support Corbyn’s recent parliamentary motion (July 1) calling upon the Government to adopt the recommendations of the TUC and a joint union Cool It! campaign to “introduce into law” a maximum working temperature of 30 degrees Celsius (or 27 degrees Celsius for those doing strenuous work).*

Yet again Vaz has failed to show solidarity with workers, be those working at intolerable temperatures, or the thousands of garment workers in Leicester earning less that £3-an-hour.

the-pied-piper-of-criccieth

*Other recent parliamentary motions supported by Jeremy Corbyn but not by Keith Vaz include: the July 7 motion opposing covert state surveillance of trade unions and their members; the July 14 motion calling for fair pay for apprentices; the July 20 motion raising concerns about the Chief Inspector of Prisons annual report for 2014-15 (as also outlined in the Mercury); a July 20 motion opposing the Government’s plans to cut support for people placed in the work related activity group; and a final motion on July 20 condemning “the employment practices of the Department for Work and Pensions in imposing new working conditions without consultation with unions in an attempt to rush out the universal credit system”.

A slightly edited version of this letter was sent to the Leicester Mercury mailbox on 27th July.

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