Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/793/17932
Them & Us
Families hit by electricity blackouts over the festive period had injury heaped upon misery when callers to SP Energy Networks were left on hold for over 20 minutes. From a mobile phone the charge for such is around £9. Other companies do offer a freephone service but not from a mobile phone, often the only phone working during a flood/power cut.
150,000 homes had their power supplies cut due to flooding and gales and hundreds of residents endured up to five days without electricity over Christmas. Meanwhile business tycoon Li Ka-shing's UK Power Networks Holdings Limited, a subsidiary of his business empire, had racked up close to £1 billion in profit (in 2012). But as UKPN profits went stratospheric, via offshore tax havens, the workforce was cut by 300, potentially causing reconnection delays.
UKPN, which was bought from EDF in 2010, only paid corporation tax in 2012 at a 10.2% rate, less than half the 26% rate for that year.
Flood defence cuts
Government environment minister Owen Paterson (who says the country could benefit from climate change), has threatened to 'get tough' with electricity distribution companies over delays in reconnecting customers' power supply.
Such media attention grabbing may have something to do with the fact that 1,700 jobs will be axed from his Environment Agency, including an unspecified number from flood protection, as part of the government's austerity cuts. This is despite the increasing frequency of extreme weather events due to global warming.
Rich get richer
Hardly a day passes without more evidence of a widening wealth gap. The latest survey from the Bloomberg Billionaires Index shows the richest 300 people on the planet got even richer in 2013, adding $524 billion to their collective net worth. The aggregate net worth of the world's top billionaires now stands at an astronomical $3.7 trillion.
The GMB union estimates that the real value of national average earnings has slumped by 14% since the start of the recession in 2008. Surprisingly, a speech by the head of the bosses' organisation, the CBI, urged its members to pay their workers more!
John Cridland, director general of the CBI whose FTSE 100 members are paid 136 times the national average wage - around £2.1 million in 2012 - complained that "too many people are still collecting only the minimum wage".
Perhaps the underlying concern of the ruling class over declining living standards is the fear of a social explosion.
Unfortunately, Mr Cridland didn't embrace any fundamental redistribution of wealth programme but instead piously talked about companies giving workers a 'helping hand during the recovery'.
What we saw
"This year's five biggest political heroes" - including Kshama Sawant
From 'Salon' website
"The avowed socialist's surprise election to Seattle's City Council cheered leftists throughout the country. It also seemed to prove that in the wake of the financial crisis and the meagre recovery, many Americans were willing to listen to voices once barred from the political mainstream. Thus far, Sawant hasn't disappointed and has advocated tirelessly for a $15 minimum wage and for worker democracy at the city's Boeing plants."
In The Socialist 8 January 2014:
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