It’s been another busy week for me in Neath and Westminster.
I attended a zoom meeting called by Ruth Brady, Regional Secretary and President of the Wales TUC, and Mike Payne, Senior Organiser, GMB Wales and South West, to discuss the deplorable “Fire and Rehire” policy being implemented by the CEO of Centrica, Christopher O’Shea. We heard from GMB representatives and from British Gas workers, who bravely and confidentially, told us their stories of how Mr O’Shea had systematically undermined workers’ rights for employees who had worked loyally and proudly for the company for many years before Mr O’Shea became CEO of British Gas’ parent company Centrica, and started on his crusade to terminate workers’ current contracts and rehire them on worst pay, terms, and conditions, by issuing S188 notices. GMB balloted its members on taking industrial action, after Mr O’Shea refused to renegotiate the inferior terms and conditions of the proposed new contracts. Workers are now in their ninth day of strike action, and are making a stand for all workers, because if Centrica and British Gas get away with this, other companies will be able to do the same. The First Minister Mark Drakeford has written to Mr O’Shea expressing his concerns. All MPs and MSs pledged their support for British Gas workers. I have been a member of GMB for many years.
As Chair of the All Party Group on Sepsis, I met with the officers and the UK Sepsis Trust to discuss means by which we can make the UK Government aware of the assertions of the UK Sepsis Trust that Covid survivors are at much greater risk of contracting Sepsis, of raising Sepsis awareness amongst MPs and their constituents, and of the benefits of the Welsh Government Long Covid App.
As a Labour and Co-operative MP, I met with the General Secretary Joe Fortune and officers of the Co-operative Party to discuss plans for the Welsh Co-operative Party virtual conference which will be held on Saturday 6th February from 9am to 12.45pm. The keynote speaker will be First Minister Mark Drakeford. I shall be chairing a session on increasing diversity and encouraging candidates to stand in elections – featuring local politicians and BAME representatives, plus Chantal Lee, the new Equalities Officer for the Co-operative Party. We shall also be launching our manifesto for the Welsh Parliamentary Elections “Owning the Future: A Co-operative Agenda for Wales 2021”, discussing votes at 16 and 17, and how to engage young new voters. The conference is open to Co-operative Party members and supporters across Wales. Register here.
I attended the Coalfields Communities All Party Parliamentary Group to listen to and question Steve Fothergill and Christina Beatty of Sheffield Hallam University about their report, commissioned by the Coalfields Regeneration Trust, and the Industrial Communities Alliance, entitled “The Impact of The Coronavirus Crisis on Older Industrial Britain”, published on 21st January 2021. The report is packed full of data, and concluded that a year of Covid-19 has wiped out a decade of progress in reducing unemployment in Britain’s Industrial heartlands and left the jobless rate higher than after the financial meltdown of the late 2000s. And without action by the UK Government to make good its “levelling up” agenda, large parts of the Midlands, the North, Wales and Scotland would continue to struggle when the economy eventually recovers from the pandemic.
South Wales MPs joined Jeremy Vaughan, Chief Constable of South Wales Police and Alun Michael, the Police and Crime Commissioner, for our regular update on the effect of Covid-19 on operational matters. Jeremy and Alun are committed to community and neighbourhood policing and both believe in education and support within communities, with enforcement as a last resort. Under Home Office rules, a prospective breach of Covid-19 regulations is categorised as Environmental Anti-Social Behaviour. We discussed the rates of breaches across South Wales before, during and after lockdowns. We discussed the “Live Fear Free” project initiated by South Wales Police, the PCC and Welsh Women’s Aid, where front line officers proactively sign post victims of domestic abuse to this scheme, so that they can receive the best dynamic after care at the time of an incident of domestic abuse. The “Ask for Ani” scheme was launched on 14th January; victims of domestic abuse who are under constant observation by their partner, can go into supermarkets and pharmacies and speak these words, as a code, which will trigger a police response to ensure that victims can access services from Welsh Women’s Aid and frontline services.
Every Friday morning, MPs and MSs across the Swansea Bay University Health Board region have a zoom call with the Chair, Executive Director, Executive Medical Director and Chief of Staff, of SBUHB, to update us on the operations of the health board. During the pandemic our discussions have been dominated by incidence rates, testing, tracing, vaccination, hospital admissions, long Covid, staff pressures and death rates. SBUHB circulate a newsletter every Tuesday, which I publish on my website, together with regular updates on coronavirus rates and vaccination information across the region. Behind every statistic is a person who has been affected by coronavirus and my thoughts are with the victims, their friends and their families. I must thank the wonderful NHS, health care staff and emergency services, who have laid their lives on the line to keep us safe.
Also this week Labour put forward a motion on protecting all existing employment rights and protections as mandated under EU law, to ensure that provisions such as the 48-hour working week, rest breaks at work, and the inclusion of overtime pay in calculations of holiday pay remained in UK law despite Brexit. We also put forward a motion on legislating against the appalling “fire and rehire” tactics, an example of which I set out above, that we have seen put to such cynical use during this pandemic. Unfortunately, although perhaps not surprising, this Tory Government would prefer clapping our key workers in front of the cameras rather than actually acting to protect them, and they voted down our motion.
On Wednesday we marked Holocaust Memorial Day, a day to remember the six million Jewish people murdered during the Holocaust, alongside the millions of other people killed under Nazi Persecution and in genocides that followed in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur. It is a time also to confirm our support for the persecuted and to stand up for tolerance and against racism in our society and across the world. When we say “never again” it must truly mean that never again will we stand by as people are chased from their homes, beaten, tortured, and murdered.
As always, if you have any questions or issues and want to get in touch about any matters that fall under my role as an MP, please do not hesitate to drop us an email on email@example.com or call us on 01639 630152. My staff are working from home to comply with the social distancing measures, but, as always, we remain there should you need to get in contact with us.
I hope you stay well, and remember – observe social distancing, wash your hands regularly and keep Wales safe.