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UK Growth A positive?

Hurricane Sandy Reaction

4 More YEARS OF OBAMA Issue 2 Nov/Dec 2012

The Month that was... Equal pay, a necessity.


igures released by the Chartered Management Institute claim that 57% of company executives are now female, leading undoubtedly to many thinking that gender based equality in the workplace is a problem solved. However these figures are not as straightforward as they appear. The same research by the CMI concludes that only 40% are departmental heads, with less than 1 in 4 holding the position of chief executive. Research produced by The Guardian condemns big business further, claiming that executive committees of the top 50 FTSE companies have a lowly 14% female representation. For the select few women in these top positions, it would be understandable to expect that salaries would directly mirror that of a male counterpart, however that is not the case. The CMI figures show that on average, male company executives earn £400,000 more in basic salary over the course of a career than females doing the same job, with larger bonuses to boot. It seems absurd that in November 2012 we are still debating how to tackle pay equality in the United Kingdom. Over forty years since the Equal Pay Act of 1970, a bill put in place to protect and support the victims of discriminatory pay, we find ourselves in a position where being born male still appears to give us the divine right to earn more money. Continued research into salaries will help to redress the balance and apply pressure to employers. But action from the government is a necessity, starting with the implementation of a more stringent procedure to check and sanction companies who breach the Equal Pay Act. Trying to pinpoint the reasons for the continued pay inequality brings up some

worrying trends. Among the most common is a belief that all female workers will want maternity leave, and will ultimately cost businesses thousands in maternity pay. This coupled with the outdated view that women want to, and should, stay at home and raise the child once born creates a stigma unfairly attached to all prospective female employees. The announcement from Nick Clegg re maternity leave changes is undoubtedly a positive step. From 2015 parents will decide how to divide up the 12 month parental leave allocation, but to change the views of society there has to be enforced regulations. Simply allowing for men to take more time off will not necessarily result in paternity allowances being used. In Norway, such a system has been in place for the past 35 years and still only around 17% of men take more than their 10 week ‘use or lose’ allowance. However over 90% of men do use their 10 week ‘use or lose’ allowance. To enforce real change, both parents should receive 4 months paid leave each, with the final set of 4 months to be divided between them as they see fit. The 4 months allocated to each parent should not be transferrable, and if they decide not to take that time off, it is lost. Our economy loses out year after year due to talented and innovative women being overlooked for top jobs. By strictly enforcing the Equal Pay Act, and enacting equal maternity and paternity paid leave, we can make a huge difference in a relatively short space of time.

Sam Harris –


UK - Back in the (Growth) Habit


once had a job in a phone shop, and on days when I didn’t sell much the excuses I’d come up with ranged from the fantastical to the mundane - bad weather was a favourite, bank holidays emptying Sheffield, UFOs - anything which might conceivably stop people buying things - when more often than not I was hiding in a corner with a hangover. This seems an excellent metaphor for the Government’s arguments about the UK economy and its lack of growth. The Jubilee kept people from the shops, the weather hasn’t been very good, an extra holiday here and there... but my old manager would see straight through it, like he did my hangovers. The Jubilee may have kept people from the shops for an afternoon, but all the extra money spent on bunting and plonk in the run up surely made up for this. The excuses are weak, the UK has an economic hangover and Osbournomics aren’t making for particularly good Alka-Seltzer.

Of course, the economy grew 1% in Q3. However the UK is still projected to finish the year with an overall contraction or stagnation in GDP - lest we forget, Q1 and Q2 saw a cumulative decline of around 1%. However I submit that our economics is wedded to a false orthodoxy - that growth is a good or even desirable end is little questioned outside a few specialised think tanks (Google NEF). Socrates argued that the unexamined life is not worth living, fortunately an increasing body of work is examining this overarching ideal of modernity. We don’t expect anything to grow forever, goes the argument, except GDP. It represents total output from a range of sectors (including prisons in the USA) - a number affected by so many factors it is practically difficult to judge and requires supplementation with something like the Kingdom of Bhutan’s ‘Gross National Happiness’ to truly measure progress. More on that next time. Tom Brookes

4 More Years Of Obama Signed, Sealed, Delivered...


ith an estimated $2bn combined election campaign and a race billed as the closest for decades, President Obama emerged victorious and sealed another four years in the White House. Although his victory didn’t initially appear as big or as flamboyant as many would have liked, and the campaign didn’t come close to the spectacle that inspired a new generation of voters like his 2008 election campaign, this presidential win is as important as the last one. In fact, i these difficult times it is arguably a greater political achievement. President Obama’s win is good for America and indeed the rest of the world.

housing market has started to pick up, unemployment is decreasing and the economy is starting to rebuild itself.

After inheriting a deteriorating nation from the Republicans in 2008, many would have thought the task of rebuilding the United States was impossible. However if we look at the United States now compared to four years ago it can be safely said that Barack Obama has been the best thing to happen to America. The nation is in much better shape than it was 4 years ago and looks ready to tackle the challenges ahead.

In the end, Obama beat the odds and unlike his European counterparts; Gordon Brown, Nicolas Sarkozy and Silvio Berlusconi – who all paid the price, became the first western incumbent to retain office whilst in the midst of the global financial crisis that still threatens. With the sweet words of Stevie Wonder still ringing in his ear, President Obama looked fearless and in front of his loyal Chicago crowd, he remained hopeful that with another four years he can get his beloved nation back on the road to prosperity and global dominance.

During the four preceding years, President Obama has had to deal with a declining economy due to the burst of the great American housing bubble, increasing unemployment, the automotive industry crisis and the global recession. The automotive industry crisis had a detrimental effect on the US economy and a catastrophic effect on local economies, such as Detroit, due to significant job losses. However to the delight of the whole nation, the economy is now looking increasingly encouraging. The automotive industry is beginning a new chapter with the help of a stimulus package designed to encourage growth, increase production and give consumers a better deal. The

In terms of foreign affairs under the Obama administration, more has been done towards the fight against terrorism. The assassination of Osama Bin Laden highlighted the determination President Obama had to weakening terrorist organisations and protecting the American people. His aim to withdraw troops from Afghanistan within the next two years shows how much he is ready to move on and bring prosperity not only to Americans but also to other parts of the world.

Mitesh Mistry

7 Things they didn’t tell us about Obama and his foreign policy;


t is widely acknowledges that foreign policy comes low down on the US electorates list of interests, but would a little more information have influence the election – especially in the key swing states? 1) Since Barack Obama took office in January 2009, there have been over 250 drone strikes in Pakistan alone, 4 times more than under George W. Bush with further strikes in Afghanistan, Yemen and Somalia. 2) Every Tuesday President Obama chairs a meeting to compile ‘kill lists’ of terror suspects throughout the world, including US citizens. The targets include people as young as 17, and collateral damage is not an issue. The Obama administration doctor the figures of civilians killed in the drone missile attacks by defining any male of military age within the strike zone at the time of the attack as a militant. 3) The ordered killing of Osama bin Laden featured throughout Obama’s campaign. However the illegal nature of the mission is not mentioned. To enter Pakistani air space without permission is a failure to acknowledge the sovereign state of Pakistan, to then land and kill an unarmed suspect is in violation of international law, and is a summary execution. 4) For his 2012 campaign, Obama stated that he has “refocused the United States’ efforts on defeating al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan”. By which he appears to mean “the US troops are safe, but the Pakistani, Yemeni, Somali and Afghan citizens are forced to live in fear of missile drone strikes.” 5) President Obama was praised when he announced in a speech in Cairo, 2009 “America will not turn our backs on the legitimate Palestinian aspiration for dignity, opportunity, and a state of their own”. Three years on, and Obama has failed to make real progress. Tensions between Israel and Palestine have once

again boiled over and peace talks seem a temporary fix. 6) Obama’s stance on Palestine was tested in September 2011 when Mahmoud Abbas announced Palestine’s intention to become a full member of the United Nations. They required 9 positive votes out of the 15 members of the UN security council. They would be forgiven for feeling confident, in a speech in May 2011 Obama said, “the Palestinian people must have the right to govern themselves and reach their full potential, in a sovereign and contiguous state”. However the application was blown apart when President Obama threatened to use the US power of veto. The US were then 1 of only 9 nations to vote against Palestine gaining non-member observer status in November 2012. 7) The continued human rights abuses and disregard for international law make Barack Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize in 2009 fraudulent. The Nobel committee said he won the award for “his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples”, a statement that is incomprehensible given the actions carried out by the Obama administration since. The committee added, “we would like to support what he [Obama] is trying to achieve”. The unlawful killing of civilians in the middle-east probably wasn’t what the committee had in mind. Despite all of the above, Barack Obama remained the best candidate in the race for the White House. As Cornel West so brilliantly said, “Mitt Romney is a catastrophic response to a catastrophe, whereas Obama is a disastrous response to a catastrophe. Is disaster better than catastrophe? Yes it is. I wish we had a third candidate who could actually do something, but we don’t at the moment”.

Hurricane Sandy Reaction O

n the 29th of October 2012 The Empire State was battered by extremely high winds, torrential rain and rising sea swells as Hurricane Sandy hit the Eastern seaboard of the US. The storm destroyed all in its wake leaving one of the worlds most famous cities looking like a scene from a disaster movie.

Queens was one of the worst hit areas. Waves tore through streets, leaving flood water more than five feet deep, before ruptured gas lines ignited and blazed through over 100 homes leaving much of the area devastated. In Staten Island, New York emerged the heartbreaking story of a young mother who lost her two children. Glenda Moore was left distraught as she lost her grip on Connor (4) and Brandon (2), before they were swept away by the rising flood waters. After four days of searching, the bodies of the two boys were discovered a mile from where they were last seen. Ms Moore’s sister told the New York Daily News, “It went over their heads … She had them in her arms, and a wave came and swept them out of her arms.” In total, Sandy is believed to have taken over one hundred American lives, in addition to more than seventy in the Caribbean. The Superstorm crashed through Haiti and Cuba leaving a trail of death and destruction prior to its arrival in the east of the US. The clean-up process is now underway despite being hampered by further poor weather. A second storm brought blizzard like conditions, and forced clean up efforts to temporarily cease just one week after Sandy. For millions of people across the US, Haiti and Cuba, the road to recovery has only just begun. Tom Connell


urricane Sandy has had a devastating impact on much of the East Coast of America and has shown us how fragile major cities are to freak weather conditions and how hard it is for these cities to keep their citizens safe and to maintain a level of normality.

New York and its surrounding areas have been the most heavily publicized since the storm hit. So far 22 of the 133 people killed have died in the New York area and it will be weeks before the city is operating again as normal. As well as having a huge impact on the people of America, Hurricane Sandy also had an impact on the Presidential Race, which took place on the 6th of November. One of the obvious issues that arose was whether voters were going to be able to make it to the polls. It is believed that Conservatives usually fair better in elections that are effected by heavy rain, so it became incredibly important that voting was made easier. In New York, displaced voters were allowed to use a provisional ballot. Meanwhile, in New Jersey, voters were allowed to vote by email or fax, as long as they handed in a paper ballot at a later date. In terms of the two presidential candidates it appeared that Barack Obama came out of the situation the better. An NBC-WSJ poll found that 67% of voters believed that Obama had conducted himself positively. As well as this it was found that 23% of people saw Hurricane Sandy as a major factor in their vote. One of the reasons that Obama came out of the situation well is that he was able to show that he was getting things done for the affected areas and offering support. This is something that was incredibly hard for Romney, as the challenger, because he had little or no power with which to help people or offer support. The storm meant that Romney had to cancel fundraisers and appearances which cost him a lot of the momentum that he had built up. It is incredibly difficult to work out how much of an impact Hurricane Sandy had on the overall result of the Election and maybe even a little tasteless to look at the sad events in a purely political way. What is important is that the people that have been affected are able to get back to normality as quickly as possible.

Oliver Beatson

Around the World

in 5 Minutes

As the Dust of Revolution Settles, More Gets Kicked Up


he Arab Spring, an ambiguous term attributable to western media, politicos and activists - presumably those revolutionaries to whom the term applies, being from the Arabic world; simply called it ‘spring’. It is a misleading term at best, as it suggests that the revolutionary activity in Tunisia (genesis), Libya, Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain, Syria, Algeria, Morocco, Kuwait and Sudan was a resounding success bringing freedom and liberty to a benighted corner of the world. Unfortunately the toppling of, for instance, Muammar Gaddafi in Libya has hardly brought peace to the country - infighting continues as a band of loyalists dedicated to the fallen dictator’s cause continue their counterrevolutionary aggression. Further, there is political instability as the question of leadership is put to a populace still endeavouring to reestablish fuel and food supplies; and the continued possibility of religious autocracies replacing old regimes - a phenomenon hardly unique to Libya, given the activities of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. Their platform is based in Sharia law - a system which, it seems fair to say, isn’t held as a paragon of civil liberties. In many of the affected nations mass protests and rebellions had little impact on the strongmen and military juntas in power - witness Sudan, where militant slaughter of civilians continues unbated; and Syria where the death toll in the ongoing civil war recently topped 30,000 and a humanitarian refugee crisis is brewing. These power vacuums in the nations discussed, continuing violence stoked by old grievances and the struggle to keep terrorist groups at arms length will keep the Arabic region at the forefront of global attention for some time.

Meanwhile Europe is consumed by a ‘European Spring’ as 48-hour strikes roll across the continental mainland centred in Spain - the birthplace of the 15M and Occupy movements, where 80% of the workforce went on strike (www. Greece and Portugal also saw significant action. These strikes have descended into street battles on the Iberian peninsula, with protesters encircling the Portuguese Parliament building for a second time; demanding respite from their poverty by governments branded ‘thieves’ and ‘cowards’ by a public who insist they ‘will not pay for your crisis’. While the UK sells weapons to the Saudis and their neighbours to help the dust of the Arab Spring settle, it seems more is indeed being kicked up as Europeans demand changes to their power structures too. Tom Brookes


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In Focus: Ed Miliband

Living Wage


urge businesses to examine whether they can afford to pay the living wage, and if they can to move to do so.

And as the Labour Party continues with its policy review, we need to see what the next Labour government can do to help as well.

- Excerpt from Ed Miliband’s speech on the Living Wage, November 2012 -

It’s not about making spending commitments. It’s about learning from our experience in local government. It’s about listening to the best businesses in the country. So these are some of the proposals we are looking at: First, we should recognize that if firms pay the living wage, it has a saving for government. In my leadership campaign, I worked with the Institute of Fiscal Studies. Their evidence showed that for every £1 spent in the private sector on getting workers up to the living wage, around 50 pence of that would come back to government in savings on tax credits and benefits and in higher tax revenue. We are looking at whether it is possible to encourage more firms to pay the living wage by sharing some of those savings that come back to government. There are lots of ways it could be done. But it should be locally led. Focused on what you might call Living Wage Zones. For example, local councils could come together with groups of firms that want to move from the minimum wage to the living wage. And central government could offer up some of the savings from the taxpayer to be used as a financial incentive to make it happen. That incentive could take many forms.

But it is a One Nation solution with local people, councils and business coming together. Secondly, we should seek to learn from the local government experience with procurement to see whether central government can use its power to insist that large firms that get major government contracts commit to being living wage employers. We know how some councils have done this for contracted out services. Here in Islington, the company that delivered ground maintenance moved

to pay the living wage, without extra cost to the local taxpayer or any job losses. We will look at whether we can apply this lesson to central government procurement. Thirdly, we will examine the case for greater transparency: large firms publishing the number of employees paid less than the living wage, as proposed by the Resolution Foundation. This is not because we think every employer can pay the living wage but it will encourage, sector by sector, all to aspire to the ambitions of the best. So these are some of the ideas we are examining.

Photo courtesy Of the Labour Party.

I promise today that at the next election, we will present a manifesto that explains how we can help to make the living wage a part of our strategy to make Britain’s economy work for working people again. Two and half years ago, David Cameron came into office promising to bring change to Britain. Promising to care for the low paid. He said there would be at least a £250 pay increase for the 1.7 million lowest paid workers in their first two years.

But it is a promise he has failed to keep. And it’s not an accident. It’s because the change we need goes far deeper than David Cameron and his Conservative Party is capable ever of admitting. It is good that Boris Johnson is supporting the London living wage today, building on the work of Ken Livingstone. But he is the only Conservative local authority leader to run an authority paying the living wage. It is striking that while 19 Labour councils are already living wage employers, not a single Conservative council is yet accredited. The problem is this Government is stuck in the old mindset: saying nothing can be done and making it worse with tax cuts for millionaires and tax rises for everyone else. It is only a Labour government that will address the living standards crisis faced by so many. We need to build an economy where everyone has a stake. Not where millions of people feel they never have a chance for a decent life however hard they work. An economy where prosperity is fairly shared. Not where the rewards for success are passed to some who play their part and not to others. And an economy where we all come together as a country to overcome the challenges we face. We need an economy that would help us to rebuild Britain as One Nation. Not where we live apart, in two nations. Building that economy won’t be easy. It will require us all to play our part. Shareholders and workers. Public sector and private sector. Business, trade unions and government. The campaign for a living wage is a central part of it.

Steel View: November/December 2012  

Steel View Nov/Dec 2012: Obama, the election, Hurricane Sandy, UK growth and more in this issue of Steel View.