Showing posts from January, 2017

I do not envy the choice Tata workers have to make

This column appeared in the Llanelli Herald on 27th January 2016 Workers in Trostre and Port Talbot have a big decision to make on whether to accept the deal they have been offered by Tata. Politicians have been put under pressure to keep their opinions to themselves, but I have not. My view is that the outcome of the vote will have an impact on the whole area. If workers vote to reject the deal the Heavy End at Port Talbot will close, hundreds of workers will lose their jobs and there will be a big ripple effect on the whole economy. That is not something I can stay silent about. I don’t blame the workers for being angry. There are steelworkers who have spent decades working seven shifts in a row; shift patterns that have ignored public holidays, just as they’ve ignored weekends and standard working weeks. I’ve been in touch with workers from Llanelli who have had to work nights and long days in highly stressful, intensely physical environments; all on the promise th

I don't want to see division

This column appeared in the Llanelli Herald on 20th January 2016 From September 1st children in Llangennech who do not want a Welsh medium education will have to go outside their village to get it. The move is justified by the Council because the last census showed a decline in the number of Welsh speakers in Carmarthenshire, and is part of the measures needed to achieve the Welsh Government’s target of doubling the number of Welsh speakers to 1 million by 2050. Whilst Carmarthenshire Councillors were voting to set aside the objections from 757 people in Llangennech I was in the Senedd scrutinizing the Minister for the Welsh Language, Alun Davies, on the way Councils are converting schools like Llanegennech from Dual-Stream schools, where English and Welsh are taught side by side, into Welsh medium schools. “We need to take great care in the way we deal with it” the Minister told me.  He and I share the ambition to ensure that all 16 year-olds are able to speak Welsh by t

Kidwelly leading way

Column published in the Llanelli Herald on February 13th 2016 The media has been full of the “crisis” in the NHS this week. The British Red Cross went as far as saying the health service in England was facing a "humanitarian crisis" this winter. Thankfully the NHS in Wales is being run differently from the health service across the border, but nobody is under any illusion about the pressures that it faces. We are demanding more and more from the NHS. I find it astonishing that the average age of a patient in Prince Philip Hospital is 83! It is a huge achievement of modern health care that people are living longer, but our later years are often spent in poor health and that is putting huge pressure on the health and social care services. Indeed, Doctors at PPH tells me that most of the elderly patients there often have multiple chronic conditions, and even after they've been treated for the condition they were admitted for can’t be sent home because

Sparking the flame of innovation

Published on IWA blog and in Western Mail on December 22nd What will 2017 bring? It’ll be the year we trigger Article 50, marking the beginning of our exit from the EU; and Donald Trump will enter the Oval Office as the United States’ 45th president. These are things we know. But 2017 will also bring changes that many of us can’t even imagine. And whilst the bounds of these technological advancements are unknown, their impact on our lives is not. Earlier this month, I raised concerns with Welsh Economy Minister Ken Skates that an estimated 700,000 jobs in Wales are at risk from being made defunct by automation. Human hands and - with the eruption of computers being able to learn for themselves – human brains, that are in danger of being replaced by machines and algorithms. This innovation is all part of what is commonly termed the ‘fourth industrial revolution’. Just as the first industrial revolution was marked by our ability to harness steam power; the second by our c

Deal or no Deal?

Column published in llanelli Herald on December 23rd Next month we’ll know if steelworkers have signed up to the deal agreed between their unions and the management of Tata. In exchange for a pledge to keep Port Talbot and Trostre going for at least 5 years the workers have been asked to agree to the closure of the British Steel Pension Scheme, and its replacement by a defined contribution scheme. The management say it is still a generous package, although less generous than the current one. Without the deal to cut costs Tata have made it clear they’ll walk away from the plants which mean the pension scheme will have to be taken over by the Government’s Pension Protection Fund - which will cut is value to 10%. This what’s known as a Hobson’s Choice - take it, or leave it. In this year of unpredictable results there are plenty of people within Tata who fear the workers will vote against the deal as a protest. But if they do the senior management of the Indian steel