Clean up the whole City
I am an employee at Goldman Sachs and saw all the protests by the ISS cleaners fighting for better pay ('Why we invaded world's #1 bank', 2 December).
They made quite an impact. But the major point was when they invaded the lobby of one of the offices.
Apart from the fact that this was very bad PR for Goldman Sachs (being in all the major newspapers), it also caused a fair amount of inconvenience (being trapped in the building wasn’t one though!). This made the event a lot bigger in people’s minds.
There is a feeling of seperation between the Goldman Sachs’ employees and the cleaners. This is an ingrained feeling of division, as the employees don’t see themselves as working class.
The cleaners are contracted. There seems to be little or no communication between the cleaners and the other staff. It is not so much a feeling of superiority, just that there’s no social connection.
The conversations that followed the protests highlighted the ignorance of certain staff members and the corporate indoctrination that gives them the feeling of somehow running the company, rather than being run by it.
Phrases such as “why don’t they just fire all the cleaners that are striking” and “they should go back to school and retrain” show how dangerous ignorant minds can be. Yet it only takes a few sentences to destroy their simplistic argument, typical of someone from a privileged background who has never done anything other than work in the City.
It came as no suprise that none of the other employees would join the cleaners in solidarity.
One of the major factors I got from those that supported the cleaners action, was how the T&G union put so much emphasis on “big bonuses for City workers”.
Contrary to what the newspapers say, the majority of City employees aren’t millionaires. It shouldn’t be a case of “they get huge bonuses, pay us more”. It should be “we get paid nothing, pay us more”.
Whether Goldman Sachs is making billions or losing money, it is no excuse for paying workers less than a living wage.
Goldman Sachs employee, London
The cleaners’ campaign has been great to see – with some of the lowest paid and most vulnerable workers in London fighting back.
But I am concerned at the T&G union’s strategy – to make a lot of noise but do little that will affect the companies that it is supposed to be targeting.
I hope that in this fight the T&G is willing to take strike action, as the cleaners at the Houses of Parliament did, in order to win.
The cleaners deserve to be taken seriously by both the bosses and the union.
Costanza Clemente, North London
A policy in shambles
Criminal justice policy under New Labour is utterly shameful (Criminal intent?, 2 December).
Referring to the “targeting of individuals who are deemed to be problematic”, Richard Garside, director of the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies, rightly says New Labour has given up on any major social transformations.
Its focus across a range of social policy is more punitive and controlling.
Overall, crime has fallen dramatically over the last decade. Yet, bizarrely, home secretary John Reid plans 8,000 extra prison places, at a cost of £800 million.
Denied funding by the treasury, our home secretary has embarked on a hare-brained scheme – “real estate investment trusts” – involving the dubious ethics of making profit from punishment.
And Reid has still not grasped the nettle – prison doesn’t work.
Our jails have a lamentable record on rehabilitation. Two-thirds of those imprisoned reoffend within two years, an abysmal failure by any standards.
Do we really want more of these failed institutions?
Since 1997, Labour have created no fewer than 3,000 new criminal offences, and there are 20,000 more people in prison.
The present jail population is a record 80,175.
And Britain retains the ignominious title of being the leading incarcerator in western Europe.
An obsession with the need to appear “tough” has gone too far. The abuse of prisoners’ human rights in England and Wales is symptomatic of a government devoid of compassion.
Integrity, decency and common humanity have become lost in the equation.
Labour’s penal policy is a shambles.
Pauline Campbell, Malpas, Cheshire
Mother of Sarah Elizabeth Campbell, 18, who died in the “care” of Styal prison, Cheshire in 2003
Only carbon targets can save the planet
Gordon Brown’s rather timid response to the challenge of climate change shows the weakness of green taxes as a means of decarbonising the economy.
The control of interest rates was taken out of the hands of politicians and given to the Bank of England. In the same way, the price to be paid for carbon emissions should be determined in a manner that is independent of any kind of political expediency.
The forthcoming Climate Change Bill should set legally binding annual targets for Britain’s carbon emissions (CO2) – with arrangements so that an undershoot in any one year can be set against credits gained in years when the annual target was exceeded.
Every year, each person should be given a ration of tradeable carbon credits. The total of such credits should be equal to the total CO2 emissions for that year.
These credits would be very much like the rationing “points” used in the Second World War, except that it would be legal to buy or sell them.
Further information may be found at www.mng.org.uk/green_house/dtccs.htm
With this combination of measures, the price of carbon emissions will be determined by the market, and politicians will be freed from pressures to do less than what is needed.
Dr Gerry Wolf, Anglesey
Can we live in an ethical way today?
My friends and I have been having some arguments about socialism, and I’d be very grateful if you could give us some pointers.
One of my friends believes that the current capitalist system is “biased and twisted” and should be reformed.
He also believes that taxes should be increased, especially for the rich.
He is against charity, claiming welfare for the less privileged is the government’s responsibility.
However my friend earns large sums of money working in New York for a huge US bank, and he does everything he (legally) can to avoid paying taxes.
He sees no contradiction between his employment and his stated socialist views, claiming that virtually every job he could do is part of the same system and therefore equally as bad.
I would be very interested to know what modern socialists would make of my friend.
More generally how do they live ethically in a predominantly capitalist society. What are their attitudes to employment, tax avoidance and charity?
Matthew Waller, London
Bus drivers and nights
Life working as a bus driver in London must be very hard.
But I notice that many drivers speaking to Socialist Worker dislike the fact that there are bus services running at night as this means working unsociable hours.
Would improving London’s bus services be achieved by ending night services? If we are to have an efficient 24-hour bus service in London then shift work may have to continue.
Dan Factor, East London
Shame on Farepak
I was an agent for collapsed hamper company Farepak (Socialist Worker, 9 December). I have lost about £11,000 of my customers and my own money.
I have had death threats from customers who think that I am to blame for this, and I have trouble sleeping at night. Can boss Sir Clive Thompson sleep at night? Shame on you all at Farepak.
Jackie Cooke, Leicester
Dish out some respect to us
I work as a dinner lady and have done so for four years. My sister-in-law told me about the dinner ladies’ campaign in Hackney, east London over pay (Hackney dinner ladies, 11 March). I told the girls at work about it.
We all work 37 hours a week and at the end of the month bring home £440 – which works out at £5,500 a year. We would really like to look into campaigning ourselves but don’t know where to start.
Debby Wood, Hertfordshire
Ann Clywd’s hypocrisy
There can be few more nauseating sights than that of Labour MP Ann Clwyd unveiling a statue to Labour founder Keir Hardie in South Wales recently. This was to commemorate the centenary of the founding of the Labour Party in 1906.
Clwyd laughingly poses as Blair’s “humanitarian envoy” in Iraq.
She should take a few minutes away from justifying the death of 655,000 plus Iraqis to read Hardie’s own words at the time of the Boer War in 1901.
He said, “Rulers know... It is not merely that war distracts attention from social reform, but it also destroys the desire for such by changing the current of men’s thoughts... The voice of reason is always drowned in the clamour of war.”
He added, “At the outbreak of the rebellion in our then American colonies there was a strong radical movement in and out of parliament. War killed it.”
Fortunately, in 2006 war has not killed the radical movement in Britain, but spurred it on. It will recognise the rank hypocrisy of Clwyd and the rest of New Labour for what it is.
Donny Gluckstein, Edinburgh
Don’t wait on the climate
Ray Wilkes is right (Letters, 2 December). We must join climate change campaign groups in our localities.
In our area the Green Party has left the field to concentrate on elections – though the best Green individuals have become active in CND. This is a step forward.
George Monbiot’s book Heat has to become a keystone. I’m sure socialists accept that we’ve got to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 90 percent before 2030.
We could set up a campaign group ourselves, rather than waiting to join one!
Rupert Mallin, Lowestoft
Defend the health service
Privatisation of key sections of the NHS is imminent in Lancashire and Cumbria.
Unless a strong challenge is launched to stop this NHS funding will be diverted to private companies. This will lead to the closure of surgical wards and job losses.
Pat Mullady, Preston