If you have been impressed by headline news that the government is going to let parents with kids opt for 'family friendly' shifts at work, look again. This is a measure that is supposed to help working mothers the most.
Research backed by New Labour says they are worse off now than a decade ago. Working mothers spend on average an extra two and a half hours at work now. But under this new legislation they will have to approach their employers to ask for different shifts.
The employer is not under any obligation to agree to those changes. They can refuse merely on 'business grounds'. Stress This means many people, particularly those in small workplaces, are unlikely to ask at all.
Also, have you noticed the law will not even come into effect until April 2003, and it won't cover those with children over six years old? Childcare provision is terrible in this country. We are forced to spend the highest amount of money in Europe for the worst provision.
Many couples find they have to work different shifts in order to cover childcare themselves. When I was made redundant earlier this year I quickly discovered that I was going to find it easier to get a new job than make any changes to my childcare arrangements.
I was lucky to find a job with some flexibility so that I can juggle part of my work each week around my partner's shifts. But even then I have to get help from my mother some weeks just to manage. Many people do not have that flexibility.
This law will not help the stress parents go through trying to sort out work and their children. As usual, behind all the hype New Labour is not doing anything to improve ordinary people's lives.
JANE ELDERTON, South London
Multinational's dam is busted by campaigners
THE DECISION by multinational Balfour Beatty to withdraw from the Ilisu dam project in Turkey is a brilliant victory for campaigners. The dam would force 50,000 Kurds to leave their homes, and destroy one of the oldest villages in Kurdistan, Hasankeyf.
Balfour Beatty has come under a lot of pressure to withdraw from the Ilisu dam. These have included many protests, and high profile campaigning from activist and comedian Mark Thomas.
Last May 100 protesters attended the company's annual general meeting to highlight the opposition to the dam. People like myself, who own one 50p share in Balfour Beatty, went along to give them a hard time. We dominated the meeting with a barrage of questions.
The board defended their continued participation. Tony Blair was considered one of the big supporters of the dam, and the Export Credit Guarantee Department was going to underwrite the project with £300 million. Balfour Beatty's U-turn is a victory for human rights and a blow against Blair and his profit-driven friends.
PETE JACKSON, North London
Cheer Greeks bearing gifts
There are two different worlds. One is of warm solidarity given to 714 refugees by people on the Greek island of Zakynthos after the refugees were trapped in a boat in the middle of a thunderstorm.
The other is Greece's Social Democrat prime minister, Simitis, who is proud of his policy of closing borders to refugees. Zakynthos was a great victory for anti-war and anti-racist activists. They mobilised on the first night of the boat's arrival with the slogan 'Open borders to the refugees'.
The labour centre of Zakynthos organised a mass demonstration. The doctors at the hospital said the refugees were welcome for medical treatment, and insisted the asylum seekers be allowed to come ashore.
The unions said the refugees were all welcome to stay and find jobs. This is an island of 40,000 people with 8,000 Albanian immigrants. They forced the government to give permission for entrance to all refugees.
PETROS KONSTANTINOU, national coordinator of Campaign Genoa 2001 Globalise Resistance
Off on wrong foot?
I WAS terribly disappointed to read Paul Foot's article (Socialist Worker, 17 November.) A couple of months ago Paul gave an inspiring speech at my local Socialist Alliance branch.
He spoke of his and the SWP's commitment to building the Socialist Alliance as a broad and inclusive organisation that could bring together socialists of all traditions. There was none of that vision in his article.
As a fully paid up member of Paul's fictitious National Association of Non-Aligned Socialists, I have great respect for the work that SWP members have put into building the Socialist Alliance.
Paul should show the same respect to other socialists working alongside the SWP in the Socialist Alliance and the anti-war movement, rather than deriding them simply because they don't want to join his-or any other-sect.
SEAN THOMPSON, Camden Socialist Alliance
Afghan radio reports demo
THE PERSIAN section of the BBC's World Service took the recent anti-war demonstration in London seriously enough to send down a reporter. They only do this very rarely.
A report of the demo went into their main programme. This means that people in Afghanistan would have heard about the demo, as this is one of the three countries they broadcast to (the others are Iran and Tajikistan).
BBC World Service worker
I was on the anti-war demonstration. It was brilliant. I was shocked to hear on the news that the police had 'estimated' there were 'at least' 15,000 people.
It seems that the same people who help break strikes, let off racist murderers and attack anti-capitalist demonstrators also can't count. Or maybe they don't want to?
JIM WHITEMAN, Broxbourne
4 the market
In answer to the obvious connections between the economic abuse of Third World countries and the attacks on the World Trade Centre, Gordon Brown has announced a four-point plan for tackling global poverty. This plan includes:
- A $50 billion global poverty fund.
- Developing countries must adhere to codes and standards on fiscal and monetary policy, and improved transparency. Over time implementation of these codes and standards would be conditional for IMF and World Bank financial support.
- A new framework for encouraging private investment in developing countries.
- The US, Japan and Canada should offer free access to all imports from less developed countries apart from military products.
This is about opening up the Third World markets to be pillaged by multinationals.
But it's also about the WTO being able to force Britain to privatise the NHS, or give multinational health companies massive subsidies. I'm for globalisation-globalised resistance to this sick capitalist system that puts profit before people.
MARK SWINDELLS, Manchester
You seem to play down the influence of the media (Socialist Worker, 10 November). It is the most potent weapon members of the ruling class have got.
It brainwashes the uncritical public which the education system leaves politically ignorant. How can people know the truth if the media is so biased towards capitalism?
A CHATTIN, Bolton
David Blunkett's idea of incarceration of 'terrorists' without trial is deluded. Does he think we want to return to the 1970s, and the Diplock courts of Northern Ireland where we had trial by a politically appointed judge and no jury? Or perhaps he thinks he is Charles I and rules by divine right?
JAMIE RANKIN, Twickenham