Socialist Worker


Issue No. 2076

Post workers in Liverpool march during unofficial strikes earlier this year

Post workers in Liverpool march during unofficial strikes earlier this year

Postal workers speak out against the deal

I’m glad to read that there are at least some members of our CWU postal union executive who have some bottle (» ‘I voted against the deal, so should you', 27 October).

I’ve read and re-read the post offer agreed between the CWU executive and Royal Mail and I am struggling to see what differences there are with regard to flexibility between this offer and the previous one the CWU executive rejected.

It’s as if nothing has been taken off the table. I am now seriously losing confidence in our union general secretary and deputy general secretary.

Surely it has just got to be “No”. Please tell me I’m not on my own.

Matt Kelly, Bradford

Our office in Erith, Kent, was 100 percent solid throughout the strike and is 100 percent against this agreement.

All the fundamental issues we struck against have since been agreed with management by our union executive.

Many feel betrayed by our CWU union leaders and are willing to walk out officially or unofficially should management attempt to enforce this agreement.

I am in South East Amalgamated CWU branch. I fear they will toe the line and recommend a yes vote.

Our contacts within the Dartford postal districts report that the “No vote” is strong in their offices and think this will also be the case in all the major cities.

Paul, by email

CWU general secretary Billy Hayes says that our pay deal is worth 6.9 percent over 18 months.

You are right to point out that this figure includes 1.5 percent that will only be paid if we implement all of the bosses’ changes (Socialist Worker, 27 October).

But there is another error in Billy’s speeches. Our claim started in April 2007, and ends in April 2009 – a 24-month period.

On pay, the deal with Royal Mail misses out a whole six months of the year!

I just did a rough calculation based on my own wage slips – a 5.4 percent pay increase over six months works out at £419.

£419 x 130,000 employees = £54,568,800. That’s £54 million in lost back pay!

Our union leaders are not being honest with us, and we should throw out their shabby deal.

Postal worker, Chester

Drama of Italian left

On Saturday 20 October hundreds of thousands of people marched in the streets of Rome against casualisation, for pensions, peace, and in support of Cosa Rossa (the Red Thing) – the new coalition that includes Rifondazione Comunista, the Greens and Comunisti Italiani.

The demo was organised by a wide spectrum of the Italian left, in response of the formation of the “Partito Democratico” (Democratic Party) – a fusion of the Democratic Left and former Christian Democrats allied with the prime minister Romano Prodi.

There were big contingents from the radical left parties, school students protesting against cuts in school budgets and many trade unionists who defied instructions not to attend from the leadership of the CGL union federation.

Some of those on the demonstration support the government against the threat of the return of the right, while some shouted that there has been no difference between this government and that of Silvio Berlusconi.

Most came to give support to a left they judge to be in difficulties and hope that in doing so they can move the Prodi government to the left.

Sadly, however, none of the parties on the left of the governing coalition – including those in the Cosa Rossa – opposed Prodi over war, attacks on pensions or social cuts.

Here is the contradiction – and drama – of the left in Italy.

The people central to the biggest protests following the election of the centre left coalition – over a new tunnel through the Alps and over a huge new US base outside Verona – didn’t attend this demonstration.

They say that this government, and the parties who organised the demo, have betrayed them.

But for a majority of people, things are not so clear-cut.

The challenge for the alternative left is to unite with those on the 20 October demonstration who have not yet broken with this government to help build a new left.

Brune Seban, Rome, Italy

Our inhumane society pushes us to fly

We were talking about air travel at work and I pointed to the article by Jonathan Neale (» Will it take a ban on flying to stop climate change?, 20 October).

One of the main pressures to use flights is the robbing of our time by a system which leaves us very little time to enjoy leisure.

If work was organised so everyone who wanted it had adequate employment – instead of the current mess of overwork and unemployment – then we would be able to enjoy travelling.

Slower means of travel are only options if you have time.

We travel to seek some solace in experiences which – in any humane system – would be part of our everyday lives.

We should have time for adventure, sexuality and creative pursuits, an outlet for intelligent engagement with the world and the ability to make plans and put them into practice.

We should be able to get off the mind-numbing treadmill of alienation and tedium which passes for work and normality for most of us most of the time.

A socialist society would not require us to live in ugly cramped environments while the promise of a good environment and good food is packaged and sold back to us as a “holiday” – such things need to be part of all our lives, all the time.

People travel to “get away”. If we can transform how we live, the meeting of our human needs won’t have to be crammed into a few weeks each year.

Heather Kay, by email

Flood suffering goes on for many

Sadie Robinson’s article about the suffering of Hull flood victims was very interesting (» Suffering continues for Hull flood victims, 3 November).

In Liversedge, West Yorkshire, residents of a new housing development are considering taking legal action after their homes were damaged in this summer’s floods.

Some 21 properties were affected by water contaminated with sewage in June.

Owners claim the houses, built in 2005, were inadequately designed and have defective drainage.

The homes were designed to appeal to young single people purchasing their first home or growing families climbing the property ladder.

The houses were built smack in the middle of the River Spen flood plain.

Residents are seeking answers as to why their houses were built on a flood plain and why flood defences on this entirely new development were not adequate.

Most residents have been told they will not be able to return home until late autumn with the worst affected being told it could be more than a year before they can return.

John Appleyard, Liversedge, West Yorkshire

We need clear anti-racism

I was distressed to hear of the recent murder of Indian sailor Gregory Kiran Fernandes in Fawley, Hampshire. He was attacked by a gang of up to 20 teenagers.

The local community rightly undertook a candlelit vigil and walk in his memory.

I note that this assault took place during the October Black History Month.

A number of points need to be made.

First, not all young people are bad. Second, membership of a gang is not necessarily bad in itself.

Third, the violence of gangs and young people is for the most part towards other young people. Something is most clearly amiss.

Many of the problems we see lie with institutional racism – which is boosted by the Iraq war and fears that are stoked around immigration.

Cultural awareness is not enough. What is needed is clear anti-racism.

Patrick Cooper-Duffy, Southampton

Keep away from police

The Metropolitan Police (Met) sent out three press releases on the day they were found guilty of very serious health and safety failings over the shooting dead of young Brazilian Jean Charles de Menezes.

Two were from the home secretary and various top police saying that they still have confidence in the Met. I don’t agree with them – but there are no surprises to see them closing rank.

The third press release is just bizarre.

It is about an event with the Met and the Brazilian Association for Latin Americans living in London who want to report a crime or find out about a police career.

Is this some sick attempt at “community relations”? Do they not realise that Latin Americans, like many others, may have reason to keep a safe distance from the police?

Halima Ghani, East London

“Chavs” are not all bad

I see the “chav” debate started by Pat Stack (» Bob Crow, 'chavs' and the new media snobbery, 22 September) still rages.

David Webber (» Letters, 27 October) missed a very important point when it comes to the aspirational nature of “chavism”.

As with any subculture an element within “chavism” is, of course, reactionary.

The majority, however, are merely trying to separate themselves from the dominant cultural ideas that dominate the mass media.

It is the tabloid press with their reactionary attitude towards youth culture that is promoting “lumpen proletarianism”.

Craig High, by email

Is distress a crime?

Plenty of people will have been glad to hear the news that the dreadful Westboro Baptist Church has been ordered to pay nearly $11 million in damages by a US civil court.

This “church” is a bizarre cult that claims the deaths of soldiers in Iraq are a divine punishment for the US tolerating homosexuality.

It mounts protests at military funerals, which prompted the family of a dead soldier to sue them.

I have no real problem with this nasty little homophobic gang getting done over by the courts.

But there is an issue with this judgement, in that it makes “causing emotional distress” a legitimate reason for making a protest illegal.

This is dodgy ground – exactly the same arguments could be used to outlaw genuine anti-war protests or demonstrations for a whole number of progressive causes.

The Westboro Baptist Church should have been shut down for inciting hatred against sexual minorities, not for being emotionally offensive.

Sylvia Elgrib, Kent

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Article information

Tue 6 Nov 2007, 18:49 GMT
Issue No. 2076
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