After Glasgow daycare strike, anger and campaigning continue
After eight weeks of strike action daycare workers in Glasgow have now returned to work (see » Strike ends with shoddy deal, 15 December). We are looking to the future, and finding ways to help the service users and their carers mobilise to fight the council’s proposed cuts to the service.
The result of the strike is still unclear. Our Unison union leadership insist that we won, although I’m not convinced.
The result seems to suit the council, and those workers who want to leave the service for them to dismantle.
This is a great pity after the support shown to us by the carers, our colleagues and of course the socialist activists who were with us to the bitter end.
Josie Hughes, Daycare worker, Glasgow
My sister Cheryl attends the Accord day centre in Glasgow, and it is a very important part of her life.
Our family supported the workers during the strike because without them there would be no centres. These workers have built a rapport with my sister. We trust them, we know she is in very safe hands with them, and they are trained to deal with her needs.
We feel like our fight is just beginning. The council still want to close most of the centres. They want to build the village for the 2014 Commonwealth games on top of our centre. Instead of 12 centres, they want five “hubs” – which should just be called departure lounges.
They say they want “care in the community” for people like my sister, but this will just mean leaving her to wander the streets or spend the day hanging about in the shopping centre.
For my sister, losing the centre means losing her independence, her friends, and her own community and social life.
The council say they are consulting carers and service users on these plans, but they are not.
My sister is the only service user we know of who received the consultation document from the council. They sent her a very complicated 65-page document and asked her to respond to it in a week!
We went to a meeting with the director of social work and what we learnt is that no matter what the carers or service users want, their plans are going ahead regardless. How is that a consultation?
The only people who are capable and knowledgeable enough to decide what service users need are the workers in the centres who see them every day and who have known them for years. Those workers have not been consulted at all.
If this council thinks that the carers and service users are beaten and are going away quietly, they are very much mistaken.
We are getting more organised each day and are becoming a stronger force. Soon we will not be a squeak but a mighty roar. The council has no respect. Thousands of people in Glasgow need this service, and we won’t let them take it away from us.
Tricia MacArthur, Glasgow
Art with a new power
The award of the Turner Prize to Mark Wallinger is testimony to the strength of opposition to the Iraq and Afghan wars throughout British society and to the success of the anti-war movement in winning the battle for public opinion (see » Turner prize for Wallinger caps a year of anti-war art, December 15).
However it also has artistic significance because of the original way in which Wallinger’s State Britain dealt with the relationship between art and propaganda.
Critics frequently warn of the danger of art degenerating into “mere” propaganda, but Wallinger reversed and transformed this argument by making an actual piece of propaganda into a work of art in a way that had not been done before.
Reproducing something and changing its context alters its meaning – not completely but partially.
Reproducing Brian Haw’s protest and placing it in the centre of the Tate Britain gallery gave it a new and different emotional, political and artistic power.
The prize was well deserved.
John Molyneux, Portsmouth
Prisons don’t work
Building more prisons or keeping people locked up for inordinate periods of time without charge is not the way forward for a civilised democracy and never has been.
I feel ashamed that we have a Labour government pursuing these policies.
As a former police officer, with 30 years service here and abroad, there is nothing that has shown me that imprisonment has done anything of use – other than keeping a few very dangerous criminals away from society.
The government should be concentrating on keeping people out of prison.
The Labour government and the home secretary should know better.
Bob Miller, Chelmsford, Essex
We must build unity to defend refugees
If the 14 year old Afghan refugee you met in Calais (» Refugees left to rot in Calais, 15 December) succeeds in joining his cousin in Manchester, he will be confronted with further human rights violations in this “green and pleasant land”.
The litany of atrocities being perpetrated against refugees by the British state is beyond belief – and yet it must be believed in order to work out how to end it.
Unable to leave Britain – with nowhere to go, no shelter, no benefits, no right to study beyond the age of 18, and no right to work legally, rejected refugees are labouring as slaves to put food in their bellies – from building sites to brothels.
Already cast out from any form of “civil” society, the government is currently working out how to deny refugees any form of access to healthcare whatsoever.
A meeting in parliament on 11 December in opposition to this proposed health care ban was full to overflowing.
From Manchester, our solidarity message included the striking healthcare workers here who are fighting to protect services for everyone.
That offers a glimpse of the way forward.
We need unity between “british citizens” and refugees through the trades union movement and from below.
Dr Rhetta Moran, Manchester
Boxing brutalises and diverts us all
Thousands turned out for the recent championship fight between Ricky Hatton and Floyd Mayweather.
They saw one working class boxer battered by another working class boxer.
The fighters received huge fees and the corporate gangsters raked in a huge revenue.
The spectacle of human beings inflicting such cruel punishment on each other is abhorrent – yet apparently acceptable to large audiences including many working class people.
Sport has provided a way out of poverty for a very small minority and boxing is seen as a good way to get young people off the street.
We know how capitalism subverts everything to accrue a profit, but how do we communicate this to a wider receptive public?
I understand how people attach themselves to individuals or organisations as means of self expression, but as a Mancunian I found the almost hysterical support for the very likeable Ricky Hatton depressing.
Such enthusiasm for the individual is very easily turned into a national flag waving chauvanism.
Graham Anthony Richards, Manchester
Still no safety for women
It is one year since five women working as prostitutes in Ipswich were brutally and tragically murdered.
At the time there was much rhetoric from policy makers about how this should never happen again and how women’s safety must be improved.
Yet a year on women are still being imprisoned for breaking Asbos related to prostitution.
The government has taken no steps to alleviate the poverty that drives many women to prostitution.
Now there is legislation going through parliament which, under the guise of “rehabilitation”, will impose a demeaning and demanding burden on women to attend meetings with a supervisor approved by the court. Failure to attend can result in more prison sentences.
A progressive policy would prioritise the safety of women and start by decriminalising prostitution and funding services that women want to access.
Sylvia Elgrib, Sidcup, Kent
Bought off by cheap credit?
Alex Callinicos describes the economic background to the current credit crisis (» What’s behind the credit crisis?, 15 December).
We should also consider its political impact on the organised working class.
Since former Tory prime minister Margaret Thatcher made personal credit much easier to come by 30 years ago, most workers have got used to the idea that holidays, furniture, homes and cars, as well as many lesser costs, can be met by going to a hole in the wall or loan shark rather than a union branch meeting.
Credit has become the cancer at the very core of union existence, atomising collective action. Thatcher’s anti-union laws have been an additional strait jacket.
Of course there is a final limit beyond which which credit will not be granted – we seem to be reaching that point.
We’ll see early next year whether my own union, the teachers’ NUT union, can shake off these shackles when we ballot for strike action against Gordon Brown’s 2 percent pay limit.
Nick Grant, West London
Bus workers get organised
You are right that there is a growing mood for action among bus workers (» Gear up for struggle in 2008, 15 December).
At my garage some of us are trying to unionise the place.
People feel they have no security in their job, or in the hours that they are given to work.
So they have no peace of mind and suffer increasing stress at work. But the good thing is that people are starting to say, let’s do something about it.
Bus driver, Bristol
Will biofuel market crash?
Food prices are rising at an alarming rate.
The United Nations’ food and agricultural organisation warned last month that many countries in the Global South face increases in malnutrition as a result.
One of the reasons for the price rises is the increased use of land for biofuels. There has been a rush to invest in this lucrative market.
Surely this will crash as some point as the market is flooded with biofuel products?
What will happen then? Will food prices fall again or will it all just end in more chaos and attacks on the poor?
Ellen Bookhouse, Milton Keynes
Chavez should keep standing
I agree that there are problems with some of the recently proposed reforms by Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez (» Is it all over for Hugo Chavez?, 8 December).
But what is wrong with him being able to stand indefinitely for election?
It is not a proposal for dicatorship but for ensuring there is a chance to vote for Chavez and his radical policies.
Sabiha Ghani, Manchester