Socialist Worker


Issue No. 2120

A staff member leaving the London office of Lehman Brothers after it was declared bankrupt. Gordon Brown was full of praise for the investment banking firm when he opened the office in 2004

A staff member leaving the London office of Lehman Brothers after it was declared bankrupt. Gordon Brown was full of praise for the investment banking firm when he opened the office in 2004 (Pic: » The human cost of the boom, 22 September 2007) has emphasised for me how difficult it is to get the government and companies to take responsibility for deaths on construction sites.

My brother Reece was killed on a site last year.

At only 20 years of age, Reece’s life was cut short because of all the issues of health and safety you discuss.

The responsibility for his death is just being hung around the neck of his colleague who was operating the machinery that day – not the government and the company my brother was working for.

I think its admirable and right that people are speaking up about this and making a noise instead of sitting back and letting further families be affected.

Natasha French, Plymouth

Organising in the ‘third sector’

Your article on the “third sector” and the privatisation of public services was extremely timely (» Is the voluntary sector an ‘acceptable’ face of privatisation?, 13 September).

The recent dispute at the Shelter housing charity is far from over. There are likely to be more attacks as management attempts to make Shelter more competitive when bidding for lucrative government contracts.

Similar attacks have been launched on workers at the Refugee Legal Centre.

Changes in the way free legal advice is paid for by the legal services commission has led to some law centres permanently closing their doors, while others rely on charitable trusts.

Voluntary sector agencies are being forced to compete with private sector law firms and other private companies.

In Hull the private firm A4e, along with a firm of solicitors, won a tender to provide legal advice that has resulted in the closure of almost all the other advice provision in the town.

A4e recently walked away from a contract providing education and training for offenders in prisons in Kent, claiming huge losses.

This shows that profit is the real motive for taking these contracts.

However, workers in the voluntary sector are not simply accepting this fate. As those at Shelter and the Refugee Legal Centre have shown, the only option is to fight to defend the jobs for workers and the services for their service users.

The Unite union has issued a briefing paper and is holding a voluntary sector conference in November about the legal services commission’s plans for tendering out of contracts.

The dispute at Shelter spawned the launch of a Unite shop stewards’ and activists’ combine. There have been two well attended meetings in London and a third planned for this week.

All London-based Unite activists working in the voluntary sector are invited to get involved.

Julian Vaughan, Chair of Unite North London ACTS 1/785 (personal capacity)

Raise solidarity with inspiring bus strikers

The recent strikes by bus workers in London were an inspiration to everyone fighting over pay (»  London bus strikes’ carnival atmosphere, 20 September).

I raised the issue of the bus workers’ strikes in my local government Unison branch and we agreed to donate £200.

In addition I have been collecting among individual union members – with £60 collected so far.

Everyone feels that we are all fighting for the same thing and that solidarity can help to strengthen this very important struggle.

Ade Walter, South East London

As a driver at a small unionised bus company in Sussex, I was delighted to see the Metrobus and First workers out on strike for better pay and decent conditions.

I did a small collection for the strikers among my workmates and even a couple of passengers offered donations.

On the strike day I waited until the end of my shift and cycled some distance to the Metrobus picket line in Crawley to hand over my donation.

One of the strikers gave a little speech to let people know the support they were getting and to thank me for the collection – it was a really moving moment.

It’s good to know that solidarity is still going strong.

Bus driver, Sussex

Tories are still lapdogs of sexism

The Tories showed their true blue colours last week when it was revealed that official packs for delegates to their annual conference are to include discount vouchers for a lap dancing club near the conference venue.

David Cameron has been trying to claim the Tories are now a modern and progressive party, but this is a reminder that they are as sleazy as they ever were.

They are also hypocrites – only two months ago they talked about giving communities more power to block such clubs.

Instead of being part of the commercial sex industry, lap dancing has been rebranded as part of the “leisure industry”.

The 2003 Licensing Act allows them to be licensed in the same way as cafes. There are now over 300 lap dancing clubs across Britain.

Women are often told that we are equal to men.

But the sort of “raunch culture” we are seeing today is simply a commercialised, hollowed-out version of the sexual liberation women fought for – and one that ends up returning to old sexist ideas.

We need to renew the fight for real liberation.

Belinda Affat, South London

We need more class politics

You are right about the need for class politics (» Class politics are alive and kicking in Britain, 20 September). There’s a lot holding ordinary people back in Britain.

Social mobility is weak as you rightly point out. Social inequality makes it worse. A divided society holds people back.

More equal states like Denmark have better social mobility than more unequal countries such as Britain or the US.

Equality enables people to choose and change. Inequality stops them.

Graeme Kemp, Wellington, Shropshire

Need advice on pensions

I have been a British Gas engineer for three years with a final salary pension.

About two months ago – without a formal notification or letter – some of my colleagues and myself had our pensions cancelled.

I contacted the human resources department and was moved from pillar to post without success.

I would really just like to know how to get a new pension set up, and how to put my previous contributions into a new scheme.

If anyone could help I would be very grateful and it would put my mind at ease.

Craig Purle, Croydon, Surrey

Long hours are a disgrace

In Britain we are working some of the longest hours in the European Union (EU), according to a recent report by the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions.

The shocking reality of low pay and poor conditions mean that workers in Britain work an average of 41.4 hours a week.

The report shows that Romania and Bulgaria are the only EU countries where workers work longer hours.

It is a disgrace that low pay, long hours and mounting debts are becoming the norm for millions in Britain.

We can’t carry on like this – literally in the case of those worn down by working nearly every waking hour. Change has got to come.

Sylvia Elgrib, Sidcup, Kent

Wrong on where to build

Every time there is widespread flooding people scream that we shouldn’t build in the Thames Gateway – it’s a flood plain (» Another disaster as predictable as the weather , 13 September).

But you don’t seem to have noticed that the Thames Gateway is just about the only place in the country not to have suffered flood damage in the last few years.

This is because the Thames estuary has much more flood protection than anywhere else because of its historic vulnerability and its position with regard to London. Of course there are risks and further measures will be needed – but from a flooding perspective the Thames Gateway isn’t such a stupid place to build.

Paul Wheeler, by email

No more blood for US wars

Not another droplet of British blood should ever be spent in an American quarrel.

Interfering in alien adventures overseas like Iraq will only lead to the pouring of Britain’s blood down the gaping sewer of animosity and hatred.

Sorrow and anguish were visited upon families in this country and in Iraq where many thousands perished in a war formed from thuggish opinion in the US and Britain.

Oliver Healey, Telford, Shropshire

Stop locking up children

The charity Barnardo’s was right this week to point to Britain’s terrible record on child custody.

Britain locks up more ten to 14 year olds than any other country in western Europe.

It’s an appalling way to treat young people.

Sabiha Ghani, Manchester

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Article information

Tue 23 Sep 2008, 18:04 BST
Issue No. 2120
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