Fred the Shred’s smash and grab bank raid
Socialist Worker recently produced an excellent campaign poster citing Fred Goodwin, the disgraced former chief executive of Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) as “Wanted for Bank Robbery”.
It is now clear that a “smash and grab raid” on public money can be added to the charge sheet. Much to the embarrassment of the Labour government it is now clear that they were fully aware that “Fred the Shred” was leaving the bank he had sunk, aged 50, with a £16 million pension pot payable immediately at a rate of £693,000 per year.
As a trade union activist at RBS I have had to represent many workers aged 50 and over forced to leave the bank under what is called “inadequate performance”.
In reality that phrase often means, “your face doesn’t fit here” or “you haven’t been able to meet your targets”.
Never has the perceived inadequacy in any of these cases remotely bordered upon the inadequacy and complete incompetence of Goodwin. But whereas these ordinary workers, if they want to draw their pension early, are forced to suffer a significant percentage reduction in its value, Goodwin and his cronies get theirs enhanced.
Goodwin is an utter disgrace, yet perhaps we shouldn’t blame the arrogant, greedy scoundrel – we should blame the system that spawned him and his like.
An RBS Worker, by email
The Scum doesn’t deserve award
I was appalled to hear that the Press Gazette has shortlisted the Sun newspaper for an award for its campaign against social workers in the wake of the Baby P case.
It is hard to imagine what could possibly be going through the minds of the judges. But maybe an award speech could go something like this:
“And the winner of the award for campaigning to ensure children born in vulnerable circumstances will die in greater numbers goes to the Sun – or the Scum as it is known.
“After all, these children are born to ‘scroungers’ living on sink estates up and down the country.
“It’s long since time this state of affairs was stopped.
“So we welcome the Sun’s inspired and successful campaign to terrify social workers from the profession, and in particular from Haringey council, as these dangerous liberals insist on defending the poor and stand in the way of seeing these ‘scroungers’ for what they are.
“The Sun saved us for a few weeks from having to consider the so-called failings of our mates in the banking industry.
“It probably saved us from a vitriolic witch-hunting campaign of the deserving super-rich.
“And the true genius of its campaign is that it will undoubtedly lead to and accelerate the deaths of future babies of the ‘scroungers’.
“So hell, yes – the establishment is going to give the Sun an award!”
For those that actually value social work provision, go to the Social Work Action Network » www.socialworkfuture.org
Helen Davies, East London
NUJ strike correction
As joint father of chapel (workplace NUJ union rep) at the Yorkshire Post and Yorkshire Evening Post I would like to express our thanks for the support received for the campaign and action in defence of our jobs and our papers.
However I have to object to quotes attributed to me in Socialist Worker about our strike (» Rising action against assault on media jobs, 28 February). We do not need to use expletives and emotive language.
There were other inaccuracies. I did not say that young pickets “shot off around the building to side gates to stop scabs trying to sneak in”.
Young and older journalists are united in this struggle. Three gates were covered by pickets each day as part of a well-planned operation.
It is true that the NUJ chapel officers’ proposal of two two-day strikes was rejected in favour of more sustained action – two four-day strikes.
The strike last week was firm, dignified, peaceful, organised and above all, solid. Further action is planned, and our appeal for support from the trades union movement continues.
Peter Lazenby, NUJ joint FoC, Yorkshire Post/Yorkshire Evening Post
Socialist Worker would like to apologise to Peter for the quotes that were misattributed to him. We would also like to reiterate our continued support for the strikers at Yorkshire Post Newspapers.
No logic in post cuts
It seems strange that the Lib Dems support post office privatisation, yet run campaigns against closures of post offices.
Privatisation means cutting costs and that means cutting services.
Cutting jobs during a recession seems like an odd way of dealing with it.
The government says it will create jobs one minute but then takes a course of action that will reduce jobs. Totally illogical!
A Baynham, by email
Trade unions should laugh off legal threats
East London bus drivers were due to strike last October but this was called off by the union because it was scared off by bosses’ legal threats (» ‘We can still fight in a recession’, 21 February).
As individuals we can withdraw our labour and strike – whether it is legal or not.
Workers have real power but have been convinced by the government and unions that they have to ask first and then follow guidelines.
Workers would have laughed at that in the 1960s and 1970s and we should be laughing now.
When we voted on the new pay deal last month we were told on the Monday that the union recommended we accept the pay offer with a new DV1 grade driver rate attached.
A vote was rushed through for the Friday not giving time for discussion or debate.
The drivers were really voting to get their back pay and did not have a clue about what else was in the deal. The union is controlling the drivers and the government is controlling the union. Welcome to 2009.
The Unite union needs a shake up and it is my opinion that workers have a fight on our hands. The first is against the tactics and leaders of the union, the second is then with the companies.
Unfortunately the workers are not being given the education or real information, and are being manipulated by both sides.
Mike, bus driver, by email
Personal budgets can empower us
Diana Swingler’s letter about the issue of personal budgets in the NHS was thought-provoking (» Letters, 21 February).
Unfortunately she misses out the fact that the disability rights movement is in favour of this idea – and with good reason.
Historically, disabled people have had little or no control over the care and support they receive, which has all too often been institutional or otherwise limiting or inappropriate services.
Individual budgets in principle allow disabled people to decide what kind of support they need, who provides it, when and how. In itself, this is an empowering development and should be supported.
Undoubtedly there are serious questions to be asked about the way these budgets are being rolled out in practice. Socialists are right to be suspicious of the New Labour government’s agenda.
However, the principle in itself is excellent.
Only with each individual disabled person being able to control the care and support they need, rather than being dumped into a one-size-fits-all system, can the independence of disabled people be assured.
Roderick Cobley, East London
Unions must fight on jobs
Your article on how long term workers have been sacked at Cowley without so much as a whimper by the union bureaucrats only scratches the surface of this rotten situation (» Fury as Cowley workers sacked with hour’s notice, 21 February).
The right to impose zero-hour contracts means that employers need not provide their workforce with any work at all.
This is something that most unions have chosen to do little about, other than lobbying the Labour Party and international bodies.
Some unions, such as the CWU, are trying to break away from this passive acceptance of anti-union laws and are actively organising in the call centre industry.
Michael Charles, West London
Defend this TV presenter
A popular children’s TV presenter has recently been criticised because she has a disability.
Cerrie Burnell hosts CBeebies Discover and Do and the Bedtime Hour. She is a great presenter and her presence shows young children that people with disabilities can take part in all activities.
A small number of parents have complained that she could “scare” children.
The BBC and others have given the impression that lots of parents are against Cerrie. In fact only nine complaints were made, while thousands have shown their support for her, signing online petitions and joining Facebook groups.
Please contact the BBC to support Cerrie: » www.bbc.co.uk/cbeebies/contact/forms/tv_form.shtml
Angela Stapleford, East London
Symbols are very powerful
I agree with Hussain Ismail’s criticisms of the play England People Very Nice (» Why racism and comedy do not mix, 14 February).
Symbols are fundamental in shaping society and artists must be aware of their powerful role.
Otherwise, they are not good for that job.
Angela, Florence, Italy
EastEnders was inspiring
It’s not often that the soap EastEnders captures my imagination but last week’s episode with an all-black cast certainly made an impact.
There were references to the Notting Hill riot of 1958, racist attacks from Nazi sympathisers and the occasional mention of the black civil rights activists Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King – all in the space of 30 minutes.
The programme was a surprising political statement by the BBC, be it by accident or design.
Predictably Tory MP David Davies has attacked the programme.
But at a time when politicians and the media are scapegoating “foreign workers”, I hope this episode helps to challenge racism.
Ben Cameron, West London
Fear for our civil liberties
The arrests of people on the aid convoy to Gaza are nothing less than harassment (» Men arrested on Gaza convoy are released , 28 February).
I am also extremely worried to read that it is now illegal to photograph a police officer if it is deemed that he or she is acting against terrorists.
I am of the honest opinion that Britain is in the grip of a nascent police state, and I have grave fears for the freedoms which we were told our parents secured for us in the Second World War.
Bill Kelly, Bolton
Personal debt is stacking up
Your article on the personal debt trap was very timely (» Caught in a debt trap, 28 February).
A report out last week showed that the average person seeking help from the Citizens Advice Bureau would take 93 years just to pay off their existing debts.
Sylvia Elgrib, Sidcup, Kent