Equality Bill can be a weapon against bosses
Bob Holman’s article on New Labour’s Equality Bill (» Harriet Harman’s equality plans are a class fraud, 4 July) makes a series of good points about Labour’s failure to address poverty and growing income inequality.
He rightly criticises the Bill’s watered down commitment to the development of a public sector duty to tackle inequalities. The Bill is a missed opportunity that could have helped address the dire poverty of millions.
But there are a couple of points in Bob’s article I think need clarifying. The first is that he seems to see women, the disabled and ethnic minorities as separate from the working class.
So he writes, “Of course, these groups should have greater representation. But so too should members of the working class and all people on low incomes.”
I don’t think this is useful because the majority of working class people fall into one or more of the oppressed groups in capitalist society.
Secondly, because Bob focuses mostly on income inequality, his article is silent about the main points of the Equality Bill. Without doubt the Bill has lots of shortcomings.
It is mostly restricted to rights in the public sector, not the private sector. It fails to provide paid time off for union equality reps. It is weak on enforcement by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC).
Nevertheless, it will create a harmonised framework of equality legislation. It will legalise positive action, improve legal protection for disabled people, improve the legal situation for transgendered people and create a general equality duty covering all the equality “strands”.
It will also set up specific, legally enforceable duties, such as carrying out public sector gender pay audits – although not until 2013!
It will make indirect discrimination unlawful and extend more protections to accessing goods and services.
The point for trade union activists and socialists is that the Bill can provide us with more weapons to fight discrimination and oppression.
These weapons should be seen as part of our industrial relations armoury. They can help us develop more confident union branches able to challenge the bosses’ workplace control.
For example, the Bill can add to the powers trade union branches already have to demand equality impact assessments whenever the bosses want to change their practices.
As socialists, however, we also recognise that the struggle for liberation demands the overthrow of capitalism and the building of a socialist society.
Laura Miles, Wakefield
Stop the profiteers
Concerned educators and carers in Doncaster held a meeting on 9 July to discuss a proposal to reorganise the management of Doncaster’s Pupil Referral Unit (PRU).
The proposal calls for the PRU to be taken outside local authority control and to be replaced by a private study centre company run by a managing director instead of a headteacher.
This is a cost cutting exercise.
Taking PRUs out of local authority control will be a setback for parents seeking to influence the direction of their children’s education and for teachers, as privatisation often means attacks on their pay and conditions.
Most importantly, it will adversely affect the lives of pupils, who will receive a worse education. Vulnerable children will be made fit for only unskilled jobs or, more likely in the present crisis of capitalism, unemployment.
Our campaign to safeguard the education of vulnerable children is hampered by many factors. There is no model of what a PRU taken out of local control will look like.
The lack of a clearly detailed proposal gives the strong impression that management views any consultation as merely a formality.
But we intend to fight and we have formed a committee to involve as many people as possible in campaigning against the plans.
Peter Davies, Doncaster’s English Democrat mayor, has already proposed turning all local schools over to private companies.
He hopes that parents, particularly in poorer areas, will be apathetic towards their children’s education.
But experience shows that once parents understand the nature of the threat, they will fight.
They have occupied schools, demonstrated and held mass lobbies to defend education.
If we don’t fight the introduction of the business ethos into the care and education of children, it will wreck their lives.
Concerned voter, Doncaster
Emancipate the soil as well as workers!
Elaine Graham-Leigh says she didn’t find the Green Party the best place to be a revolutionary socialist (» Letters, 11 July).
It might be argued, however, that the Green Party is based on a more ambitious premise in that it focuses on emancipation not just of the working class but of soil, flora and fauna from the yoke of capitalism.
Karl Marx recognised the rift that capital caused between humans and the natural world.
The Green Party was created to fill a hole caused by the fact that socialists have seriously understated this.
I think it is also right that, rather than focusing on the revolution, we might be more successful if we inverted the revol-ution to the lover-ution.
The power of love is more powerful and attractive than any other and may win more converts.
I also question Elaine’s view that the Greens value individual sacrifice. We do think we have to recognise our own impact on the Earth. But Green politics recognises one Earth that we need to collectively share based on co-operation and planning not ruthless short-term competition.
I hope that the left and the Greens can pool their insights and that we can stand together in strength.
I have written to ask my party representatives to consider positively the Socialist Workers Party open letter.
Chris Hart, Lancaster
Crisis in rape centre funding
London student Feminists let off rape alarms during the Greater London Authority Mayor’s question time on Wednesday of last week.
We were protesting about the appalling lack of secure funding for rape crisis centres.
During his election campaign Boris Johnson promised to open three new centres in London.
When he got into power, it became clear that the funding he said would come from “efficiency savings” wasn’t there.
London’s only rape crisis centre, which is in Croydon, costs £250,000 a year to run (the same as the “chicken feed” Boris gets from the Daily Telegraph).
Rape crisis centres offer specialised support for women who have suffered sexual violence at any time in their lives.
They are a vital lifeline for many women, yet London’s only centre has a four month waiting list.
Nationwide, one in four local authorities have no specialised support services for women.
To get involved in the campaign see » londonstudentfeminists.blogspot.com
Laura Harvey, London Student Feminists
Cost of public sector cuts
It’s important that we don’t let the bosses and the government drive a wedge between private and public sector workers.
Cuts in public spending would have a detrimental effect on the private sector.
All local government departments have an annual budget, much of which is spent in the private sector.
Enter any council office building and you will see chairs, desks, computers, stationary, filing cabinets, fax machines and printers – just some of the equipment that the public sector buys from the private.
Public and private sector workers should stick together.
Cuts in public spending will lead to job losses for both set of workers.
John Appleyard, West Yorkshire
Who lost out at Lindsey?
We welcome the principled stance that Socialist Worker has taken in opposing the poisonous and divisive “British jobs for British workers” slogan.
However, we were concerned to read that the deal won at the Lindsey Oil Refinery may mean that some “foreign” workers will be replaced by British ones (» Total victory for Lindsey strikers, 4 July).
Would it be possible to confirm whether this is the case?
And if so, was it right to characterise the outcome of the strike as a “total victory”?
Mike Docherty and Chris Fuller, York
Fight attack by Royal Mail
If Royal Mail gets its way by introducing later start times, what will happen to the postal workers like myself who have commitments?
I have to be home to look after my son so my wife can go to work.
We could not manage on my wages alone.
But if later start times came in then my wife would have to stop working.
I expect others would have similar problems – and we are already treated pretty badly.
I’ve been in a union all my life but we feel quite alone. What will the union do for us?
Malcolm Hughes, Wrexham
Alan Sugar you’re fired
I recently attended an event to discuss the future of the civil service. Alan Sugar was the guest speaker.
Panel speakers talked about there being 4.5 million small and medium sized employers in Britain.
Sugar said it is up to banks to decide which employers to invest in as it is their money.
Someone in the audience pointed out that it wasn’t the bankers’ money – it was the taxpayers’.
She explained that there are only about 4,000 Revenue & Customs staff who have responsibility for auditing these employers’ accounts.
If thousands more staff were employed, they could visit all these employers to collect some of the £100 billion worth of “missing” tax.
The government would then not need to cut the proposed £50 billion in public services. Sugar became upset and demanded that the microphone be taken away.
“Sir Alan” is now an adviser to the cabinet and is soon to be made a Labour peer.
I’m sure he will serve his apprenticeship well.
New Labour has let the rich how to keep their taxes low in this booming tax haven of Britian.
A civil servant, by email
Soldier is right to refuse
It’s inspiring to read about a soldier who has seen through the politicians’ and military’s lies on Afghanistan (» ‘I realised the Afghan war was wrong’, 18 July).
But what a disgrace that he may go to jail – for the “crime” of standing up for his principles.
Sabiha Ghani, Manchester