Socialist Worker


Issue No. 2167

‘We’re part of the same struggle,’ say student union members who joined postal workers’ picket lines in Stoke

‘We’re part of the same struggle,’ say student union members who joined postal workers’ picket lines in Stoke

Delivering solidarity to striking postal workers

Myself and other officers from our student union joined postal workers from Stoke on Trent on their picket line last week. We did so because we realise that students and workers share the same enemy.

The government that stands behind Royal Mail as it closes depots like ours in Stoke is the same one that is cutting funding for higher education. These are the people that decided to bail out the banks, but refuse to put money into saving jobs.

Student struggles are not detached from the other battles that are taking place. We are part of a community with postal workers – they are our mothers and fathers, our brothers and sisters.

Now many of their children are being denied the chance to go to university because of the massive debts that the government has sentenced students to.

The people our student union represents are students today, but tomorrow many will be workers. We must inform them of this and build a movement that engages with the wider struggles.

The strikers gave us a warm welcome and said they found it refreshing that students had come to see them and show their solidarity.

We thanked them for taking a stand and not giving up.

Assed Baig, President, Staffordshire University Student Union

Proof that trade union solidarity is alive and well was demonstrated at the postal workers’ picket line in Hatfield that I joined last week.

An agency worker driving a lorry was expected to take his payload through the picket line and help break the strike.

But after a conversation with the postal workers he decided that he was not prepared to act as a lackey.

We all gathered round as he phoned his bosses to say that he would not cross the line.

They angrily said that if he refused to drive past the pickets he’d have to abandon his truck at the depot for a Royal Mail manager to drive it in – and he’d then have to make his own way back home.

The pickets insisted that they would not leave him in the “middle of nowhere” and would instead drive him home to Essex.

But it did not go well for the agency’s plan.

A Royal Mail manager came out of the centre to say that unfortunately neither he or his pals had a licence to drive the vehicle.

In an about turn the agency then had to ring the driver and ask him to bring the truck, and all it’s undelivered mail, back to Essex – without loss of pay, of course.

This shows that if we put the right arguments to workers, even those who are currently non‑unionised, we can win them to our side.

Russ Ball, Senior shop steward, DHL

We’re the real face of Millwall

Here we go again. Millwall football club is being accused of racism – among other things – following the fighting during and after last week’s match with West Ham.

I hold the police completely responsible for the trouble on the night. They cut the allocation of away tickets in half, to only 1,500.

Had they allowed Millwall fans their full allocation, the police would have been able to manage the crowd much better.

But on the question of racism, let’s tell it like it is.

Vile racist chanting was directed at black West Ham players – but it was also used against Millwall’s Jason Price. For me, all racist chanting is unacceptable.

The problem with British society is we lack bottle! We should ban the fascist scum instead of giving them a platform and allowing them to get elected.

After all, right wing extremist parties wouldn’t allow us to have a democratic voice if they were in power. We need to start dealing with the social issues that allows their hatred to fester and grow like a social cancer.

The time has come for us to have a meaningful and grown up debate so we can make these individuals a laughing stock.

The majority of West Ham and Millwall supporters are not racists.

I’m proud to be a Millwall supporter, and can honestly say that I have not heard any racist chanting at the New Den in recent years – we just wouldn’t put up with it.

Let’s start a campaign to take the piss out of the Nazis. Mug them and make them go away.

Mole Meade, by email

Is it a coincidence that after years in which racism at football matches has been consigned to the margins, it should make a return at the same time as the British National Party is on the rise?

Constant campaigning drove them out of our grounds in the past – we need to repeat the tactic.

Peter Murphy, Leeds

Benefits TV show let us see real scroungers

Benefit Busters – what an outrageous TV programme! (» Benefit Busters, 22 August).

The government is attempting a brainwashing exercise to bully single mothers into low paid jobs.

It’s more important that these women are mentored and given the opportunity of education, rather than fodder in menial jobs.

I met a kitchen assistant recently who is paid £56 a week for ten hours work. She has no contract and no union representation.

One day she called in sick and was told she would be phoned regularly during the day to make sure she was really at home.

She was also told that on her return she would have to suffer the indignity of an interview to discuss her “day off”!

Lee Wiffen, by email

I think the “services” provided by TV’s Benefit Busters firm A4E are an utter waste of money.

The trainer featured showed little compassion towards the single mothers participating in the scheme.

She taught the women to be judgemental, and her derogatory attitude left me reeling.

And there’s no way this person should be offering advice on alcohol abuse or debt management.

V Clark, by email

Enemies of NHS are closer to home

It was interesting to read Alex Callinicos’s article about the debate on healthcare in the US (» US right is telling unhealthy lies, 22 August).

I was not aware that significant sections of the health industry there are supporting Obama’s proposed reforms.

Unfortunately, Alex did miss a basic point.

While British Labour ministers are rushing to “defend the NHS” against vicious Republicans and pro-business arguments, these are the very policies that New Labour are using to dismantle the NHS.

Our health service may still be publicly funded, but increasingly it is provided by the private sector.

In coming years many more services are set to be “contracted out” to the private and voluntary sectors.

And now we face up to £15 billion budget cuts from 2011 onwards.

I want to know why our union leaders are so keen to speak out over the US, but so reluctant to challenge Labour’s cuts here?

We don’t just need a fight in the US for a publicly funded and provided health service – we need a fight here too!

Karen Reissmann, Manchester

We need to show unity

I welcome Socialist Worker’s call for unity on the left. I think a broad alliance could be effective – just as they have been in the past.

Maybe we should draw up a statement we can sign up to, so that we can make an effective intervention in the next general election.

I think it would be good if we could include the Green Party too.

I’d like the left parties to bear in mind that most socialists are non-aligned, and that we are often driven to the margins by sectarianism.

Can we demonstrate our ability to build alliances? If so, it would be the best counter argument to the capitalist parties.

Miriam Yagud, by email

Strikes could win more

The RMT transport union is claiming a “victory” on the London Underground over jobs (» Jobs agreement reached after powerful tube strike, 29 August).

Strikes in June brought London to a standstill and forced management into an agreement.

But the issues of pay and bullying were also part of the dispute, and they are not resolved.

I think the RMT has missed an opportunity to pressure management and win even more.

Instead of spending months talking with bosses the union should have called more action, perhaps alongside the postal workers.

This would have increased the power of both strikes, and forced London Underground to agree to much better terms.

Katherine Branney, South London

Who’s the real criminal here?

Gordon Brown last week broke his silence on the Lockerbie bombing to say he was “angry and repulsed” by the reception given to Abdelbaset al-Megrahi.

That same day Brown met Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Megrahi is an innocent man. Netanyahu is a racist war criminal.

The reception Brown gave to Netanyahu was something to be really “angry and repulsed” by.

Jan Estridge, Grimsby

Why speed is bad for you

Network rail last week announced plans for a high speed link between London and Glasgow.

Environmentalists and commuters, like myself, might have been expected to rejoice. We are not.

High speed trains will use far more energy than normal ones – and they’ll be priced to get the rich in and keep the poor out.

The answer is not more speed, but a more relaxed lifestyle.

Rohan Nakady, East London

Lyrical in Luton

With the sun blazing, fortune smiled on Luton’s Love Music Hate Racism festival last month.

A happy crowd of over 2,000 people enjoyed a varied programme of bhangra, reggae, hip-hop, rock and African music.

Many artists rewrote their lyrics to reflect the theme of unity that was the festival’s central message.

The speakers – including local MP Kelvin Hopkins, Marc Scheimann from the Green Party, Linda Jack from the Lib Dems, and Steve Coghlan from the Socialist Workers Party – were warmly received as they gave their own perspectives.

It’s not always easy to make a speech at a music event, but such was the strength of feeling that all were greeted with cheering.

All of this stands in contrast to some of the negative headlines the town has received of late.

We are now aiming to make the Love Luton, Hate Racism festival an annual event. It symbolises the true face of Luton – a creative, multicultural town where black and white stand shoulder to shoulder.

Luton Love Music Hate Racism

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Tue 1 Sep 2009, 19:16 BST
Issue No. 2167
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