THE GREAT Santa industrial dispute appears to be spreading. Two weeks ago Socialist Worker reported on the sacking of one Santa in Bromley, Kent, that provoked a solidarity picket by elves.
Now Santas are in revolt in Germany. Dozens of Santas face the sack from large department stores, which are suffering from falling sales. They took to the streets of Berlin last week carrying banners which read, 'Children, save us!'
Meanwhile in Britain Hereford council has privatised its Santa's grotto this year. In previous years the council ran the grotto, but now it has been sold off to a private company. A spokesman for the council said, 'Handing over Santa's grotto to an outside body saved the council nearly £5,000.'
But local people were not so impressed. One woman told a radio reporter, 'This year's grotto is tacky. It's just a little bit of tinsel and a few fairy lights.' Another added, 'Santa's presents are not as good this year. My daughter was very disappointed.'
COPS FROM a crack anti-crime unit face disciplinary action after their Christmas booze-up turned into a massive brawl. An onlooker described the scene as 'like the Wild West' as drunken detectives from the National Crime Squad (NCS) clashed with bouncers.
The fighting erupted after a woman was abused in the cloakroom of the Chicago nightclub in Chelmsford, Essex. More than half a dozen NCS officers were involved in the battle. One worker at the club told a journalist from the Sun newspaper, 'The police officers were very abusive and threatening. One of the bouncers is a Liverpool lad and they kept abusing him and asking him what he was doing down south.'
Terrified club staff dialled 999 and police officers from Essex police's tactical support unit arrived. The local police were not amused. The Sun claims, 'One drunken cop who claimed to be a detective inspector for 20 years told the officer in charge to fuck off.' No arrests were made, but Essex police confirmed that they were investigating a complaint.
CHRISTMAS has come early for millionaire bus bosses Ann Gloag and Brian Souter. The two bosses of Stagecoach shared a £43.5 million bonus last week. The Stagecoach transport empire is now raking in profits of more than £700,000 a day!
TREVOR HOWLETT is one police sergeant who won't be having a nice Christmas this year, or next year for that matter. Howlett was caught fiddling nearly £100,000 from his force. He was jailed for two years last week. Howlett made up dozens of bogus expense claims while in charge of a high profile operation to smash London car crime gangs.
The once 'highly regarded' Metropolitan Police officer pretended the string of four figure payouts were needed to pay for repairs to a fleet of top of the range vehicles. The flashy cars were used as bait to catch car thieves. Instead the cash went straight into his pocket to finance his lifestyle.
Prosecutor Brendan Kelly said, 'On one occasion, to celebrate his marriage, he paid for a substantial portion of 13 people travelling to Florida. He was claiming from the fund simply to line his pocket.'
Train bosses ask for a collection
RAILTRACK WORKERS got a shock when they opened their pay packets recently. Bosses wrote to them, 'A Partners in Giving fund has been set up this Christmas to enable employees who may wish to make a donation following the Ladbroke Grove accident. The funds will be donated to the accident, emergency and burns facilities at the six hospitals which provided care for those involved in the accident. The fund will operate under the Partners in Giving matching scheme, where all money received is matched by the company.'
One Railtrack worker told Inside the System, 'This is an insult to the victims' families. Railtrack was responsible for the crash. Last year the company made nearly £450 million in profit. They should be footing the bill and not trying to get the staff to cough up the money.'
Pray for unity
SPARE A thought for your local vicar this Christmas. Clergy are being abused and bullied more than ever by members of their congregations, according to a union representing church workers.
The Manufacturing, Science and Finance union claims that changes in the Anglican Church's finances and management have left clergy more vulnerable. 'I have been bullied and I hear more accounts from other clergy of intimidation and abuse,' said Reverend W F Ward, chairman of the MSF clergy branch. 'It reflects a sad state of affairs in our national religious life.'
After the £800 million losses of the Church Commissioners in the 1980s, parishioners now pay their vicar's wages. A helpline has been set up for bullied clergy. One vicar said, 'Sadly you can't rely on divine intervention. Something has got to be done.'
Things they say
'TUDJMAN might not have been indicted by the war crimes tribunal in The Hague, but the general turned hardline nationalist was every bit as culpable for the horrors of ethnic cleansing as his Serbian counterpart.'
Guardian journalist CHRIS BIRD on the far right Croatian leader Franjo Tudjman, who died last week
'I THANK god my wife is neither a Serb nor a Jew.'
'GENOCIDE IS a natural phenomenon.'
'APOSTATES. They will thank me one day for reminding them that they are really Croats.'
TUDJMAN on the Bosnian Muslims
TUDJMAN'S words to 300,000 Serbs in Krajina, driven from their homes by Croatian troops in 1995
'THE IDEA that the Croatian authorities are suddenly themselves adopting a policy of ethnic cleansing is a vicious lie.'
Former Labour leader MICHAEL FOOT in 1995 on the Krajina expulsions
'HE WAS a shrewd and successful statesman. I honour his memory.'
MARGARET THATCHER on Tudjman
'HE IS willing to have sensible discussions about trying to find practical solutions.'
Tory transport spokesperson John Redwood on New Labour's Lord Macdonald
'I SPEAK as someone who has found himself rather incapacitated on many a Saturday night.'
Tory MSP BEN WALLACE in a debate on Incapacity Benefit in the Scottish Parliament
'Politics is about choosing processes that enable you to do things.'
Labour minister Paul Boateng defending the stitch-up of Livingstone