Socialist Worker


Issue No. 2170

There are no ‘kind’ cuts

As an admin worker at the London Fire Brigade, I am deeply angered by the threats of huge cuts in public services being made by all the main political parties. Politicians are focusing on attacks on so-called “back office” jobs like mine.

Gordon Brown and David Cameron have pledged that they will protect “frontline services” from any cuts, but that they will target “back office” services instead.

But this is to profoundly misunderstand the way vital public services are delivered, and any cuts will severely damage them.

Firefighters quite rightly get most of the credit for the work of the fire service. But unless 999 calls are answered, equipment supplied and repaired, fire stations maintained, pay cheques prepared and a host of other “back office” functions performed, no firefighter would even get to a fire.

I am part of a team that ensures that fire safety inspections are carried out and recorded.

This routine and unglamorous work has contributed to a major reduction in the number of deaths through fire in London over the last 30 years. Without admin staff the frontline service could not be delivered.

This argument applies across the public sector. Last week I attended a medical appointment with a consultant at a central London hospital.

Without clerical staff to book my appointment and make sure the doctor had my file available, it could not have happened.

There is no fat left on the bones of our public services.

All workers must see politicians’ talk of cutting “back office” jobs for what it is – a crude attempt to turn us against each other.

With the FBU union’s work to rule biting, London Fire Brigade bosses have backed off from making major cuts this year.

They fear taking on the whole workforce. Workers and our unions must unite to fight every cut and the crazy free market system that is to blame for the whole mess.

Tony Phillips, East London

Loans that increase the strain

I read Essie’s letter about the government’s mean spirited attack on single parents (» Letters, 12 September) with interest.

I am a single parent who has been forced onto the Jobseekers’ Allowance, also paid two weeks in arrears. I was offered a loan for the second week.

The loan has to be paid back at the rate of £15 a week or a quarter of the £64.30 that the government says an adult needs to live on.

This would cause an unendurable strain on my budget – £15 covers my gas, electricity and TV licence each week.

I was “lucky” to be given eight weeks’ notice of the changes and chose to refuse the loan.

Instead I got ahead with the bills and bought extra food to tide me over. Not everyone can do this.

To add to the insult, local MP Margaret Moran has been on sick leave after being caught up in the expenses’ scandal.

She hasn’t been put on the employment and support allowance!

Lesley Fitzsimmons, Luton

Post farce costing us everything

I have long believed that the much-loved public service that is the Royal Mail is run by dictatorial misfits.

I think it only survives because the hard work of post workers. Time after time Royal Mail employees have had the stick of budget constraints waved at us.

Time after time we delivered savings with blood, sweat and tears, only to find that these have been squandered on some hair-brained idea thought up by a drop-out from reality.

Members of the Cleveland amalgamated branch of the CWU union took strike action on Saturday 29 August and Tuesday 1 September to fight against the local management.

The action was mostly solid. Striking staff were rewarded for their bravery by once again having two days’ pay deducted from one week’s pay packet when it should have been taken out over two separate weeks. This is a typical, nasty twist of the knife to an already low-paid workforce.

Though a blow to the pocket it did not prevent further action being taken.

Nearly 200 managers were bused in from all over the north east of England and Yorkshire on the most recent strike day on Tuesday of last week.

How many managers does it take to do 80 deliveries? One hundred and twenty.

How many managers does it take to run a machine normally run by two postal workers? Eight.

These managers were put up in an expensive hotel.

Many managers were unable to complete the deliveries so they simply returned the mail to the office – an action anyone else would be sacked on the spot for.

The cost of this farce is thousands of pounds.

The cost of repairing the lost trust and returning respect and dignity to the workforce is simple.

Just listen to the people that are doing the job and cease the bully boy tactics.

CWU member, Cleveland

Excessive monitoring could lead to sacking

I work for First group at Lea Interchange bus garage. We have recently been subjected to the automatic monitoring device they call Greenroad.

Managers tell us that it operates on a gyroscopic principle, and detects “unwarranted” manoeuvres. We are told it will reduce the risk to passengers and improve other road users’ safety.

Drivers generally feel that since the device was introduced they’ve become preoccupied with watching its readouts and that near-side mirror observations have been reduced considerably.

On completion of a duty, drivers may view their “score” .

We believe the preoccupations with lights, graphs and points are hazardous to the well-being of drivers and their passengers.

The equipment that has been installed is not an accurate reflection of the reality of the road.

Managers tell us that it is still being calibrated to ensure a true picture of the drive. They also tell us that the information collected will not be used to discipline workers.

But, it goes without saying that drivers with a high level of “unwarranted” manoeuvres will have attention drawn to them.

This means that a “mystery traveller” inspection could follow, possibly leading to a form of constructive dismissal by the back door.

Bus worker, East London

Policies lead to rising nationalism

I am sure that all of us are concerned by the rising tide of naked nationalism.

However I am angered that the government and media are doing their utmost to stoke this up before then expressing their “revulsion” at the events that follow.

The general public are under no illusion that the war in Afghanistan can be won.

The longer foreign troops stay in Afghanistan, the further the countries involved sink into the quagmire.

The government also realises this, so we are now told that national security is under threat if our forces leave Afghanistan.

The fact remains that the government’s violent foreign policy has enraged many to the extent that they would consider attacking Britain.

There can be no doubt that far-right activists are more confident when the government has such anti-Islamic policies.

Instead of baulking at ugly nationalism, the government should be trying to reach out to the disaffected young generation – of which I am a member.

Above all, it should pull every person, gun and bullet out of Afghanistan.

Chris Stallard, Wolverhampton

Labour inflicts pain on us all

As someone who suffers with “entrenched psychosis” and bipolar disorder, I was shocked and outraged to learn of the government’s intentions to abolish Disability Living Allowance.

This is a spiteful act by Gordon Brown and his spineless cabinet.

This is the way of the future, whoever wins the next election.

All three main parties are intent on making working class people pay for the failure of capitalism.

It is outrageous that, instead of making the top 1 percent of people pay more taxes, the government is inflicting pain on millions and putting them deeper into poverty.

What better reason does the left need to unite and put forward an alternative to capitalism and the weasels that are currently in parliament?

John Curtis, Saxmundham, Suffolk

Left must face up to BNP

It would no doubt be correct to stop the fascist British National Party (BNP) from appearing on Question Time (» Don’t let fascist BNP on BBC’s Question Time, 19 September).

But if the BBC allows them on, someone from the left must be there to face up to them.

Shouting and hollering in the streets will not be shown, while a confrontation in the studio will be.

No platform is ideal though. Make sure you have enough people there to swamp the BBC.

Trevor Smith, by email

Debate will expose Griffin

At some point BNP leader Nick Griffin is going to have to answer some tough questions and be made to justify his party’s policies.

For example, he should be asked to provide evidence that immigrants are getting homes and jobs before everyone else.

He won’t be able to do this as there is no evidence to show that is the case and it’s a racist lie propagated by the BNP and other right wingers.

Griffin would be made to look foolish on Question Time as he would have to squirm when he cannot answer the questions put to him.

Dan Factor, East London

Respect the victims

I strongly disagree with the article on what causes child violence (» What causes child violence?, 19 September).

I was raised in a really bad family, but when I and my sister were watching other people’s lives, we learned from them, not from the bad example of our family.

We would never kill or torture anyone.

You can be very unlucky in life, but it is then up to you to behave.

I don’t believe that a human being cannot know what is evil and what is good. Come on, let’s have some respect for the victims.

Federica, Gwynedd, Wales

Problems in Afghanistan

Thanks for the great article on how Afghanistan became the Russian empire’s graveyard (» How Afghanistan became the graveyard of the Russian empire, 19 September).

The differences between the Soviet and US interventions could possibly spell a different outcome this time.

The US military is far better equipped and has the advantage of better training.

On the other hand, the US is embroiled in a war very far from home. That will amplify the costs of fighting many times over.

Add to this the war-weariness of the US public.

There is no way that Americans will accept casualties at the level the Russians endured for a long time before pulling out.

This certainly evens the playing field somewhat.

I’m also having doubts about the reliability of Afghan president Hamid Karzai as a local stooge.

Bruno, by email

Click here to subscribe to our daily morning email newsletter 'Breakfast in red'

Article information

Tue 22 Sep 2009, 18:28 BST
Issue No. 2170
Share this article


Mobile users! Don't forget to add Socialist Worker to your home screen.