Socialist Worker


Issue No. 2186

Danger on the tracks

I work for Network Rail. The company is going to impose changes to terms and conditions that will have a major impact on workers’ lives. Maintenance workers are feeling grim.

Network Rail is going to roster staff to work ten out of 13 weekends.

This could mean working Friday, Saturday, Sunday and into Monday morning.

Currently staff are rostered six in 13 weekends, but most work overtime as the basic pay is low.

The changes will cause major problems for people with children. It will also impact on relationships at home, as one of the family will have to work more weekends over 12 hour shifts.

Going out or socialising as a family will come to a halt if Network Rail gets its way.

Some of you reading this may think that people are lucky to have a job.

But maintenance staff get very little for dealing with live rails, high speed trains and all the dangers that working on the railway holds. In places such as Woking and Havant they earn around £260 for a 35-hour week.

If Network Rail has staff rostered most weekends where will the future be in maintenance? Young people will not come into the job because they will not accept low pay. They will not spend all their time at work when their friends are out on the town.

The work will suffer as good people will leave, taking their skills with them.

The maintenance we need is being done now, meaning there is no need to impose such levels of weekend working.

This will lower our pay as overtime will not be available and shift rates will fall because staff would be rostered on new terms.

Network Rail also wants to make 1,500 staff redundant, which the RMT lobbied parliament about on Wednesday of this week.

Any new terms they wish to impose will never be equal or better to the current one staff are working under.

So ask yourself, are you prepared to give up all your weekends to work in a dangerous job with bullying management for £260 a week?

If these new terms come in the future of the railways will be bleak and the safety of the public put at great risk.

Network Rail worker, by email

Should the left vote for Labour?

The Socialist Workers Party needs to be gearing up for the general election. This is especially the case if we are going to be part of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition that will be standing candidates.

We are also going to have to decide who we support in the vast majority of seats where there are no left candidates.

It might be tempting to support New Labour on the grounds that it is not better but different from the Tories. I think that would be a mistake. Labour has done things that has alienated it from millions of workers.

Can I suggest the position of “Vote left if you can, vote Labour tactically if you must, but vote to keep the Tories out”. It would be a mistake to give full support to Labour where there are no left candidates.

Steve Guy, Brighton

Police fail women over rape

The case of rapist John Worboys, who assaulted over 100 women, reveals how the police institutionally fail women who have been raped.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission has ruled that the officers who failed to properly investigate this series of sexual attacks should be given “written warnings” or “formal words of advice”.

This is hardly comparable to the devastation caused to the lives of his victims.

One victim claims officers laughed at her when she reported her ordeal. With conviction rates for rape at a pitiful 6 percent, is it any wonder women do not feel like the police take them seriously?

The officers involved in the Worboys’ case were incredibly part of a specialist unit set-up to help victims of sexual attacks.

The conclusion of this shocking case will do nothing to stop the culture of blaming the victims for rape.

Campaigns against sexual violence are generally aimed at telling women to modify their own behaviour, such as to stop taking unlicensed mini-cabs, instead of creating a society where women can live free from fear.

Sarah Creagh, East London

Blame Obama

The victory of Republican candidate Scott Brown in the Massachusetts Senate election confirms Ken Olende’s analysis of the first year of Barack Obama’s presidency (» Compromise, crisis and capitulation , 16 January).

Obama’s compromises with the establishment, pro-war policies and half-hearted reforms have allowed the feeling of hope engendered by his election to dissipate. This is leading to the demoralisation of millions.

This has allowed the Republicans an opportunity to revive and lead a right wing campaign against Obama.

He has only himself to blame for his defeat.

Katherine Branney, South London

Let’s make sure the Fujitsu workers win

It’s right to say that the stakes are very high in the Unite union’s dispute with Fujitsu in defence of jobs, pay and pensions (» ‘This is definitely a strike worth having’, 16 January).

Workers and managers across the private sector are watching this dispute. IT companies have rushed to close their pension schemes, taking full advantage of the economic climate.

At CSC, another large IT services company, and Capita consultations are taking place about the proposed closure of defined benefit pension schemes.

Both these companies have now extended the consultations, in response to union pressure.

The bosses know that if Fujitsu workers knock back their company’s plans, then this could inspire workers across the industry to fight back in defence of their own pensions.

My Unite branch organised a meeting in Chesterfield about pensions.

Despite terrible weather, more than 50 IT workers attended to hear speakers from a number of different IT companies and the local trades council.

We collected over £100 for the Fujitsu strikers, and left more determined to stand up to the attacks we face.

It’s vital that the Fujitsu workers get all the help they need to continue their action – the outcome will have an impact far beyond one company. They are fighting for us all.

Unite member, Sheffield

Join the fight to expose the BNP

I am writing to invite your readers to the launch of a new campaign aimed at exposing the British National Party (BNP) as the fascists that they are.

The vast majority of us in the media are appalled by the BNP’s politics. Yet all too often this motley crew are portrayed uncritically and sensationally.

Expose is a new campaign of media workers and students dedicated to lifting the lid on the BNP.

As the general election approaches, we need to support our colleagues who work to reveal the truth about the BNP or refuse to handle material or work on programmes that fail to do so.

The launch rally of Expose is on Tuesday 23 February at 7pm, Amnesty International Human Rights Action Centre, 17-25 New Inn Yard, Shoreditch, EC2A 3EA.

Speakers include Mehdi Hasan of the New Statesman, columnist Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, Peter Hain MP, Michelle Stanistreet of the NUJ union and Weyman Bennett of Unite Against Fascism.

Our website is at »

Dave Crouch, NUJ rep at the Financial Times (personal capacity)

History of sports boycott

Your readers might be interested in a new documentary about the anti-apartheid sports boycott that Dennis Brutus (Obituary, 16 January) played a key role in.

You can watch a trailer for Fair Play at »

Michelle Wong, by email

More novels please SW

I thoroughly enjoyed reading the recent interview with author Philip Kerr (» Bernie Gunther and the crime of the century, 5 December).

I’ve never been into murder mysteries but seeing the political context in which Kerr’s Bernie Gunther detective series is set – Nazi Germany – I knew I would enjoy his books.

I was not disappointed and I have just read a second novel by him.

It would be good to have more interviews with authors or reviews of novels in Socialist Worker.

Geoff Kerr-Morgan, Middlesbrough

Researching miners’ strike

I am currently studying a Diploma in Art.

For my next project I have been asked to choose something around the theme of collections.

For me, as a miner’s daughter, the importance of solidarity and communities joining together, in the 1984-5 Miners’ Strike has made a lasting impression on me.

So it was only right my work should be based on this.

I am trying to do research into the strike and I would like to get the experiences of former miners and their wives about this important year of social history.

I have some questions that I would like people to answer to help my research.

Could those interested in answering them email me at [email protected]

Karla Rimaitis, St Helens

Criminals are behind attack

The attack on the migrants that sparked the riots in Rosarno, Italy, on 8 January (» Riots in Italy after racist shootings, 16 January) demonstrates who is in control of the labour market in the Calabria region.

The local Mafia, which is known as ’ndrangheta, has a tight grip on most of the economy.

It knows how to send a clear signal when it feels its authority is being challenged.

What should maybe come as an alarming development is the ineffectual coverage of the attacks on the migrants provided by the mainstream media.

The government has offered a two-faced response promising total war on the organised crime on one hand while surrendering all its rights to it on the other.

Alberto Spairani , East London

Adoption is not an answer

Families in Western countries have said that they want to adopt Haitian children.

On one level, it is completely natural to want to reach out and protect the most vulnerable.

But ripping children from their homes, even if they lie in rubble, is a mistake.

This was brought home to me when a man pointed out his niece who had just been rescued from a collapsed building, where her parents lay dead inside.

She could be one of the children now sitting in Holland with unfamiliar people who don’t speak her language, feeling lost and confused.

Many orphaned children in Haiti may have family members looking for them or people who know them.

The problems of the world’s children cannot be solved by trying to place them with “nice” western couples.

Haiti needs money and aid without strings so that its people can create a society for Haitians and their children.

Abigail Curtis, Manchester

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Article information

Tue 26 Jan 2010, 19:23 GMT
Issue No. 2186
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