Socialist Worker


Issue No. 2191

Tesco’s school land grab

There is outrage in Manchester at plans to establish an academy school in Stretford. The plans of Trafford’s Tory-run council have exposed the pro-business nature of the academy programme.

They want to close two schools, Lostock College and Stretford High School, and replace them with one academy.

The deal is all about business. The schools will be shut in August and the land from Stretford High given to Tesco to build a 140,000 square foot megastore. Tesco will then hand over £21 million to Lancashire County Cricket Club for a “refurbishment”.

Disgracefully this has been approved by the department for education.

But we are fighting back. Around 50 parents, teachers and children came to a meeting to discuss the plans last week. There is growing anger in the area – people do not accept that their children’s schools will be shut because they aren’t financially viable.

Teachers from all unions oppose academies. The NASUWT union is consulting members on possible industrial action at Stretford High.

Academies put profit above education, and they put teachers’ pay, conditions and union recognition at risk. Transforming schools into academies means teachers leave, pupil exclusions soar and education quality drops.

Young people should be encouraged to aspire to more than just shelf-stacking in a supermarket or glass collecting at a club. That is why we are determined to sink the academy plan.

The mood of the meeting was summed up by one parent who said, “There is no way they are having our schools!”

Mark Krantz, Manchester

Back Holmes in Unison elections

Rochdale Unison local government branch committee had a debate last week about the leadership contest in our union.

The majority expressed frustration with the current general secretary, Dave Prentis, saying he cosies up to New Labour, prevents action and stifles any debate that threatens this relationship.

In the past the branch nominated Roger Bannister as an alternative.

There is still firm support for Roger because of his years of passionate opposition to sell-outs.

But this time the branch opted to nominate Paul Holmes.

Paul’s supporters reminded the committee of his work on pensions and his ability to connect with activists beyond the established left.

Branch nominations for Paul must be in by 1 April.

Sam O’Brien (personal capacity), Rochdale

Bullying deja vu

Hearing Peter Mandelson deny that Gordon Brown bullied staff, many people will have had a sense of deja vu. Mandelson was only doing what every boss does when one of their own is accused of bullying – close ranks.

Being bullied is a fact of life for many workers. Most employers, even those with anti-bullying policies, turn a blind eye or deny bullying.

Bosses encourage a bullying culture by setting impossible targets and cutting jobs.

Culling postal workers leads to those left behind not being able to complete their rounds.

Cuts in cabin crew means that airline passengers get meals late.

And, if we are to believe Andrew Rawnsley, the PM’s speechwriters get it in the neck as they can’t make him look good.

Working in a call-centre has made me aware of the need to tackle bullying.

You constantly hear stories of workers being screamed at and humiliated in front of colleagues, and threatened with the sack for making a mistake.

Helplines, particularly ones run by HR consultants touting for business, will never resolve these problems. Building trade union organisation on the shopfloor can.

In the past few years we have seen a number of successful union-led campaigns in call centres that have reversed the sacking of workers.

Call centre worker, London

Unity with migrants

The TV programme, The Day the Migrants Left, played into racist myths about migrants.

Interviews with the bosses showed “British” workers as lazy dolemongers, too expensive to employ. None of the myths were challenged, and racist, anti-immigrant comments were allowed to go unchallenged.

It was infuriating when the answer was staring us in the face. United, black and white, “British” and “migrant” workers can win better wages and conditions for all.

Susan Clarke, Liverpool

Mid Staffs hospital: a tragedy caused by cuts

The accounts of up to 1,200 unnecessary deaths and serious neglect at Mid Staffs hospital are horrifying.

Investigations showed that management prioritised becoming a Foundation Trust and being “financially sound” over care, cutting 100 nursing posts and beds.

Understaffing is a problem in all hospitals. Nurses are told to prioritise, but cuts mean there isn’t time to do essentials, let alone check if someone ate their meal because they need it cut up.

In the last NHS staff survey 90 percent of nurses said they did not have time to do their job properly. Many said they were too afraid to speak out.

No doubt some at Mid Staffs did provide terrible care. But punishing individuals won’t stop it from happening again – it doesn’t deal with the cause.

The problem is government policy that pushes the market, and managers who carry it out.

A billion pounds worth of cuts was announced in Greater Manchester this week. This is equivalent to running over ten general hospitals for a year.

The main parties all agree on the need for cuts. Labour put more money into the NHS, but trade unionists, socialists and ordinary people will need to fight for that money to be used for care, not well-paid executives and consultants making cuts.

Karen Reissmann, Health worker, Manchester

We don’t need the useless bankers

It’s obscene that city bonuses have exceeded £7 billion already this year.

That’s enough money to employ 2,000 new staff in every council – which would improve the lives of ordinary people enormously.

But instead, politicians tell us that services must be cut and jobs must go.

Even more insulting is the excuse given by RBS boss Stephen Hester who said bonuses had to be paid to keep the “best” bankers.

Ordinary workers in the public and private sector are told that their only choice is to to take a pay cut or lose their job.

Workers must not buy these arguments.

Investment bankers don’t actually do productive work. They don’t even “look after” our money – they gamble it!

Banks should be run in the interest of everyone. Their success should be judged by the quality of their service, not the amount of profit they make for a tiny minority.

Bankers’ bonuses expose the inequality at the heart of the system.

We have to ask ourselves whether we really need investment bankers at all.

Tom Woodcock, TUSC council candidate, Cambridge

RBS bonuses are a disgrace

Can anyone explain to me how it is that the Royal Bank of Scotland, owned by the taxpayer, records a £5 billion deficit yet awards its employees £1.5 billion in bonuses?

Can anyone say no and stop it from happening?

Or, alternatively, are there any jobs going spare?

Bob Miller, Chelmsford, Essex

New Labour betrayed us

In 1997 I voted Labour, as advised by the SWP, despite loathing what Blair was doing to the Labour Party.

In February 2003 when we marched against the war in Iraq, many banners said “We didn’t vote for this”.

But, unknowingly, we had. I was ashamed that I had voted for Blair and I have not voted New Labour since.

Blair has done very well for himself and has walked away leaving a bloody mess, not just in Iraq.

The Labour Party, once the standard bearer of the left, is a standardless party now.

The labour movement, while weakened, remains strong in spirit. But it needs a new home.

When it is reborn through coming workers’ struggles, Labour will try to strangle it before it has a chance to take its first breath.

I have not decided what I should do at the election, but I know that this time round we won’t be able to hold banners at anti-war marches saying “We didn’t vote for this”, because this time we would have.

It’s a difficult one.

Claire, Beccles, Suffolk

Left’s election confusion

There is confusion on the left about how to deal with the elections.

I don’t think the argument should be about whether or not New Labour has sold us out. Of course they have.

The mainstream parties all have blood on their hands, and they all want to cut jobs.

The Greens are not much better and certainly don’t defend trade union rights and strike action.

And the Tories have always been ruling class bastards, that hasn’t changed.

The real issue is that the link between the trade union movement and Labour still exists – it’s a real connection with real power.

Millions of workers will vote Labour, despite their betrayals, because they understand that connection and hope that Labour can be forced to move left.

But that will only happen if we fight and build resistance.

So I think it’s correct to say “vote Labour where you must” –

but only if we are building a real alternative and working class resistance at the same time.

Jenny Franks, London

Remembering custody dead

The Mikey Powell Campaign was launched after Mikey died in police custody in Handsworth, Birmingham on 7 September 2003.

Mikey’s 45th birthday would have been on 15 May this year.

The campaign has come together with others fighting for justice including 4WardEver UK, the Habib Ullah campaign and the Leicester Civil Rights Movement.

We are hosting a remembrance event to tell the stories and experiences of families that have tragically lost loved ones in police, prison or psychiatric custody.

We hope to have speakers from a variety of campaigning organisations and from family campaigns.

There will also be campaign banners and photographs on display as well as music, dance and poetry.

The event will take place on Saturday 15 May at Leicester University.

Everyone’s welcome.

The Mikey Powell Campaign, Birmingham
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Article information

Tue 2 Mar 2010, 18:07 GMT
Issue No. 2191
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