Socialist Worker


Issue No. 2203

CWU conference delegates celebrate their strike ballot result in 2007 (Pic: Socialist Worker)

CWU conference delegates celebrate their strike ballot result in 2007 (Pic: Socialist Worker)

Make our unions more democratic – not less

I was dismayed to read that the Trades Union Congress general council had agreed that in future the annual conference should be every two years.

Im contrast I was delighted that the annual conference of my union – the Communication Workers Union (CWU) – this week rejected moves for a conference every two years.

In lots of unions now there are arguments that the annual conference is too expensive and not representative. But our conferences are the best opportunity that members have to hold our union officers to account. This is particularly true of unelected officials and those elected for terms of more than one year. They are also the only forum to which branches can put forward policy – and listen to debates and issues.

The leadership may not want to hear the opinions voiced at conference. But most of the delegates are in regular contact with the ordinary members. They have to deal with the consequences of decisions made by the leadership that are sometimes unpopular.

The solution to financial problems is recruitment – not attacking the union’s sovereign decision-making body

Merlin Reader, CWU rep (personal capacity)

To me, to you, to me, to you

The sight of Cameron and Clegg together has already become nauseating to many. Just like the Chuckle Brothers they look the same and sound the same.

But with Clegg and Cameron’s public school background they sound rather posher than the original Chuckles.

Their “to me, to you” routine is there. So too is the aspect of theatre. Cameron Chuckle says “we want to cut”. Clegg Chuckle says “we need to cut”.

The question is when will the labour movement collectively say, “Oh no we don’t!”

Disgracefully the leading contenders for leadership of the Labour Party seem to see jumping on the right wing bandwagon of ‘blame the immigrants’ as the way to re-connect with their supporters. Showing less intellect than the Chuckles they seem unable to conclude that class politics will reconnect Labour with the working class.

So who will stop Cameron Chuckle and Clegg Chuckle from wreaking havoc on our public services?

Here the trade unions and their leaders have a vital role to play. But why wait for the coalition of the Posh Chuckle Brothers to start their attacks. Shouldn’t our union leaders be forming a coalition of resistance now?

On 22 June when the Posh Chuckles announce the cuts the chorus from the trade union movement should be “Oh no you won’t!”

Tony Barnsley, West Midlands

Vote for Paul Holmes

Voting for Unison general secretary started on 17 May.

This election comes at an important time for the largest public sector union in Britain.

In the aftermath of the general election, the Con-Dem government plans to slash

£6 billion from the public services budget.

This means Unison members need to elect a leader who will lead a fight against the cuts, not just within Unison but across all unions.

This is why I am campaigning for the election of Paul Holmes as general secretary.

Paul is currently the branch secretary of Unison Kirklees local government branch.

He is widely known among members for his campaign against the pension cuts in 2006.

Paul’s branch achieved the unprecedented step of winning the support of branches representing over 25 percent of the members to call a special conference to hold the union leadership to account.

Anyone who has heard Paul speak about how Kirklees branch has achieved a membership density of 84 percent cannot be anything but inspired.

Unison needs a leader such as Paul to help organise and inspire workers to defend jobs, pay, conditions and pensions.

The bankers and the government have made their plans for cuts very clear – we need a union and a leadership that will respond to the attacks that are coming.

Paul is currently touring Britain to get his message across to as many members as possible.

While doing this, Paul is also continuing his tireless work in his branch and helping Kirklees Unison members to prepare for industrial action as employers seek to shed 1,090 jobs this year alone.

To find out more about Paul’s campaign and how to get involved, contact [email protected] Go to his blog at

» or call 07806 846742.

Voting closes on 11 June.

Nick Ruff, Leeds

Unity needed to stop newspaper bosses

I agree with Paul Robinson’s point (» Letters, 22 May) about needing to join together with the print unions if strikes are to be successful in stopping the presses at any newspaper.

I think journalists need to fight hard to build links to enable this to happen.

We are bound to have joint issues when we all work for employers who are hell-bent on sacrificing jobs, worsening conditions and attacking quality journalism, all in the name of making the bosses and shareholders richer.

The group I work for, Johnston Press, is more than £400 million in debt because of a spending spree in the 1990s.

It is intent on making staff pay the price for this madness now it has the banks on its back.

That is one reason why NUJ members won a historic ballot to take action across many of the group’s centres in England.

Then the company went scurrying to the High Court, claiming we don’t work for the group that determines our pay and conditions.

They say we work for subsidiaries – even though they don’t take any decisions by themselves but do as they are told by head office.

As more cuts hit home under this new government, workers will have to think seriously about whether they are going to let the courts stop them or whether they will walk out anyway.

Julia Armstrong, Sheffield

Red Shirts: just tool of bosses?

As I write, the Thai military has been sent to break the Red Shirts’ blockade in Bangkok.

The Red Shirts are a mass movement from poor and rural areas of Thailand who are fighting to depose the prime minister, Abhisit Vejjajiva.

In many ways it is tempting to support the Red Shirts, as they are a workers’ movement campaigning against an illegitimate government.

But the Red Shirts support the deposed former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

Shinawatra was a mixed blessing for Thailand as he boosted the economy and helped the poor, but he also abused his power and made himself very rich.

The current protest started after the high court seized his assets.

This was used as an excuse for the Red Shirt leaders to try and seize power.

The current crisis in Thailand is the product of a deformed class war, and it is deformed by way of its leadership.

The Red Shirts are not a rank and file movement, but are politically manipulated by a corrupt ex prime minister and led by a group of self-serving politicians.

Joel Ormsby, Thailand

Robin Hood's merry men and women

In his review of past Robin Hoods, Simon Basketter (» ‘Loved by the good feared by the bad’, 15 May) leaves out the two best TV series.

They were Richard Carpenter’s Robin of Sherwood and the children’s series Maid Marion and her Merry Men from the 1980s and early 1990s.

Robin of Sherwood (young Ray Winstone played Will Scarlet) was a marvellous anti-Thatcher reworking of the story. Tony Robinson played the Sheriff in Maid Marion. It was an absolutely hilarious feminist send-up.

This was TV worth celebrating.

John Newsinger, Leicester

Inspirational leader missed

Willie Lee was one of the comrades in the International Socialists (IS) in Glasgow in the early 70s who convinced me that there was a better world worth fighting for (Socialist Worker, 15 May).

His humour and class analysis that cut through the sometimes obscure theoretical discussions in those days made him a leader, not just at Linwood car plant but also in the IS.

You will be sadly missed.

Ross Mackenzie, Australia

BA’s excuses for job cuts

Greedy companies like British Airways are keeping the average worker on low salaries. They are using the recession as an excuse to cut pay and make workers do more.

Nick Agnew, by email

Hypocrisy on the Iraq war

Groucho Marx once quipped “Those are my principles, and if you don’t like them... well, I have others.”

These words would sit well in the mouths of some of those challenging for the Labour leadership. The sudden conversion of Ed Balls and Ed Miliband to opposing the invasion of Iraq is contemptible.

When it suited their careers, and when their opposition might have counted, they backed the offensive.

What a deplorable bunch of hypocrites!

It seems highly unlikely that anyone who genuinely opposed the war from the start will get on the ballot paper for leader.

Keith Crane, Essex

Is this vote illegal too?

Over 100,000 votes were declared spoiled in the 2007 Scottish Parliament elections.

None of these spoiled papers were counted in the manner that the electoral law states. Technically, the Scottish Parliament sits illegally.

In 2010 BA workers may not have been informed of 11 spoilt papers and a judge rules against a strike.

Mark Porciani, Glasgow

No peace for Nick Clegg

As part of Nick Clegg’s “biggest shake up of our democracy since 1832” (ignoring such trivialities as universal suffrage), we have been promised an end to limits on peaceful protest.

Strangely, this doesn’t extend to the Peace Camp in Parliament Square.

Set up on May Day, it is now threatened with eviction in advance of the queen’s visit for the opening of parliament.

Couldn’t have her majesty seeing her revolting subjects!

Louise Jones, East London

US has history with Korea

The US was hardly “sucked into” the Korean conflict in 1950 (» The forgotten war, 22 May). It has a long history of manipulating Korea – starting with President Theodore Roosevelt at the end of the Russo-Japanese War in 1905.

Roosevelt wanted Japan to have Korea.

He belived that Japan would leave the rest of Asia to US–British hegemony.

David Rothauser, Brookline, US

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Article information

Tue 25 May 2010, 18:07 BST
Issue No. 2203
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