Socialist Worker


Issue No. 1874

We are not going to let racism divide our workforce

I AM so proud of what we did as Wolverhampton postal workers to strike back against racism. We have shown that we are not going to allow racism to become 'normal' or to be used to divide the workforce.

Post Office management runs regular surveys of workers' opinion. Of course they ignore the answers if they don't like them and adopt them enthusiastically if it's a money-saving device. Recently the survey answers at the Sun Street depot in Wolverhampton included the disgusting comment, 'Get more white people to work for the company. Blacks are lazy and walk around doing nothing.'

Another said, 'Indians get more overtime and yet do no work.' What did management do with these filthy comments when the consultancy company provided them with them? They stuck them up on the noticeboard. Yes, that's right, the management that claims to care so much about equality and fairness put them up on the board.

The response was immediate, united and very angry. We don't want that sort of crap and we stopped work. It wasn't just Asian or black workers who were angry-it was white workers (of which I am one) as well. We knew that the only way that management really listens to you is when you stop work. That's true about every day workplace issues, it's true about racism as well.

We struck on a Friday and stayed out until the following Monday night. It was of course an illegal and unofficial action. Those four days have been a great blow against racism.

Management eventually had to issue a total apology for putting up the racist comments, although they say it was 'unwitting'. There is to be a full investigation to discover what the role of individuals was in the process. The most obvious sign of our victory is that management has agreed to pay strikers their full wages, including scheduled overtime and full bonuses, for the days they were on strike.

That's an admission that we were right, totally right, completely right. Management have tried to hide their defeat by saying that what occurred was a 'protest' not a strike.

They are terrified of admitting that an unofficial walkout was right, that it won and that we even got paid for it. The truth is it was a strike and I'm very pleased that we struck over this issue. The atmosphere now is brilliant. We feel very united and determined to maintain our unity in whatever battles come in the future.

The strike has also made the workplace much friendlier. Without wanting to overstate how sunny Sun Street now is, we all now have much more shared experience of taking part in something that was great, and you can't say that very often in Wolverhampton!

The union must continue to monitor management over this issue but we should also look at the education and arguments that are necessary in our own ranks to eliminate as far as possible the racist views of a very small minority of people.

Our experience shows that we can all unite to fight racism, and that workers are better than managers over the issue. I hope we can encourage other people to do the same.
Geoff, Wolverhampton postal worker and proud CWU union member

The NHS dental service is in decay

WHEN I started work in general dental practice in Hull in 1986, patients received a free dental exam and paid 40 percent of treatment costs up to a maximum of £120. Today patients do not have a free dental exam and they pay 80 percent of their charges up to a maximum of £272. These charges make a mockery of the Patient's Charter that states, 'Patients

should receive the treatment they need regardless of their financial status.' It is quite common for patients to refuse treatment on cost grounds. In 1990 a new contract was introduced. Dentists worked extremely hard and were rewarded with a 7 percent pay cut.

Dentists voted with their feet and half of NHS dental services closed their books to new patients and marched into the private sector. I have been in the NHS general dental service for 17 years. In 2001 my accounts before tax were £21,000. We are also subject to increasing paperwork.

There is a severe shortage of NHS dentists. People queue for hours simply to register. Now there is yet another 'new contract' on offer. It will be introduced in 2004. Effectively those who have the stomach for a mountain of bureaucracy will receive exactly the same pay as before but enter into a 'salaried-type scheme'. This severely limits hard work and productivity and I predict that waiting lists will reach three-month levels rather than a few days.
Dr David MacDonald, Lancashire

French lessons

JAMIE RANKIN (18 October) suggests that the issue of Muslim headscarves in French schools should be treated differently from in Britain because of the secular nature of the French education system, dating from the French Revolution of 1789.

Many French socialists have gone along with the myth of an egalitarian education system standing above society, representing a homogeneous nation into which minority groups can always integrate if they choose to do so.

In the most recent case two Muslim girls (their father is an atheist and anti-racist lawyer of Jewish origin) were excluded from a school after a campaign against them led by teachers belonging to a socialist group.
Colin Falconer, France

Exposing the BNP as Nazis

JOHN MARTIN was until recently a leading member of the Nazi BNP in Sunderland. He stood in the recent elections and nationally was one of their most successful candidates, gaining almost 30 percent of the vote for them. Now he has resigned, officially claiming that the BNP bullied him. He has formed his own party called Sunderland First.

The real reason for Martin leaving is that he has realised that the BNP is a Nazi party. He lost out in the factional infighting to the avowed Nazi section led by north east fŸhrer Kevin Scott.

How he came to this conclusion is not known but credit must be given to the Anti Nazi League who regularly picketed the Nazis. The BNP absolutely hate being described as Nazis.

Martin was described by BNP leader Nick Griffin as their best candidate and was recruited to be the 'decent face' of the party who would attract ordinary people. Griffin does not want those who openly advocate the murder of asylum seekers.

However, by always describing the BNP as a Nazi party we will deter the support of ordinary people and isolate the hard core of ideological Nazis.
Ray Smith, Newcastle

We need a real alternative

EDDIE D'SA (Letters, 11 October) demands a post-mortem into the Brent East by-election. At the moment the Socialist Alliance is not a credible alternative. In many places, between elections, it does not exist. No wonder that at elections people do not recognise us.

Socialist Worker has a higher recognition factor than the Socialist Alliance. Yet many people do not know that Socialist Worker is part of the Alliance. We have just seven months before the local, London assembly and European elections. I urge all Socialist Worker readers to join their local branch of the Socialist Alliance.
Clive Searle, Manchester

Stop Israel's apartheid wall

The appalling treatment of the Palestinians continues, especially with the erection of the land-poaching, farm-destroying and ominous wall. There is to be a 'Stop the wall day' on 9 November.

Also, the Palestine Solidarity Campaign is organising a boycott of Israeli goods to bring the Israeli state to heel under economic pressure.
P Hart, London

Who do Labour represent?

WHY ARE delegates at the Labour Party conference so fickle and gullible? Can it be that Labour Party membership is no longer representative of the working class in any significant way?

Does this mean that delegates are mainly typical of a minority who have benefited from government policies? Like for example middle class self employed or professionals who used to be Tory? Can we have some comment on this? Otherwise it would be easy to make the great mistake that delegates and Labour Party members are just stupid.
H Shalet, London

Blair's latest pensions scam

HIDDEN AMONG the proposals at the Labour Party conference was a scheme announced by work and pensions secretary Andrew Smith. Workers will now be allowed to defer their retirement until the age of 70 and then receive a lump sum of up to £30,000.

But the £30,000 would be taxed and by giving up your pension for five years you would lose about £23,000. Many who are tempted by this scheme might not make it to 70. In one foul swoop the government is encouraging people to work until they drop and presenting it as something worth living for.
Martin Upchurch, Bristol

Victim of double racism?

Roger Sylvester was the victim of double racism-from the police and the psychiatric establishment. London's hospitals provide a sort of psychiatric apartheid, full of caged black people. Blacks are up to ten times more likely to be diagnosed as schizophrenic and are more likely to be given primitive medication such as chlorpromazine.

Psychiatry is providing an 'intellectual' basis for institutional racism. It is the combination between police and psychiatrists that is so dangerous for the black community.
Zekria Ibrahimi, London

Campaigning for Khadijah Igbodo

I WANTED to update readers following Socialist Worker's article about Edwina Igbodo and her daughter Khadijah, who has a brain tumour. Khadijah slipped into a semi-coma on Thursday of last week and is in a serious condition.

A TV company saw the article and are making a film about Khadijah's case. People in Kilburn are organising in support of Edwina's rehousing case. Brent council have still not offered help and the new Liberal Democrat MP, Sarah Teather, has not replied to the messages we have left her. To get involved contact 07940 326 741.
Lucy Cox, Brent

Support the bin tax protesters

I AM writing to give my support to Brid Smith and Karen and Chrissie Heffernan who were jailed for standing up against the bin tax in Dublin. Like the poll tax it is an attack on ordinary workers.

I made a stand against the poll tax and served three months in prison. I hope the bin tax protesters get the support from trade unions and the movement that I received.
Beccy Palmer, London

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Article information

Sat 25 Oct 2003, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1874
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