Socialist Worker


Issue No. 2227

Firefighters on the picket line (Pic: Julian Vaughan)

Firefighters on the picket line (Pic: Julian Vaughan)

Firefighters’ struggle was a big inspiration

As an unemployed worker, visiting the firefighters’ picket lines, watching their actions to close down the AssetCo scabbing operation has been an inspiration for me.

The readiness of rank and file workers not only to strike but also to hold mass pickets and take militant action has really affirmed my belief that working people won’t just lay down and be steamrollered by the Tory cuts.

However, the militancy of the firefighters has also provoked an escalated response by the bosses’ lackeys. One worker was hit by a scab fire engine, one knocked down by a manager’s car and pickets have been threatened by police.

In the face of resurgent struggle, we have to accept that the bosses, the police and the state will play dirty to demoralise workers.

To stop this happening we need solidarity. In future disputes we need to learn that lesson and show our backing by taking collections and sending messages of support. We can build unity between workers facing cutbacks.

But most importantly we need to stand shoulder to shoulder on picket lines to make strikes as effective as possible—just as many RMT union members did with the firefighters.

Against the power of the state and ruling class individual groups of workers need the maximum solidarity to help beat back the cuts.

It’s a shame that the firefighters’ union leaders called off the strikes just as we saw this beginning to happen.

Richard Donnelly, Kingston

Gove’s hellish vision of education

Despite offering extra cash, education minister Michael Gove has failed to lure many “outstanding” schools into becoming academies.

So he has changed his tactics to forcing “failing” schools into academy status.

Gove’s vision is the antithesis of education.

He wants schools to be factories that turn out a “product”. But children are not widgets.

Allowing businesses to run schools as factories neglects the fact that children are as unpredictable and vivacious as space explorers.

The end of this road is that children will be taught according to the needs of the McDonalds and Tescos of this world.

But your child may be better suited to a musical curriculum that a business school would not consider.

Can we go beyond just opposing Gove’s plans and provide an alternative vision of education?

The website has some examples we can look to.

Leila Galloway, Deptford

Edinburgh robbery

The fears about how Edinburgh council’s “single status” policy would rob workers have come true.

The Lib Dem/SNP council told staff that they would have three-year wage protection if they signed new contracts. The wording then changed to “up to three years”.

The council decided to protect average earnings across three years, rather than protect weekly take home pay as expected.

This means staff who have spent time off work for illnesses as serious as cancer now face punishment by being paid less.

Some staff have found themselves starting work at 6.45am and working outdoors in bad weather, with no drying rooms or canteens, only to have a pay slip handed to them with the grand total of £14 for the week.

Bin workers are still fighting even after being bullied and threatened with redundancy.

And local union officials have been left hanging in the wind by the corporate business that their union Unite has become.

How can it expect workers to keep supporting it?

Paul French, Edinburgh

Two-sided welfare

I wonder if the slogan “Defend the Welfare State” is appropriate any more.

So much has changed in state welfare over the past 30 years.

Needing welfare has long been a paradoxical experience for the working class who need it but hate the way it is provided and administered.

What are we saying to them with slogans like “Defend the Welfare State” when it is so often part of the problem?

Of course we must continue to fight not just the cuts to state welfare provision but its ongoing transformation into something ugly and inhuman.

But can’t we think about new slogans?

Instead of “Defending the Welfare State” we need to be fighting for a welfare state.

Chris Jones, Greece

Going on strike is the way to defend services

I absolutely agree with your article on why strikes are right ( These strikes must win , 6 November).

All my working life they have told me it is wrong for nurses to go out on strike because it will harm patients.

Some 15,000 jobs have gone in the NHS this year.

Many of them are nurses and other essential staff.

The Tories plan over 500,000 job losses in essential public services over the next few years. All these people will not be there to care for the sick—they will be gone permanently.

When we go on strike we are only gone for the duration of the strike.

Yes, we have to be honest, it does sometimes hurt patients.

But don’t ever let any Tory shed crocodile tears for patients—or victims of fire, or people who use day centres.

They want to close our services for good. How many wards and hospitals are “on strike” for ever because they were closed by callous governments over the last 20 years?

How many patients have died as a result? We want to save them.

Strikes are the best way to do this.

Not going on strike actually hurts patients more than going on strike because it allows cuts to go through without a fight.

Support all public service workers striking for jobs and to defend services.

Karen Reissmann, Manchester

New powers for GPs are no victory

Readers should not be misled by headlines like the Daily Mail’s “Drug victory for patients: ‘Penny-pinching’ NICE stripped of power to ban life-saving drugs”.

Currently, the national NHS body NICE sets a rationing limit for expensive drugs, usually cancer drugs.

Drugs that cost more than its limits are not funded by the NHS.

The coalition is proposing to strip NICE of these powers and hand them down to the new GP commissioning groups.

But this is no victory for patients.

The total budget of the NHS is being capped in real terms under the spending review to 0.1 percent growth each year.

But NHS costs are likely to increase much faster than that, just to break even. 

Unless we break the spending review cap, and force the government to increase the NHS budget, rationing decisions are going to have to be taken by GPs—just as harshly as they are by NICE.

The only victor will be the government, which will have succeeded in shaking off responsibility for the rationing decisions.

Dr Kambiz Boomla, East London

Con-Dem NHS lies

Distraught nurses at Dewsbury and district hospital have been reduced to tears after 150 staff received a letter warning them that their jobs could go.

It was sent by Mid Yorkshire hospitals trust.

Unions have called the situation “shambolic”.

The government is lying when it says that the health service is ringfenced from cuts.

John Appleyard, West Yorkshire

Taking sides with Tommy

Jim Miler admits “the capitalist class” are out to destroy Tommy Sheridan.

But he goes on to say the “latest fiasco” in the courts is “a self-inflicted wound” (Letters, 6 November).

Jim is wrong.

Tommy beat the News of the World in the first court battle.

The current case is part of a vendetta in response.

Rupert Murdoch’s media empire has been out to destroy Tommy ever since he rose to prominence as a champion of the poor.

The police and prosecution services—which we pay for—have devoted unprecedented sums to pursuing the interests of a media baron against Scotland’s best known working class fighter.

Sadly, some people who should know better, have ended up giving evidence against Tommy.

There are two sides here—and every socialist should be on Tommy’s side.

Dave Sherry, Glasgow

High speed for fat cats

High Speed 2—the proposed high speed rail between London and Birmingham—is a propaganda exercise supported by all three main parties.

There is no environmental case—no environmental impact assessments are available before the middle of next year.

But while public sector workers are facing personal ruin the government wants to spend £33 billion on it!

This is more than the £30 billion in transport cuts announced in the spending review.

High Speed 2 is a fast train for fat cats.

Lizzy Williams, Oxfordshire

Use union’s political fund

The unions can directly fight against cuts by proper use of their political funds. 

Model motions should be discussed in all union branches, regions and conferences proposing to disaffiliate locally wherever Labour is implementing cuts.

They should also use the political fund to support any representatives or candidates who oppose all cuts. They could also offer to use the political fund to pay for the legal and other costs of councillors who refuse to set a budget for cuts.

As soon as one council, backed by the unions whose jobs are being saved, refuses to implement the cuts, the ball will be rolling.

Michael Coulston, South London

Why I voted for Jerry Hicks

Today I voted for Jerry Hicks as Unite general secretary.

He is the only candidate who is a rank and file activist. He has a record of opposing sell-out deals. And he clearly spoke out against the betrayal of trade union rights when New Labour were in office.

Jerry has promised constitutional reform—which means our undemocratic Unite rule book will be thrown out and lay members given back the right to elect and recall officials.

I am also seconding the motion from my branch chair to the West of Scotland Voluntary Sector Unite ACTS branch  condemning Labour MPs for failing to back John McDonnell’s trade union bill.

The motion calls on Unite to review funding to Labour MPs that fail to support union policy on the anti-trade union laws.

Graham Campbell, by email

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

Article information

Tue 9 Nov 2010, 18:50 GMT
Issue No. 2227
Share this article

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