‘Buzzing’ after 30 June
The strikes on 30 June were incredible and have changed the atmosphere in many workplaces. The mood among teachers is far more optimistic than before. They are buzzing.
People have a broader idea of what is possible, and not just over pensions but cuts and other issues.
Whenever I go into a school, teachers tell me proudly that they were on strike on 30 June. New people are coming forward to become NUT union reps.
A new generation of youngsters who see the importance of union organisation is coming through.
This is also the feeling among support staff, such as teaching assistants, who weren’t out at the end of June. They’re demanding to come out in the next wave in the autumn.
There is a lot of support for our action. The government’s attempt to get people to scab on teachers really backfired.
For many people the whole idea was simply ridiculous.
Now we need to keep up the momentum over the summer. I want to organise an action committee early in the new academic year to organise for the next wave of strikes. We need to put pressure on all the union leaders to name the day for this.
We also need to make the demonstration at the Tory party conference in Manchester on 2 October massive.
Sally Kincaid, Wakefield and District NUT divisional secretary (pc)
For more on Tory conference protest go to http://righttowork.org.uk
Education workers across Waltham Forest in east London are in uproar. The council wants to attack school support staffs’ pay and conditions, while teachers face the attack on their pensions.
The whole mood has changed in the last few months with mass meetings of Unison and GMB union members voting unanimously for strikes.
The 30 June strikes had a big impact, with three quarters of schools closed. The demonstration in central London made people feel elated because we were on strike and marching with other trade unionists.
After the strike everybody agrees that we need more action involving more unions in the autumn.
A senior manager told me that the strike didn’t change anything. I said that we do need more action but it had changed the way people feel.
The genie’s out of the bottle. People feel that they don’t have to accept these cuts.
The council performed a U-turn the day after the GMB and Unison began their strike ballot, saying that there would be no pay cut and withdrawing some of their attacks on sick pay. But we feel we still need to push them further.
People are beginning to feel we have the power to win.
Workers are beginning to talk about how we have the strength to bring down this government.
Amanda Squire, East London
Stop the oppression of Gazans
It’s a year since Israeli troops boarded the aid ship Mavi Marmara and killed nine people.
The ship was in international waters, and was trying to help the people of Gaza, who Israel have blockaded.
Over 1,400 Palestinians were killed in Israel’s 2008/9 invasion of Gaza.
Israel has imposed a military occupation over much of Palestine since 1967—largely with US weaponry. It has continuously violated international law and outraged the world.
When the United Nations put forward a no-fly zone resolution for Libya, it was also suggested that they impose one over Gaza to protect Palestinian civilians. The US vetoed this.
The people in Gaza are being treated in an appalling way, and those in the West Bank aren’t faring much better.
Let us just stop this oppression of innocent people.
Colin Crilly, South London
Schools’ uni divide
A new report has revealed the class divide in higher education.
The Sutton Trust charity found that five schools sent more pupils to Oxford and Cambridge universities over three years than 2,000 others combined.
Four private schools—Eton, Westminster, St Paul’s Boys and St Paul’s Girls—and the state-run Hills Road Sixth Form College in Cambridge, sent 946 pupils to the two elite universities between 2007 and 2009.
Two thousands other schools sent just 927 pupils to them in the same period.
Meanwhile, the BBC has found that private schools often get more pupils into selective universities than state schools do, even when their A-level results are similar.
This disparity will get even worse when the Tories’ increases in fees come into effect.
Peter David, North London
LGBT conference had mood of resistance
This year’s TUC LGBT conference gained inspiration from delegates’ stories of resistance to the government’s austerity cutbacks. It also highlighted the widespread discrimination that LGBT workers face.
We condemned the assault against the public sector and the disproportionate effect this would have on LGBT people.
The cuts threaten to roll back the significant but fragile gains made over the last 40 years.
David Cameron’s recent LGBT “reception” cannot paper over the Tories’ deep-rooted homophobia.
Conference also took a clear stand against the English Defence League, denouncing it as a fascist and anti-Muslim organisation.
By far the strongest support was saved for the striking ATL, NUT, PCS and UCU delegates. Their demand for union leaders to name the day for the next coordinated action was greeted with loud applause.
The emphasis was on the need for unity to fight the cuts. There has never been a more important time for unions to demand and defend equality or for LGBT trade unionists to get active.
We will not be forced back into the closet. We will fight for our rights and future. We have seen how solidarity strengthens our movement, and this conference was a call for action for all LGBT trade unionists.
Pura Ariza, UCU delegate (pc)
DWP threats have ruined my life
The terrible impact of the state’s so-called war on “benefit cheats” can be seen in my case.
I was put onto incapacity benefit after I had an accident at work eight years ago. This meant I got a double hernia and couldn’t do the job any more.
For the last few years the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has been pursuing me for thousands of pounds that it claims I owe it.
This has since been reduced to £500.
The DWP has threatened to take me to court and used three different firms of debt collectors.
The aggression from the DWP has had a big effect on me.
I haven’t had a life for seven or eight years. I feel I’ve been robbed by the system.
I don’t want to be part of this country any more.
The people at the top sit there with their fabulous wealth, living a life of luxury.
They do this while I could be facing eviction.
I have worked and paid into the system and then I’m treated this way.
I’m 54 years old and I don’t know what’s going to happen next.
Stop attacks on abortion
The anti-abortion group the Pro-Life Alliance won a High Court ruling recently releasing details of so-called “late” abortions in Britain.
This showed that 147 abortions were carried out after the 24-week limit last year. These were all done because of the serious risk of physical or mental abnormalities.
The media focused on the issue of abortions taking place because the child would have a cleft lip or plate.
This can be corrected by a surgical procedure.
But none of these abortions took place for that reason, so one wonders why so much attention was paid to it.
The right and the government are attempting to clamp down on women’s rights to control their bodies, even if it increases the danger to women.
Socialists have to resist these attacks and defend our hard won right to abortion.
Simone Murray, Carlisle
Well done for Marxism 2011
I just wanted to say congratulations on a marvellous Marxism festival (Socialist Worker, 9 July) this year.
I was heartened to see so many young people attending. I even managed to sign up one guy who is about to go to sixth form college.
As usual, the debates were lively and given by very well informed speakers.
Like many others, I was a bit confused at first by the new venue, but soon got the hang of where things were and, dare I say it, preferred it.
Well done to all concerned in the organisation.
Mitch Mitchell, March, Cambridgeshire
Labour: still a workers’ party
I agree with most of what Dalwinder Atwal and Kathryn Rimmington write about the right wing nature of the Labour Party (Letters, 2 July).
But 15 trade unions remain affiliated to the party—entitling three million union members to vote in its elections.
I appreciate that the function and purpose of a union is different to that of a party.
I would enquire what attitude a democratic trade unionist should adopt. The Labour Party, no doubt because of its origins, remains the mass party of the working class.
D Shepherd, North London
The power of profits
British Gas is to put up its gas prices by 18 percent and its electricity prices by 16 percent from next month.
This will hit nine million people. Its gas prices have risen almost 50 percent in the last three years while wholesale prices have gone down by a third.
Its residential business made
£740 million in profits last year. It seems some people are doing well out of the recession.
Katherine Branney, East London
Register won’t stop violence
The police are floating plans to bring in a “register” of domestic violence offenders.
They say it would help women who are starting new relationships to vet their potential partners and make more informed decisions.
On the surface it can sound sensible.
But it’s completely the wrong way to try and stop domestic violence.
Most women who suffer this are well aware of the threat posed to them because they are living with it.
Many try to escape but find barriers in their way—such as poverty, lack of support or police not taking them seriously.
The plan for a register risks blaming women for the problem, and not the systemic things that make women vulnerable.
The main problems are cuts to support services for women who are suffering violence—and the failure of the police to protect them.
Maureen Phillips, Bradford