Socialist Worker


Issue No. 2298

Remploy workers join a protest over unemployment last month (Pic: Smallman )

Remploy workers join a protest over unemployment last month (Pic: Guy Smallman)

Remploy factories offer the only work we can get

As an employee at Neath and Port Talbot Remploy I am very worried about our futures.

I am 32, with no trade. I used to work in the collieries until they shut down. In fact three collieries I worked at closed.

In the collieries I was put on suitable work, although I couldn’t do everything due to me being a slow learner. Whether we’re in wheelchairs or deaf or have learning disabilities, at Remploy today we all understand each other’s problems. If someone buys the factory will they want disabled people? And will they keep the transport that gets us to work?

If I had to get to Port Talbot by bus I would have to walk to Neath by 6.45am—and walk for 10 minutes after I get off the bus. If Remploy is privatised, how will I get there?

Our factory is in good condition. We aren’t losing money. I hope it can stay open.

I hate this government. Disability minister Maria Miller is in cloud cuckoo land saying that disabled people could get work in mainstream employment. Able-bodied people can’t even get work. There’s no work about in Wales.

John Davies, Neath

Squatting ban will hurt homeless

The House of Lords made squatting in residential properties a criminal rather than civil offence as part of the legal aid bill on 27 March.

Yet in Britain there are currently 700,000 empty properties and 600,000 people facing homelessness—up 17 percent since last year.

This is at the same time as the government is selling off council houses, forcing rents up as they push through pay cuts.

So there is a likelihood that there will be more empty homes and more homeless people.

According to homeless charity Crisis, 40 percent of homeless people have slept in disused buildings to avoid sleeping rough. We are likely to see more on the streets.

It just seems logical that empty buildings should be used to house homeless people.

Our right to a home must be defended—we will not be thrown into the gutter. There are anti-eviction networks and more being set up.

Contact Squatters Action for Secure Homes (Squash) for more info at

Marcus Trower, Guildford

Military still rules in Burma

Dave Sewell’s article on Aung San Suu Kyi’s election to the Burmese parliament raises important points (Celebrations greet Suu Kyi win in Burma, but new dangers await). However, some of the arguments need clarification.

It is true that 25 percent of the seats in Burma’s parliament are reserved for the military, but that is only a small part of the problem.

The president sits above parliament and is not accountable to it.

Constitutionally he must have military experience and is responsible for directly appointing the government and ministers, almost all of whom were also ministers in the junta.

Even so, the military has ultimate power and is still able to veto decisions by the president or parliament.

Hundreds of political prisoners have been released, but scores more remain incarcerated.

Ceasefires are being signed with armed ethnic political parties, but there has been no attempt to address the political causes of the problems.

Since independence in 1948 successive governments have systematically ignored and abused the rights of ethnic minority Burmese, some 40 percent of the population.

And of course the existing government has form when it comes to breaking ceasefire agreements. This is why the Kachin Independence Organisation has refused to sign ceasefire agreements—a refusal that has most recently cost three Kachin constituencies the right to vote in the by-election.

The release of political prisoners, by‑elections and ceasefires are the three areas that the EU and US want to see improved before sanctions can be lifted. So it’s no surprise that these are the three areas the military have allowed some movement on.

There is highly valuable jade, gold and teak to be found in Burma. The government could become very wealthy by putting a veneer of democracy over its iron‑fisted rule.

Charlotte Bence, North London

Robert Mugabe is no friend of the masses

It is true that in the first years after Zimbabwe’s independence the government of Robert Mugabe brought in changes that resulted in better education and healthcare (Mugabe is the poor’s friend, Letters, 7 April).

Yet that is just one part of the picture. From 1991 Mugabe imposed an “economic and structural adjustment programme”. Factories closed, workers were laid off and education funding was slashed.

This resulted in mass strikes and the creation of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), with the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions playing a leading role.

But the MDC has become dominated by the middle class. Their inability to provide leadership reflects their emphasis on the electoral arena and a retreat from popular mobilisation.

The MDC has moved closer to Western states, enabling Mugabe’s Zanu‑PF to say it is in the pockets of foreign interests.

Zanu‑PF responded to the rise of social movement activism by creating reactionary social movements like the state‑sponsored war veterans’ organisation.

This, together with the prosecution of six socialist activists for watching a video of the Egyptian revolution, shows Mugabe is still scared of real democracy and is no friend of the masses.

Peter Dwyer, Oxford

Defending the right to choose

Jenny Bloom suggests some positive things that would lessen the need for abortion (It’s not bigoted to say abortion is last resort, Letters, 7 April).

However her assertion that abortion should be used as an absolute last resort and not a “choice” rings alarm bells.

The foetus has the potential to become a human being—but whether it develops depends entirely on the woman carrying it.

Women have always tried to control their fertility to keep control of their own lives.

Jenny’s attitude could lead to the compulsory counselling suggested by Tory MP Nadine Dorries.

Supporters of a woman’s right to choose, both men and women, had a stall in Stratford, east London, last Saturday.

We asked people to sign a statement of support for the British Pregnancy Advisory Service clinic in Stratford, which has been targeted by anti-abortionists.

We were very encouraged by the response. In an hour over 100 people signed the statement of support.

This is an issue that is increasingly under attack by organised religious groups and the most right wing figures in the government. But we have a good base to fight them.

Pam Corr, East London

Next they’ll be coming for me

The government’s plans to monitor the calls, emails, texts and website visits of everyone in Britain are despicable.

They say that it is key to tackling crime and—yes, you’ve guessed it—terrorism.

It’s funny how we criticise other countries like China, North Korea and Iran for their oppressive regimes, and yet this is a horrific attempt to further erode our own civil liberties.

Big Brother eat your heart out.

This is not about our protection, but for their protection from a disenchanted public.

If our elected leaders have their way, I’d be arrested for writing this dangerous email.

Colin Crilly, South London

Why they pick on the young

It is important to understand the thinking that lies behind the decision to freeze the minimum wage for young people (Minimum wage frozen for young).

16 and 17 year olds cannot vote, and 18 to 20 year olds are unlikely to vote. The government clearly sees little political cost from the decision.

Young people need to ensure they are registered to vote and that they turn out to vote at election time.

Of course, voting is not everything, but it can help.

David Rolfe, Telford

Crisis doesn’t hit the wealthy

The question isn’t will the economic crisis end—it’s for whom will it end?

It isn’t a crisis for the rich who are getting richer, hand over fist. But it is a never-ending crisis for the poor and workers who are getting poorer and dying.

Name withheld, Illinois, US

Fund is bad for Palestinians

The Jewish National Fund (JNF) was set up in London over a hundred years ago—explicitly to settle Jewish people in homes in Palestine.

Today it gives the impression that it is just involved in planting trees and similar things.

But the JNF has been responsible for destroying Palestinian villages and displacing and dispersing those who lived there.

It has assisted in the repeated destruction of villages in the Naqab (Negev) desert.

MPs led by Jeremy Corbyn and Gerald Kaufman have put forward an early day motion calling for the JNF’s charitable status to be terminated.

You can ask your MP to sign it through

John Nicholson, Manchester

Workers face steep parking

Mid-Yorkshire NHS Trust is hiking parking charges for staff.

Full time workers will have to pay an extra £240 just to park—a 70 percent rise.

And that’s on top of the pay freeze, pensions and all the other cuts they face.

Unison members have launched a petition against the changes. They plan to present it to health chiefs later this month.

John Appleyard, Liversedge

School dinners to be sold off

Just when you thought local councils couldn’t sink any lower, Neath and Port Talbot council is planning to sell off its school meals service.

The Labour-controlled council wants to hand it to a private firm named Appetito.

Only last year the same council handed over housing to private organisation NPT Homes Ltd.

It looks likely that school dinner staff will have to take action to defend their jobs and the service.

Huw Pudner, Swansea

Red letter days for Occupy

Put May Day, 12 May and 15 May in your diary. The next wave is about to begin.

Occupy activist, London

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Article information

Tue 10 Apr 2012, 18:20 BST
Issue No. 2298
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