Workers want to fight
As a Unison member fighting for a reject vote in the pensions ballot, it has been great to be able to point to the Unite union health workers and PCS planned national strike on 10 May.
The 10,000 strong demo in London on 28 March and the NUT teachers’ union vote at its conference to strike again has shown that the public sector pensions dispute is far from over.
Momentum is definitely building again and the anger has never gone away.
Workers will see the cost of increased contributions removed from their pay packets in April. Their take-home pay will shrink.
This will cause further hardship to health workers and their families.
The NHS bill, regional pay and threats to sick pay and holiday entitlements all compound the situation. We must continue to fight over pensions, or this government will take more and more from public sector workers.
Our pay and our ability to provide good quality care to our patients are constantly under threat.
Our patients deserve better. NHS staff and users of the NHS should not be bailing out the bankers or filling the pockets of the Tories’ 1 percent friends.
Unison’s healthcare conference takes place as our ballot comes to a close.
It will be vital at the conference to build for further action, along with other public sector unions if members reject the lousy “heads of agreement” offer.
In the meantime we vow to support all other public sector workers who are continuing the fight.
Hopefully we will join you again in coordinated action soon.
Caroline Ridgway (pc), Manchester
We need to elect the TUC leader
TUC General secretary Brendan Barber has announced that he is retiring later this year.
I think all six million union members who make up the TUC should directly elect the next general secretary.
The person who becomes the next TUC general secretary has the potential to affect everyone’s lives for the better—not just the trade union members of the TUC. But that depends on who it is, what they will prioritise and what they will fight for.
I’m sure that the vast majority of workers would like to know that one of their leaders had the same experience as themselves. And why can’t a leader even be on the same sort of wages?
It might give them a better reality check, particularly when leading in disputes such as the public sector pensions struggle.
Trade unionists deserve more from the TUC and stronger leadership.
But above all we, the members, should decide who gets the job.
We are at a watershed moment. Who leads the TUC now matters more than ever.
Jerry Hicks, Unite Grassroots Left
The BBC is rewriting our history
I watched the beginning of the TV series The 70s with Dominic Sandbrook this week. I won’t be watching any more of it. It was full of sweeping generalisations about what “Britain wanted”.
But what really annoyed me was when the presenter said the striking miners had Thatcherite values because they wanted more money.
What biased crap. The miners worked very hard and were underpaid. They worked together to improve conditions for everyone.
That is the opposite of Thatcherism, which stands for selfishness and greed.
It is also about the wealthy, who have too much already, wanting even more.
Another “unbiased” BBC production? I’m sick of the right wing crap they produce and pretend is fair and unbiased.
Steve, by email
Go to arts section for a review of The 70s
Sticking it to Tories
I am so angry about police racism, and so angry that nothing has changed. And I am sure that most people agree with us that police racism must be exposed and cleared out.
Our paper sales of Socialist Worker around police racism were brilliant, and now I have posted every single petition form off to Tory Home Secretary Theresa May, with a covering letter.
Some people think you should never talk to a Tory.
But I think we have to stick our arguments to this government in every way that we can.
Let’s use the petitions from our papersales more widely, and sell Socialist Worker around our friends, our workplaces and our housing estates and communities.
Its all part of our work to bring down this government.
Paul Burnham, North London
Kurdish activists want media to speak out
Kurdish activists are occupying sites across London this week to highlight the silence on the part of the Western media and human rights organisations on hunger strikes by Kurdish political prisoners in Turkey.
The Red Cross, Amnesty International and the National Union of Journalists have all been occupied in an attempt to get them to speak out about the ongoing situation.
Around 1,500 Kurdish prisoners in jails across Turkey have gone without food for 66 days, and their supporters outside the European Parliament for 51 days. Some 500 more prisoners are set to join the strike.
But the media pays no attention.
A number of the hunger strikers have been hospitalised.
The prisoners are members of the PKK and PJAK political parties and are protesting to demand the release of Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan.
He is imprisoned on an island in Turkey and has not been heard from for nine months. They are also demanding an end to the oppression of Kurdish people at the hands of the Turkish state and political status for Kurdistan.
The hunger strike began on
15 February, the 13th anniversary of Ocalan’s arrest. After 66 days of silence, we ask the international community to speak out.
Rojwan, Deniz and Huseyin, East London
Another death in police custody
It horrifies and disgusts me that Shanise Paris-Goff fell to her death during a police raid on her home (Socialist Worker, 12 April).
Until a few months ago I worked in the criminal justice system, but I never for a single moment did that job for this kind of thing to happen.
My condolences go to her family and boyfriend.
Why should a situation go from arrest to death like this?
In my job I always tried to help people address the problems which might contribute to their offending.
This could be to help to turn their anger and resentment into constructive activity so that they could “hit back” constructively—through campaigning, trades unions or any other way.
The question is—who guards the guards?
This has to stop—now.
There is no justification or excuse for her death.
Paul Summers, Wembley
Glad to see ‘Undateables’
Socialist Worker’s review of TV series The Undateables (14 April) raised a good point about the target audience for such a programme.
I have cerebral palsy and I am glad that the programme was broadcasted.
While it may be regarded as a kind of freak show by some, I hope the audience appreciates that people with disabilities have just as much need for companionship and sexual activity as anyone else.
But in the current economic climate, I fear that old prejudices may resurface.
Paul Collins, Oxfordshire
New private uni, new elite
A new private university opening in London in September is going to be full of privately educated students.
The hated New College of the Humanities will charge students £18,000 a year to be taught by celebrity lecturers.
Just 20 students from state-run schools have been offered a place.
There is enough inequality in higher education as it is. We don’t need any more.
Polly Sanderson, Central London
What they really tax
Socialist Worker’s editorial last week (21 April) outlined the tax breaks given to the rich in the budget. But this generosity also extends to 4.2 million small and medium sized businesses.
HM Revenue and Customs introduced a scheme called Time To Pay in 2008. It allows businesses to postpone paying their taxes and national insurance contributions.
Over 200,000 companies have now joined the scheme.
At the last estimate the department has written off over £1 billion in bad debt as a result of payments not being made.
Anna Owens, Euston Tower PCS
Taking holiday from pay
With more and more greedy firms ignoring workers’ rights today, I urge everyone to make sure their employer is not stealing from them by underpaying them holiday pay.
Nicholas Agnew, Essex
‘Hacktivists’ aren’t all nice
James Jeffery was recently jailed for 32 months for hacking the website of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS).
Jeffery, apparently part of the hacktivist group Anonymous, threatened to release details of women who had contacted BPAS for advice.
In retaliation for his conviction, hackers have attacked the website 2,500 times—all were unsuccessful.
This shows hacktivism can be a force for bad as well as for good.
However this attack should not detract from the positive online protests we have seen recently.
The internet can be a highly effective tool in organising the struggle.
Jonathan Dodds, South London
Occupations in Vienna
Students at the University of Vienna in Austria are once again defending their right to free education.
On 19 April some 250 students occupied the vice-chancellor’s building against course closures.
They were violently attacked by police, who are normally banned from campus.
The students then occupied a huge lecture theatre. Around 1,000 took part in protests and solidarity actions.
When faced with threats of violence the students decided to leave. On Friday the vice‑chancellor ordered the entire building to be closed down—cancelling exams and lectures. University management is preparing for votes aimed at introducing tuition fees.
Steve Henshall, Vienna, Austria