Socialist Worker


Issue No. 1864

Only stars I see are when I'm on nights

Thanks to the three-star rating we have been awarded, I, along with many other lucky staff members employed within the Wirral Hospital Trust, will feel the benefit of an extra day off.

Of course it wasn't easy, as we had to meet certain criteria, which was tough. For example, the accident and emergency department had to deal with the waiting times (trolley to bed/out the door), which of course has never been easy. If the management hadn't used a pool of agency nurses to boost the staffing levels, I don't believe we would have pulled it off.

God forbid we should expect the normal staffing levels to try this, as things would turn ugly and I would never get that day off. Now that we have the fantastic three-star rating we will obviously be in line to become a wonderful 'foundation hospital'.

Before we can become one, we will have to accept Agenda for Change, the proposed new pay package for health workers. There's all those suckers who thought the unions were going to hold a vote after it had been tried out at the first 12 hospitals.

As I'm not one of the many people about to take a severe pay cut under Agenda for Change, shouldn't I relax? After all, the NHS is a caring profession and the NHS would never dream of putting money and budgets before the health or morale of its loyal staff, would they?

The former health minister Alan Milburn boasted about the NHS being a workplace for working families. But I understand why he resigned from his post after complaining about not spending enough time with his family. I regularly work ten shifts in a row without rest.

I have been known to work night shifts (9pm to 7.45am), late shifts (2pm to 9.30pm) and early shifts (7.30am to 3.30pm) without a break. So I don't get much chance to eat, never mind see my family, but what the hell? The management know best, eh?
Phil Reilly, Merseyside

Scots outrage at Ay deportation

At 5am on 31 July ten guards came into the room shared by the five members of the Ay family at the Dungavel detention centre in Scotland. They were taken to London to await deportation to Germany. The four children have spent the longest time imprisoned of any child asylum seeker in Britain – 13 months.

The father was deported to Germany more than a year ago. He was immediately deported to Turkey where he has since disappeared. The family are Turkish Kurds who fled persecution. The home secretary David Blunkett calls them 'serial asylum seekers'.

The children only speak English and Kurdish – which is banned in Turkey. They had settled in Kent before being detained. Their deportation has caused outrage in Scotland after a long campaign and legal challenge from Aamer Anwar. The Scottish Socialist Party MSP Rosie Kane has gone to Germany to now try to stop them being deported to Turkey.
Margaret Woods, Glasgow

Dr Kelly spoke at our college

I am a student at Imperial College London studying epidemiology, where Dr David Kelly addressed us as a guest speaker. This was just before the Iraq war started. Most of the department turned up to hear what he had to say.

I don't think any of us realised what a senior figure he was, and there was shock at the subsequent news of his death. Dr Kelly spoke on his experience in Iraq as a weapons inspector. Following his introduction some of us voiced our concerns at what we felt was a one-sided view.

I said that if it was true that Iraq had chemical weapons then they pale into insignificance compared to the nuclear weapons at the disposal of the US, Britain and Israel.

It would appear that Dr Kelly was becoming more disillusioned with the government's case and prosecution of the war. The traitors in the government are pathetically trying to shift the blame as their war lies are uncovered.

The benefits of science to humanity are vast. However, in the warmongers' hands science can be used against us. Scientists must avoid getting involved in their seedy world.
Graham Kirkwood, London

Debate on Brent

Pete Firmin (Socialist Worker, 8 August) shows how hard it will be for the left to 'reclaim the Labour Party'. Even though Brent Labour activists were anti-war, the national leadership imposed a shortlist of candidates who were acceptable to Blair.

Robert Evans voted in the European Parliament in January for a motion saying there wasn't yet enough evidence to justify war. Even the Liberal Democrats had a harder position than this prior to the war.

Many people in Brent East who voted Labour in 2001 will not do so this time. Trying to paint Evans in pale pink colours will not change their minds. The Socialist Alliance is determined to ensure that the huge disaffection with New Labour is turned to the left, and not to the cynical opportunism of the Lib Dems.

Finally, may I correct your article last week on the convention of the left in Brent East. Matt Wrack is the author of our pamphlet arguing for the democratisation of union political funds. His brother Nick is the national chair of the Socialist Alliance.
Rob Hoveman, Socialist Alliance national secretary

Success on Tyne

I joined the SWP in April at an anti-war demo. Soon after this I started selling Socialist Worker in school. On my first week I sold eight by myself. On one morning we were demonstrating outside Nick Brown MP's surgery about a local asylum seeker family and afterwards we headed down to the Durham Miners' Gala. The enormous figure for papers we sold that day was 300. I have become an activist and I enjoy it.
Rory Linton, Newcastle upon Tyne

Faith, hope and charity?

Both the Church of England and Catholic church are providing us with graphic illustrations of John Rees's argument against Islamophobia (Socialist Worker, 2 August) The furore about the appointment of a gay bishop has unearthed virulent homophobia in the C of E, and the Catholic church has pronounced homosexuality to be 'evil'.

Does that mean that we tar all members of these faiths with the brush of homophobia in the same way that a minority on the 'left' have with Muslims? Oh, and both the Archbishop of Canterbury and Pope John Paul were against the war.
Shaun Doherty, London

Biblical excuses for bigotry

Once again we hear the Christian right getting in a frenzy over gay bishops. If they are so obsessed with following the exact word of the Bible, should they not also be insisting that women do not speak in churches, as sanctioned in Corinthians, or that we should punish our child with the rod, as stated in Proverbs?

Is it OK to sell our daughters into slavery, as written in Exodus? The reason such passages are no longer followed is because they are outdated and ridiculous, written in a time of extreme ignorance and prejudice. They are just used by homophobes as an excuse for their bigotry.
Andrew Collingwood, York

We should fight for 10 percent

It is great that our union has rejected a 3.5 percent pay offer. At this year's AUT union conference we voted to fight for a 10 percent pay deal this year and similar amounts in the following two years.

Delegates were up for a fight and 15 attended the first editorial meeting of the rank and file paper College Worker. But all references to a 10 percent pay rise have been removed from the union's website and campaigning literature.

A lively pay campaign this autumn should act as a wake up call, reinvigorating the union and its membership.
Malcolm Povey, University of Leeds

Farmer was not a victim

The press has portrayed the farmer Tony Martin as a victim who acted in self defence. The Mirror has paid him for his story. Where is the concern for those who have truly acted in self defence?

There are no such payments for Winston Silcott or for Satpal Ram, jailed for defending himself against a racist attack.
Richard Sutherland, West Yorkshire

Howzat? Ntini showed 'em all

Forty years ago I picketed an all-white South African cricket team. I was told that I was wasting my time because 'the blacks don't want to play cricket'. Those of us who supported the sporting boycott of South Africa (including Peter Hain) were told we shouldn't let politics interfere with sport.

Makhaya Ntini's magnificent bowling at Lords proved we were right. Apartheid was not just a great evil, it prevented players like Ntini achieving what they are capable of.
Ian Birchall, London

Hats off to the tube bosses

The recent hot weather highlighted a problem with health and safety laws. Many workers are aware of the law relating to minimum temperatures at work. But there is no maximum temperature. That doesn't mean nothing can be done. Staff in the ticket office at King's Cross underground walked out recently because the temperature had reached 30C.

Staff work in cramped conditions, and were expected to work in full uniform with inadequate air conditioning. RMT union members said no, and the office closed for the whole day. London Underground rules state that we have to wait for confirmation that it's 24C before we can remove our hats.

The threat of a walkout won that if it's over 25C in King's Cross station we don't have to wear hats.
Tube worker

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Article information

Sat 16 Aug 2003, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1864
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