TOP BRITISH companies have dodged their taxes to the tune of £1 billion. Thirty companies are being investigated for their tax avoidance schemes. Accountancy firms such as Ernst & Young devise the schemes and sell them to companies.
Government officials say Ernst & Young is the most aggressive promoter of such abusive tax avoidance schemes. Superrich bosses can reduce their tax liabilities to practically zero with the help of such fancy accountants. But people struggling to survive on benefits would be hauled before the courts if they wrongly claimed a few quid.
TRADE UNION leaders are stepping up the campaign for the "Pay up for pensions" demonstration on 19 June. The march has been called after a series of attacks on pensions. The government wants to force teachers, civil servants, health workers and other public employees to work for an extra five years, to 65.
At the same time many private firms have closed their final salary pensions schemes. The TUC, which is organising the march, has launched a website, www.tuc.org.uk/pensionsrally, where you can download leaflets and posters for the demo.
Mary McGuire, spokesperson for Britain's biggest union, Unison, says, "We are looking for a mass turnout on 19 June to demonstrate our support for pensioners and opposition to any attempt to reduce pensions for public sector workers. "Pensions is a ticking time-bomb for the current generation of workers. We can't afford to have a generation of workers living on poverty pay and then cast into poverty in their retirement."
The Amicus union has launched a national publicity campaign, with newspaper ads and 25,000 posters sent out to reps urging them to support the day of action. Alan Maloney, the PCS civil service union's national pensions officer, told Socialist Worker, "We are taking this seriously as a union and are urging all our members to attend the demonstration.
"We will be providing coaches where necessary and are currently sending out circulars to all branches. We want fair pensions for all."
When freedom is a new prison
ISRAEL'S NUCLEAR whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu is out of prison but not yet free. After his release following 17 and a half years of imprisonment for exposing the truth about Israel's secret nuclear weapons stockpile, he is under virtual house arrest, forbidden to speak to the world's media and denied a passport. His brother Meir says he is in good spirits but has already received death threats. One website in Israel has effectively incited his murder, asking the question "Who will be our Jack Ruby?"-a reference to the US assassin.
An appeal against the restrictions on Mordechai, renewable indefinitely, is being lodged at the Supreme Court in two weeks. The constraints are no doubt aimed at avoiding embarrassment to the Israeli and US governments over their policy of "nuclear ambiguity"-neither admitting nor denying Israel's possession of nuclear weapons.
Mordechai has displayed extraordinary courage and integrity. Following death threats, he was granted sanctuary in the Anglican Cathedral of Jerusalem. At his press conference just before his release he declared, "They didn't break me... I will continue to speak out against all nuclear weapons...and to call for Israel's Dimona nuclear plant to be opened to international inspection... My case is clearly a breach of fundamental human rights."
It is evident that the Campaign to Free Vanunu must go on until he is granted unconditional freedom. Socialist Worker readers are urged to write letters of protest to the Israeli Embassy, 2 Palace Green, London W8, or phone 020 7957 9500.
All roads to London in July
LEADING FIGURES from the anti-war and anti-capitalist movements across the world are heading for Marxism 2004. Samir Amin, a greatly respected expert on poverty and development, is coming from India to speak at the week-long socialist festival and conference in July.
He will be joining figures such as Walden Bello, the writer and activist from the Philippines who outlines what's wrong with the global economic order on page 10 of this paper.
Luciana Genro, an MP in the Brazilian parliament, is also coming. She was expelled from the Workers Party for opposing neo-liberalism and is one of the founders of a new socialist party in Brazil.
Get your ticket to join them and thousands of other activists in the discussions at Marxism 2004, which takes place between 9 and 16 July in central London. Phone 020 7538 2707 or go to www.marxism2004.net
Galloway book launch event
GEORGE GALLOWAY, the Respect MP, will be discussing his new book, I'm Not the Only One, with journalist Yvonne Ridley. The event will take place at Bookmarks bookshop, 1 Bloomsbury Street, at 6.30pm on Monday 17 May. Tickets are £3. You should reserve your place by calling 020 7637 1848 or e-mailing [email protected]