Fighting for justice
"SEE WHAT we are up against? These are the obstacles that are put in our way."
This was the emotional plea from Adrienne Jemmott to the audience of 150 people waiting last Wednesday night to watch the film Injustice in Conway Hall, London. Adrienne Jemmott is the sister of Paul Jemmott, who died in Aylesbury young offenders institute in May 1999.
The showing of Injustice was scheduled to take place after the first of two days of the People's Tribunal into Deaths in Custody organised by the United Families and Friends Campaign.
People were moved by the two-day tribunal of testimony from the families of victims who died in police, prison and psychiatric custody. For many families it was the first time they had spoken out.
Injustice is a hard-hitting documentary looking at the spate of deaths of people in police custody.
It looks at the cases of Joy Gardner, Brian Douglas, Wayne Douglas, Shiji Lapite and Ibrahima Sey. The film names the officers involved in these cases. Film-makers Migrant Media spent six years on the documentary campaigning for justice alongside the families of those who died.
The families and supporters of Brian Douglas, Harry Stanley, Christopher Alder, Joy Gardner, Roger Sylvester, Shiji Lapite, Ibrahima Sey and James Ashley were to see the film for the first time.
There was a highly charged atmosphere created by threats of legal action and injunctions by the Police Federation.
In an act of defiance Injustice was shown to around 150 people, many of whom were moved to tears by the struggle each family had been forced to fight. Every effort was made to stop the film being shown. Police officers even turned up and banged on the door of the hall during the screening.
Attempts were made to only show the film to the families and friends of the victims, and the film-makers. "As far as I'm concerned you are all my friends and family," somebody cried out. "This is the only chance the dead have to speak."
The United Families and Friends Campaign is demanding a public inquiry into deaths in custody. It will compile the testimonies given by the families into a report.
- For more information phone the United Families and Friends Campaign on 020 8221 2930.
- Justice for Christopher Alder-bring the police to justice. Assemble Friday 3 August, 9.30am, Combined Courts, Lowgate, Hull.
by THERESA BENNETT
Communication Workers Union
AROUND 800 postal workers in Sheffield were due to start a series of strikes this week over working conditions.
But union leaders suspended the action a few days before it was supposed to start to allow further talks.
Sheffield workers had voted for action in a ballot. The union announced there would be strikes on 18, 23, 25, 28 and 31 July.
TOM DOHERTY, a postal worker at NDO in north London, was sacked last year.
The disciplinary action followed press allegations regarding his involvement in football violence at last year's UEFA Cup final. He is now facing an agonising wait for the employment tribunal's judgement on his claim of unfair dismissal.
During the hearing Post Office managers cited the fact that Tom had been named as a Post Office employee in the national press (Mirror) as their primary cause for dismissing him.
However, during the hearing it became apparent that Post Office management had leaked details of Tom and his brother Mick's Post Office employment to the press.
Tom's brother Mick (then branch chair of North/North West London Communication Workers Union) was also dismissed for the same reasons as Tom. He will have his claim of unfair dismissal heard by a tribunal in August.
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Fighting to stay
IRANIAN REFUGEE Arman Sharif is fighting to stay in Britain. When he came to North London Sixth Form College he could hardly speak any English.
After two years he has learnt the language well enough to be offered a provisional place at Peterhouse College, Cambridge, to study engineering. If Labour MP Ann Cryer had her way he would not even have been allowed to enter the country because he could not speak English.
The story is so remarkable that even the right wing Murdoch papers, the Times and the Sun, have publicised his case. The Sun's editorial on Thursday was headlined "Let Him Stay".
The Home Office up to now has refused to give Arman refugee status. If this is not granted he will not be able to take up his place at Cambridge. The Home Office has in the words of Arman's solicitor, adopted a "culture of refusal" towards Iranian cases.
- KOSOVAN REFUGEES across the country are battling against New Labour's attempts to deport them.
New Labour claimed its war in the Balkans in 1999 was to protect Kosovans. Sixteen year old Donald Demisi was one of those who fled Kosovo in 1999. The Home Office has told Donald that Kosovo is now safe to return to, despite the devastation caused by NATO's bombing and the ongoing fighting in the region.
This is the same line the Home Office has put to Kosovan refugees Orena and Julian Beqiri, who also arrived in Britain in 1999. They are at school in Forest Gate, east London, where teachers and pupils have been campaigning to stop the children's deportation.
- For information on these cases go to the National Coalition of Anti-Deportation Campaigns website at www.ncadc.org.uk
CWU UNION leaders have done a deal over jobs with Solectron in Cwmcarn near Newport in South Wales.
The union leaders are claiming a great success in saving the factory. In fact, although the company has been forced into concessions, the agreement allows over 460 jobs to go.
The workers responded magnificently when the multinational telecom company announced 520 job losses earlier this year.
They voted for a strike and joined a very lively demonstration through Newport. There was a chance to focus all that anger and wage a serious struggle. Instead the deal saves just 47 of the 520 manufacturing jobs. Those leaving will get better redundancy terms than originally offered.
Without the campaign by the workers, their fellow union members and supporters there would have been no talks at all.
But much more could have been achieved.
AROUND 150 anti-incinerator campaigners marched through Swansea last Saturday to protest at the building of a giant municipal incinerator complex at Crymlyn Burrows on the Neath/Swansea border.
The incinerator is being built by the New Labour controlled Neath/Port Talbot council in partnership with HLC, a Portuguese company, and the 30 million deal is being funded through the private finance initiative.
On 11 August there will be a demonstration in Neath to increase the pressure on the council.
Durham Miners' Gala
POURING RAIN could not deter up to 5,000 people from attending the Durham Miners' Gala last Saturday, making it the biggest gala for many years.
The procession of brass bands, each with its following crowd, took three hours to pass through the city centre.
The bands continue to march, despite the massacre of the pits they once represented, serving as a statement of defiance and the spirit of resistance which is still strong in mining communities.
Mick Rix of the ASLEF rail union gave the gala rally a fiery start with a savage assault on New Labour.
Rix rounded on Blair's privatisation programme, drawing cheers from the crowd as he attacked tube privatisation as another Hatfield waiting to happen.
The biggest applause of the day came when Dave Prentis of UNISON condemned "all those members of the Labour cabinet who can't shake off the Thatcherite obsession with privatisation. They are the real forces of conservatism, the real wreckers in our society."
Dennis Skinner was well received and spent most of his time attacking Labour. When Lynn Jones MP raised an argument that people should rejoin Labour because she and others were beginning to win it back, she was greeted with laughter from the parts of the crowd-and from Mick Rix on the platform.
This kind of response is remarkable at what is historically quite a traditional labour movement event so soon into a New Labour term of office.
There is clearly massive discontent waiting for a direction. Campaigners at the event leafleting for the Socialist Alliance and for the Anti Nazi League carnival in Burnley were well received.
THE CWU union, which represents 75,000 BT workers, is threatening to take strike action unless a controversial outsourcing project is cancelled. Earlier this week BT began a trial involving outsourcing sales administration work to Mahindra-BT, a Bombay-based company.
A union official said, "This union is totally opposed to BT's plans to outsource work outside the UK, and will take all appropriate actions up to and including strike action, unless the company withdraws from the current trial in India."
THE ANNUAL Tolpuddle Martyrs festival in Dorset celebrating trade union rights took place last weekend with several thousand socialists and trade unionists attending.
TUC leader John Monks unveiled a commemorative statue in honour of the six farm labourers who were deported to Australia for forming a union. But Monks's enthusiasm for the "fantastic victory" of the New Labour government was not shared by everyone in the audience.
When TGWU leader Bill Morris spoke about Labour's record in office there was a large amount of jeering from the crowd. Morris also focused on the problems with the Nazi BNP in Oldham, demanding an end to segregation in these communities.
He attacked the government's treatment of asylum seekers. "You can't reform the voucher system-you have to abolish it," he said to loud applause.
THE 87 sacked workers at Dynamex Friction Dynamics in North Wales are continuing their struggle against a bullying boss.
The workers have been locked out for 11 weeks in a dispute over pay and working conditions. They were sacked despite taking legal strike action organised by the TGWU union.
The strikers are still defiant and have now got an appeal sheet out for people to collect for their dispute.
- Send messages of support and donations to Gerald Parry, 5 Beulah Square, Caernarfon LL55 2LA. Phone 01286 672 382. Website: www.frictiondynamex.co.uk