Behind the New Deal
Out of work and insulted
THIS IS what the New Deal means to me as an 18 to 25 year old. Option one was �60 for up to seven 12-hour shifts per week for an employer who refused to pay after two months work. Option two was unemployment benefit plus �10 for five 8-hour days per week for a charity which supported bullying and humiliation as "staff motivation". Option three was unemployment benefit for five days full time at a college where you can't take qualifications not backed by the New Deal programme.
New Labour's New Deal has helped few and hindered many. I should know. I've been through the system three times over the years. Labour is no longer the party of working or eager to work people. I don't go to the job centre any more, or the hospital for a chronic weeping skin disorder I have. I can't get an appointment or even on a waiting list.
My mum and myself find a way to get by on her wages. This isn't the opportunity either of us had hoped for-it's the oppression we had under the Tories, only tenfold. I've been thrown onto the scrap heap at 22, my ears filled with hollow promises and vicious insults. Thank you for your publication, honest and forthright. Its contents and availability on the web have given me hope that there are good people who think as I do.
- UNEMPLOYED, Ellesmere Port
Anti-racists are welcome in Oldham
AROUND A dozen of us recently went up to Oldham to leaflet the Glodwick estate and draw attention to the Socialist Alliance. We had a great reception from local people, though we were stopped and searched by the police.
This is not a no-go area for whites. Some 11 of the 12 of us were white. We seemed to have a minor problem when an oldish white woman started shouting at two of us that we had no business interfering. We ignored this and carried on.
About half an hour later she hobbled up the hill to find us and apologised in tears. She was defending her Asian neighbours and had jumped to the wrong conclusion when she saw us.
The woman had lived in the area all her life and was distressed by the attacks on the community. We parted with smiles, the misunderstanding resolved. The trouble on the estate is caused by Nazis and the police who allow them to run riot whilst attacking the community.
- ANDY COLES and VERNETTA O'LAUGHLIN, Manchester
Prison and �12 weekly wage
AS PART of its drive to detain more asylum seekers the government is opening a new extension to the detention centre at Harmondsworth in west London. It will be the biggest detention centre yet. It will house a further 550 asylum seekers and is due to officially open on 29 June. It will have provision for imprisoning families with children and even disabled men and women.
Detainees will not be able to leave if they are ill or have a bail hearing. Bail hearings will take place in the special bail court in the centre and there are "enhanced healthcare units". For "troublemakers" there will be special isolation units. Sodexho, which runs the refugee vouchers, has been given the contract to run the centre.
Former home secretary Jack Straw obtained an exemption from the minimum wage for those in such centres. Inmates will be able to work at cleaning, cooking and decorating for the princely sum of �12.00 per week!
- PETE FIRMIN, Brent Committee to Defend Asylum Seekers
- Protest at the opening of Harmondsworth, Saturday 30 June, 12 noon to 2pm, Colnbrook bypass (A4 north of Heathrow).
Ipswich is home
A KOSOVAN couple, Fatmir and Saime Kraja, who have been in Ipswich two years, escaped the threat of deportation last week after a campaign. Fatmir is Albanian and Saime is a Serb. They would certainly have been targeted if they had returned to Kosovo.
Saime is also in constant pain from two back operations. Members of Ipswich Socialist Alliance heard of the couple's arrest on 28 May. We went down to see them and informed their lawyer. We also set up a protest in Harwich where they were being held in a cell. The couple were released and returned to their home.
It is a temporary victory against a ruthless system. But it shows what can be achieved with organisation and determined direct action.
- JOHN TIPPLE, Ipswich
Who has the real power?
HOW MANY times have you heard people say, "It doesn't really matter who you vote for-they're all the same-and nothing really changes"? We all know real power does not rest with politicians or governments, but in the hands of unelected, unaccountable business moguls.
Here in Scotland one in four of our population live in poverty. Multinationals continue to announce grotesque profits. That money would run our NHS for months, if not years.
Already we see the erosion of democracy in our society, with the proliferation of quangos which take decisions about our lives without our participation in the process.
The Rupert Murdochs of this world will continue to hold the reins of power after the election. Democracy, as presently constituted, just isn't working in the interests of the ordinary people of this country.
- JOHN KETTERER, Glasgow
Services run for profits...
THE RECENT postal strikes have been caused by greedy Post Office managers. They forced the union membership to take industrial action to try to persuade any incumbent government that privatisation was the only option for this industry. They know if the Post Office is privatised they will collect very lucrative share options.
Having provoked a reaction from their workforce, these Post Office managers always try to portray the union and its membership as the "bad guys". The managers see Post Office privatisation as a route to line their own pockets, caring little about the detriment of service to their customers.
- MICK DOHERTY, North London
THE POST strikes were also Britain's largest demonstrations against the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) to date. Trade minister Dick Caborn has been trying to reassure Labour MPs that the GATS trade treaty will not force Britain to privatise more of the public sector. But Caborn has been forced to admit that this belief hasn't been tested in the "courts" of the World Trade Organisation. So he doesn't really know what effect GATS will have.
We are all entering unknown territory, but the court cases under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) might be a useful guide. United Parcel Service (UPS) has filed a notice of intent to sue Canada for $100 million under NAFTA because Canada favours its own post service. Another sign that Labour is getting ready for Post Office privatisation is the appointment of Allan Leighton to the Post Office board. Leighton used to manage Asda-WalMart under the top Tory Archie Norman.
Now Leighton is a paid up member of the Labour Party, ready to bring Asda's labour relations to the Post Office.
- SOLOMAN HUGHES, North London
Rail company's winning hand
I TRAVEL each weekday from St Albans to work in central London. I discovered that the promised compensation package following the Hatfield disaster would only partly apply to myself and other weekly ticket holders. I wrote to Thameslink to request that they pay me the same level of compensation as annual and monthly ticket holders.
They failed to respond. So I had them served with a county court summons for the amount I estimated I should receive-approximately �180. They lodged an appeal after a court judgement against them. They argued they were right to discriminate because I was less inconvenienced as a weekly ticket holder.
My case was thrown out by the court and I was ordered to pay part of their legal costs. I had to compensate them to the tune of �150, and I have not received any compensation whatsoever from them. This is a company which has a monopoly over local commuters, and knows it. How else would they have the audacity to treat their customers with such overt arrogance and contempt?
- RICHARD COOK, Herts
A MANAGER at Bernard Matthews in Great Witchingham was given a warning and put on six months probation after a full inquiry. He had slapped a worker, sworn at him and threatened to transfer him.
This sends a clear message about how to motivate staff! It is also a good, true story.
- BERNARD MATTHEWS WORKER