Jubilee 2000 Prague march
UNISON backs debt protest
WE READ out a letter from Rodney Bickerstaffe-the general secretary of our union, UNISON-at our union branch meeting last week. It calls for every UNISON branch to support the Jubilee 2000 protest in Prague in September against Third World debt. It says branches should give money to Jubilee 2000 and send delegates to the protest.
The response at the meeting was electrifying. It was as if all the anger, disgust and defiance we have felt over privatisation of our hospitals and New Labour's market madness could suddenly vent itself in Prague.
Our branch voted unanimously to fund delegates to the Jubilee 2000 march. Eleven people put their names forward immediately. We are also organising collections to raise money.
The Jubilee 2000 protest takes place on Sunday 24 September. It is part of a week of events targeting the meeting of the IMF and World Bank, the major international institutions pushing free market policies which hit people in the Third World and industrialised countries.
We plan to take part in the Jubilee 2000 protest and stay for the mass demonstration planned two days later, which Jubilee 2000 is also advertising. Every member of UNISON should circulate Rodney Bickerstaffe's letter and build for the protests.
Let's show the profiteers and fat cats that our world is not for sale.
- DAVE CARR, branch chair UCLH UNISON, Central London
Privateer to run major hospital
THE Oxfordshire Campaign Against Privatisation has been waiting for some time to see who would be the new chair of the Oxford Radcliffe Hospitals NHS Trust. The trust is currently engaged in a PFI scheme to close the Radcliffe Infirmary, the only hospital in central Oxford, and reopen its wards at suburban sites.
It turns out the new chair is Neil Ashley, formerly managing director of ARC Limited and Balfour Beatty, currently group non-executive chairman of Amey plc. Balfour Beatty is a leading privateer. It is involved in three hospital PFIs including the largest yet dreamed up, at UCLH in London.
Amey, as its website says, is also a key player in the PFI/PPP market. Mr Ashley says he has no political affiliation, so perhaps he will be entirely neutral and forget the fact that his friends have millions to earn from the scheme.
I am afraid we are not quite so hopeful. As Ken Livingstone recently observed, these firms are some of the worst scum of British capitalism, and scum sticks together.
- CHRIS TALBOT, Oxfordshire Campaign Against Privatisation
Asylum seekers' defence grows
The defence of asylum seekers has the potential to be like the campaign against the poll tax. At first the people who came along to our local campaign group were very wary about petitioning with the slogan "Scrap the racist voucher scheme". But now all kinds of people want to be involved. One is a consultant psychiatrist who works with asylum seekers.
He agreed to speak at a public meeting and to be interviewed in Socialist Worker. We have a solicitor who deals with asylum cases, a dozen teachers who have refugees in their classes, and members of the Quakers, Amnesty International and the London Socialist Alliance.
A speaker from the Refugee Council addressed our recent meeting. We have raised over 350 on the streets. People want answers to lots of questions. The campaign secretary has circulated a reading list of books on racism and immigration.
We agreed last week to donate 50 to the S26 demo in Prague. Now we are printing 1,000 posters and leafleting street by street to build a protest against our local MP, Home Office minister Barbara Roche.
- DAVE CROUCH, North London
READERS MAY be interested in developments surrounding McDonald's in Moscow, following your feature on the multinational (Socialist Worker, 19 August). The company has been forced to recognise a union at its McComplex processing plant in Moscow after a two-year fight.
McDonald's is very reluctant to recognise any union. But Yelena Grachyova, the crusading leader of the union at McComplex, has changed that, despite intimidation. She says she was contacted a few weeks ago by an anonymous woman who told her to choose between the union and her 16 year old daughter. Workers at McComplex get just 30p an hour.
Grachyova and the other union members are now fighting for higher pay and guaranteed work, rather than being pushed onto part time hours in the winter. McDonald's laid off workers during the 1998 financial crisis which devastated Russia.
But the breakthrough in winning union rights is a start in resisting the company.
- GEOFF BROWN, Manchester
Hold leader to account
LIKE MANY members of the MSF union I was very concerned about recent information about the finances of our union. My branch, along with many others, has passed motions condemning the performance of general secretary Roger Lyons.
I was a delegate to this year's national conference. So I received a letter last month informing me that the national executive of the union had passed a motion which condemned "disgraceful public attacks on the union", and on Roger Lyons. It said that the executive meeting rejected all other motions over the issue.
I would like to know why, if there was no wrong doing, it cost the union 750,000 in employment tribunal costs when it got rid of three union employees? This lack of accountability is alarming. Perhaps it is a foretaste of what will happen should the merger between the MSF and the AEEU union go ahead.
MSF members must campaign to stop that happening at a special conference in November.
- JOHN DAVIES, Leeds
Oxford United against racism
ANTI-RACISTS and football fans in Oxford are protesting at the local club's hypocrisy over the "Let's Kick Racism Out of Football" campaign. Oxford United pays lip service to the campaign.
But when their player Ross Weatherstone was convicted last week of a vicious racist attack on Reading taxi driver Zafrad Naeem, the club's only response was a short statement saying it would "support Ross Weatherstone at this difficult time".
Weatherstone has made no apology, and was fined a paltry 500 with 200 costs. Now the FA has launched an investigation, and a phone poll by the local paper has shown fans to be 60 to 40 for this racist thug to be sacked.
- GRAHAM CHAPMAN, Oxford
A RECENT letter to Socialist Worker asked what role socialists can play in community campaigns. We have been at the centre of a storm of protest which has blown up in working class communities in Newcastle.
The New Labour controlled council wants to demolish over 6,000 homes in working class areas and replace them with executive developments. Longstanding communities will be broken up with no guarantee tenants will be able to return.
Protest meetings have been 500-strong. Socialists have argued to link community groups with trade unions and to involve asylum seekers in the protests.
Socialists live in working class communities and suffer from attacks on them. A Newcastle Community Alliance has been formed, and we plan to continue with mass meetings, demonstrations and a major protest outside the council this month.
- YUNUS BAKHSH, Newcastle
I WAS part of a lively 40-strong protest in Hamilton, New Zealand, last week against plans by the Shell oil company to build a waste dump. It will destroy 360 hectares of beautiful valley and create a toxic melting pot for 30 million cubic metres of industrial, chemical and domestic waste.
It will be located just two kilometres upstream from the proposed main pipeline for the drinking water supply to the city of Auckland. Protesters included socialists, Greens, pensioners and anarchists. Everyone knew Shell's rotten environmental record. The campaign is planning more protests this month.
- JOE CAROLAN, Socialist Workers Organisation, New Zealand