Asylum seekers: Why did you back down, Bill?
IN APRIL the general secretary of the TGWU union, Bill Morris, attacked the Labour government's immigration policy and its humiliating voucher system for refugees. He pointed out that such policies were giving life to the racists. Encouraged by Morris's stand, my TGWU housing branch in Glasgow called a very successful public meeting to defend asylum seekers and oppose the voucher system.
Speakers included someone from the Scottish TUC, and Bill Morris sent the meeting a very welcome letter of support.
Since then resistance to the witch-hunt against refugees and the voucher scheme has grown in the trade union movement. Recently Labour's policy forum, the body which decides on motions to the Labour Party conference, was faced with motions from Labour Party members to scrap the voucher system.
It was very disappointing to find out that Bill Morris only called on the government to "monitor" the voucher scheme-a position which the Labour leadership accepted.
This is not good enough. Morris was absolutely right to condemn the scheme three months ago. We can, and should, kick it into touch now.
- DAVE SHERRY, TGWU convenor, Housing Association branch, Glasgow (personal capacity)
Refugees ARE welcome here, not the NF
I AM a rail worker who both lives and works in Kent. I see asylum seekers every day trying to travel between Dover, the Medway towns and London.
Sometimes the police come and ask us to look out for "illegal immigrants". A colleague of mine from Dover organises Sunday football for asylum seekers and those of us in the area who support them. Interacting with them proves that we have more in common than we have differences.
It is not the number of asylum seekers in Kent that is the problem. The problem is the racism and xenophobia created by some of the local press. It is this that attracts National Front marchers from outside Kent to places like Margate and Dover.
- EWART FITZGERALD, Kent
Rowntree boss and Murdoch - danger to us all
THE BILLIONAIRE owner of the Sun, Rupert Murdoch, took the unusual step of producing a special edition of the paper for York last week. The paper labelled Nestl� boss Peter Blackburn "the most dangerous man in York". The Sun was not trying to lead a fight against the recently announced job cuts at York's biggest factory.
It was the latest part of the paper's campaign against Britain entering the single currency. It rightly accused Nestl� of cynically manipulating workers' fears to build support for the euro. But the Sun's stance is equally cynical. Murdoch is no friend of workers at Nestl�'s Rowntree factory or anywhere else. These bosses are united by their greed and desire to make workers work harder.
All that divides them is whether the best way to get richer is going into the euro or staying out. Nothing would show up Blackburn and Murdoch's true colours faster than Rowntree workers striking or occupying the factory in defence of their jobs.
- FRANK ORMSTON, York
Profits flow with sewage
SINCE 12 August 1996, when we had severe eight foot deep flooding, we have been in dispute with Southern Water in Folkestone. The company has consistently maintained that its new waste water treatment works would alleviate problems with flooding. We know it will not cure the problem.
We can be flooded with sewage any time there is heavy rainfall. No government body is prepared to take this company to task. We need a public inquiry and hope to have Southern Water stripped of its charter mark.
We have had sandbags at our door for four years. Our properties are undermined by leaky sewers. This company is putting lives and property at risk and must be made to take responsibility for its own sewers. It consistently puts profit before people. Its operating profit is �284 million. This company tries to hide its failure whilst refusing to rectify its fault.
- IAN SMALL, Foord Valley Residents Association
COMRADES AND friends of Richard McDonagh will be saddened to hear that he lost his long battle with severe depression last week when he died of a drug overdose. Richard was a committed party member, having joined the SWP in Doncaster in the late 1980s.
He moved to Wakefield and developed a deep knowledge of the history and politics of the international working class and the socialist movement. In his good times he was a funny, energetic and generous companion. His activism, commitment and wit will be sorely missed by his comrades and friends.
- WAKEFIELD SWP
Off the mark
I WAS amused to read in the Guardian an attack on Marxism 2000 and the SWP by Mark Perryman. Mark was a leading supporter of Marxism Today, a magazine that was written by supporters (albeit critical) of the USSR until-50 years late-they noticed that the USSR had nothing to offer the left.
Having caught on, they then became arch-modernisers within the Labour Party, attacking the left and backing Tony Blair. Now they find they've backed the wrong horse again, and that Mr Blair has done everything his opponents said he would.
I have a number of disagreements with the SWP, but I cannot imagine why I, or they, would want to take lessons off people whose track record consists of being 100 percent wrong.
- JUSTIN HORTON, Hertfordshire
Think of a number...
I HAVE been doing some work for a highly respected firm of industry analysts. Companies in the industry will be making multi-million pound investment decisions based on these findings. I presumed it would be a tremendously complicated mathematical formula which would be used. Instead this is the procedure:
Firstly we noted down whatever figures we had come up with last year. When I asked the director how they had been calculated, he said, "It's a bit of a 'finger in the air', to be honest." Then we asked everyone in the room how much they spent every month on each item featured in the study, and how much they thought that would increase by the year 2005.
The director posed this question like an auction: "20 percent? Who'll give me 25? 20? 20? 20 percent it is." The numbers generated for 2005 "looked too high", so we went round the room to find out how much people thought should be discounted for "retail".
This meant another auction ensued. Then we compared our figures with those on a rival firm's website to make sure they weren't too dissimilar. Generate some colourful bar charts, put some fine print at the bottom, and off we go!
- ANALYST, London
Campaign for equal rights I WOULD like to continue the discussion on lesbian and gay politics, having attended the TUC lesbian and gay conference as a member of the Communication Workers Union and a Royal Mail worker. Thirty six unions and over 300 delegates made this the largest ever TUC lesbian and gay conference.
I was the first worker from my delivery office to attend. The conference called on the TUC to urge the government to scrap Clause 28 to eradicate homophobia in schools, without being replaced by guidelines emphasising marriage.
Together with Stonewall and other gay rights groups the TUC is campaigning for legislation to give protection for lesbians and gays in the workplace, and stop discrimination in areas such as parental leave. As trade unionists we should fight for equality. By sending delegates to conference, lesbian and gay workers are brought to the forefront and made more visible in the workplace.
The conference has also made me more aware, and I have become more politically active.
- CLAIRE MAW, Huddersfield
THE PROBLEM with Hugh Lowe's suggestion about employers' contributions to National Insurance (Letters, 1 July) is that it is far too timid. Some people have come forward with the notion of a universal basic income for all set at the level of a decent minimum wage. It would mean workers would not be driven to cross picket lines, work excessive hours or engage in work practices that are inhumane or damage the environment.
- JOHN JOHNSON, Chelmsford
IT SEEMS to me that most, if not 100 percent, of the Labour Party must be secret Conservatives. Blair must stand down. He's not a socialist. I urge your paper to campaign for the replacement of Tony Blair. The chancellor would be my choice. I think as long as Blair goes, the confusions will be clear.
- NEVILLE DENNIS, South London