Socialist Worker

Letters

Issue No. 1700

Letters

Working at dome was no holiday camp

I WAS working at the Dome as a performer until recently. It was only for two months, but I was pleased when I passed the audition for it. It became clear after the first couple of weeks that the vibe amongst the staff was low. It was a bit like working at Butlins, just with more money. All the government talk was of the Dome being something new and different, but all the cleaners and McDonald's workers were Africans or black. All the managers were white men.

There were hardly any Asian people there. The government money given to the New Millennium Experience company could have gone to much better uses, especially in a deprived area like south east London, and a lot of the staff thought that. I went to work one day, and a manager came and told me she didn't think I'd settled in and that they were going to "have to let me go"-that day.

This was the day after I had received a letter telling me they were to renew my contract. And it was the day after the dome was given another �25 million of lottery money. I thought, "Bloody hell!" There is no talk about what will happen afterwards, when they pull the whole thing down.

People working there will be thrown onto the streets. The Dome has just provided short term, low paid jobs. It has not given people in Greenwich secure jobs or a future. Big corporations will probably move in, building office blocks like on Canary Wharf. Local people will be pushed further and further out. They won't be the ones working in the offices. The whole thing is a disgrace.

  • JASON DALY, North London

Low marks for Labour

Asylum seekers

DELEGATES TO the annual conference of the lecturers' NATFHE union passed a motion of no confidence in education secretary David Blunkett. It was just one sign of how angry and bitter lecturers are at New Labour. There were clear demands from rank and file delegates for union leaders to organise a serious fightback over pay.

For the last couple of years the leadership strategy of partnership with the employers and New Labour has gone largely unchallenged. This was overturned at conference.

An emergency motion condemning New Labour's policy on asylum seekers and supporting the 24 June demonstration was passed unanimously. Delegates also voted to commit the union to support the anti-capitalist demonstrations planned for the World Bank and IMF meeting in Prague during September

  • CRAIG LEWIS, chair, NATFHE Wales FE committee (personal capacity)

Bill gets wise

Arguments at my station

IT WAS at a recent union meeting-Eastern Command Group Three, 24 June-that our group secretary informed us of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) annual conference debates. Among them was one about asylum seekers. FBU president Mick Harper spoke at the conference of the way that some sections of the press have sought to scapegoat these vulnerable people.

This is along with William Hague's shameful preaching which is followed in turn by Jack Straw. Our group secretary passed us a petition, organised by the NUJ, which appeals for names and donations to counter this dangerous witch-hunt. So I took the petition to work and spoke to people individually.

I asked them to read the statement and give me their thoughts. Most of my colleagues who did sign were quick to do so. Some said they had already been thinking about the issue and how the headlines are inflaming racial hatred.

A few who signed pointed out their opposition to economic migrants. Others were quite hostile, saying that 90 percent of asylum seekers are bogus or scroungers, or saying, "What is the FBU getting involved in this for?" It was an important debate. I was able to collect 15 signatures, along with �15, and delivered it to the NUJ offices.

A recent Audit Commission report has criticised the government's dispersal programme of asylum seekers. This shows the lack of foresight and low priority given by the government to these people.

My attitude is to welcome people who are at worst seeking refuge from human rights abuses and persecution for their political beliefs, or at best seeking refuge because they are poor and desperate. Some seem to only support a globalised economy when they are the beneficiaries.

  • STEVE BURROWS, branch secretary, Clerkenwell FBU, Central London

A happy ending

A PERSON I work with recently left her bag on a park bench in Hackney, east London. Realising what she had done, and assuming it had gone for good, she cancelled her bank cards. Even the locks on our office were changed.

But it turned out the bag had been found by an Iraqi-Kurdish refugee. He could speak only a little English so he gave the bag to his brother, who was able to ring my friend using her own mobile phone. The bag was collected and contained everything originally in it. The person who found the bag even refused to take the �10 that was in it as a reward.

This was just a small incident, but it did make about the only positive story about asylum seekers published in the Hackney Gazette. It also meant that almost everyone in our office signed the NUJ petition in support of asylum seekers, and �5 of the returned �10 was given as a donation.

  • MIKE GREWCOCK, East London

Quick success

JUST TWO weeks after being introduced to Amanj Gafor, an Iraqi-Kurdish asylum seeker who had escaped execution, we found ourselves fighting for his life. He was arrested by Bristol police and taken immediately via Kent's Rochester Prison to Tinsley House Detention Centre at Gatwick for deportation. His fingerprint had shown up on the German Interpol computer, and the British government was using the Dublin Convention to send him back. Amanj fled to Britain after Germany refused him asylum saying that Kurdistan is now a safe place to live.

Try telling that to Amnesty International or the Medical Foundation for the care of Victims of Torture. The law could not defend him so we decided to fight. We approached workers at the huge Rolls Royce factory in Bristol. After hearing Amanj's story, the local AEEU shop stewards adopted him and promised to lobby on his behalf.

Their protest letter to Jack Straw inspired MPs Tony Benn and Jeremy Corbyn to immediately take up the case, and soon the general secretaries of the NUJ, the FBU and BECTU were protesting against Amanj's deportation. Within just two days we had his deportation deferred. The momentum of the campaign attracted the local paper and gave a lift to Amanj's immigration lawyer, who had written off the case. Laundering

Through our contacts, he was able to find new evidence to defend Amanj who is now having his asylum case reviewed from scratch. A full stop has been put on his deportation. Blair and Jack Straw's morality is not ours. Ours is that of the AEEU shop stewards who so brilliantly embraced Amanj as a fellow worker from abroad. We stopped the Home Office once. We'll stop them again!

  • MIKE TAYLOR, Bristol
  • Please rush protests to home secretary Jack Straw demanding refugee status for Amanj Gafor (HO ref no 81035529).

Bill gets wise

ALTHOUGH I don't normally admit to watching The Bill, a recent episode tried to highlight racism in the Metropolitan Police. The episode was basically about stop and search, and whether or not this is an excuse to harass young black men.

Mention was made of the way that nothing has changed since the Macpherson report, and this was proved to be true as the police in the programme continued to stop and search young black lads for crimes committed in the area. Despite the end being more than a little bit disappointing, the programme reflected the pressure film companies must feel to question the role of the police.

  • RACHEL EDWARDS, Central London

Goodnight sweetheart

NEW employment rights legislation came into effect on Tuesday of this week. For us, it means the chance to organise our collective strength against the employer. For the officials, who run the union more as a business, it means more members, more money.

They will be keen to sign sweetheart deals with talk of partnership. We don't want the sell outs-we want fighting, campaigning unions. That's why we have to take the lead as activists on recruitment. It means not waiting for the full time officials-let's get out there first and organise.

  • JERRY HICKS, AEEU Rolls Royce, Bristol

Members slump

Academics Patrick Seyd and Paul Whiteley of Sheffield University have been conducting a long term study into New Labour's membership with the help of Lord Sawyer, the former Labour general secretary. Leaks from their research last week suggest that 60,000 people have left New Labour since the general election and that very few people have been recruited.

A Labour spokesman said that the whole process was "cyclical", and that it was inevitable people left between elections. But the real reason is that Labour has bitterly disappointed people who hoped that it would deliver change for the better. The study found that many of those leaving felt the leadership did not listen to their views, and that the party had moved away from an agenda focused on equality and social justice.

I hope that those who have left Labour for these reasons will be part of building a new socialist left which can take on Tory policies and pro-business politics.

  • ANN JENKINS, East London

Postal points

IT IS (thankfully) illegal for someone to mass distribute leaflets inciting racial hatred. It should be likewise for someone to flood the people of Scotland with leaflets inciting anti-gay prejudice.

The Scottish Parliament, elected by the people, is right to stand by its mandate and to reject compromises with inequality. Half an inequality is still inequality. Promoting prejudice is what should be banned.

  • JON NICHOLSON, Manchester

THE DECISION of David Trimble and his fellow sectarians to breathe new life into the 1998 Good Friday agreement obliges me to ask, "Are the Unionists ready for democracy?" Trimble's bigotry became clear when he said at the conclusion of his party's executive meeting that Sinn Fein members needed to be "house-trained" and "brought to heel". How can one take "Unionist democracy" seriously, especially when it is based on triumphalist marches?

  • ROBERT NORDLANDER, via e-mail

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News
Sat 10 Jun 2000, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1700
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