Socialist Worker

Long hours, low pay-we've had enough

Issue No. 1698

Long hours, low pay-we've had enough

'Fight for more pay'

FEELINGS ARE running high amongst workers in higher education over pay. That anger was shown when delegates at the recent UNISON higher education conference supported our branch's motion calling for a serious fight over pay. For years we were told to wait for Labour to be elected, because then everything would be fair-we would be given a new deal. Three years into a Labour government the employers have laughed off the findings of an independent inquiry into our terms and conditions. The Bett report revealed that higher education workers are overworked and underpaid.

Our governors awarded the provost a 13.2 percent pay rise while offering one section of workers a measly 2.5 percent pay rise. Our university is on the border with the City where some workers got a million pound bonus last year. We live and work side by side with these people, so why the massive pay difference? Our employers, and our union leaders, should read the signals-higher education workers have had enough and are ready to take action.

  • JAKE ROLLIN (branch secretary), ALLAN PIKE (assistant branch secretary), SAM BIRNIE and TASHA ANDREWS (UNISON stewards), Guildhall University, East London

What about our labour?

WHEN NEW Labour talks about its commitment to the NHS, it's a joke. I am nearly finished my training as a midwife and we are all sick of the crap pay and the workload. We are trained to a high level. We have a huge amount of responsibility for the welfare of mothers and their children. We work unsocial hours. But none of this is reflected in our pay. It's really beginning to worry me that when I qualify I will earn just �16,500, with the extra bit if you live in London. The next grade up is the one that 90 percent of midwives are on-it pays just about �1,000 more. We are haemorrhaging staff. A third of the people in my year have dropped out. The women we look after are grateful for the care we give them. But they can see the problems in the hospitals. New Labour wants to ignore the crisis but health workers across the board are sick of having to fill in the gaps and not getting decent pay for it.

  • J LYONS, student midwife

North east jobs fears

THE THREAT of 30 percent cutbacks at the Nissan car plant in Washington near Sunderland follows the threat to Ford Dagenham and the Rover fiasco. There is real fear in the north east of England, where 7,000 jobs were lost in the last month alone.

This follows the devastation of the pits and shipyards, the closure of hi-tech plants, and job losses in the textile industry. Nissan is the most productive car plant in Europe. But this has made no difference to the bosses' demand for profits-whatever the cost to ordinary people.

How do they expect anyone to plan for the future when no one's job feels safe? Tony Blair and Stephen Byers say nothing can be done. But we think it's time we got organised to stop fat cats playing with people's lives.

We are planning to set up a stall in Washington and use the Action Programme to put forward the alternative to the jobs massacre.

  • SIMON HALL, Gateshead, ALISON ROBSON, Washington

Bologna sends Nazis packing

THOUSANDS OF anti-Nazis demonstrated in Bologna on 13 May and drove fascists out of this traditionally left wing Italian city. Around 200 skinheads had gathered for a conference organised by Forza Nuova. Its leader is Roberto Fiore, who has been implicated in the 1980 Bologna bombing which killed over 80 people. The anti-Nazi demonstration was supported by Italy's largest trade unions along with the Greens, left wing political parties and students.

Some anarchists tried to get into the Nazis' meeting but were pushed back by riot police who fired teargas. The police then bussed the Nazis to an outlying town. All this follows the election last year of a Tory council in Bologna with the support of the fascist National Alliance. But this show of anti-Nazi solidarity was brilliant.

  • DONNCHA Mac RAGHNAILL, Bologna

Honey trap

THE PRESENCE of GM pollen in honey indicates once again that lying by government and business dominates the agenda for introducing new scientific developments. It indicates the way our rulers and business despise democracy-the vast majority oppose the introduction of GM foods, yet government ministers and their fat cat cronies twist and turn to usurp us.

We were told that GM pollen could not possibly drift more than a few feet. This changed to several metres, and we now know it can travel many miles. The reason for all this is that the market puts profit before both safety and survival of the human race.

  • MALCOLM POVEY, University of Leeds

South African strike wave

A MARVELLOUS four million workers in South Africa joined a general strike last week against unemployment and the lack of government action to stop job losses. This is more than double the membership of COSATU, the country's main trade union federation. COSATU says that workers face a jobs crisis "of unprecedented proportions", and that one million jobs have been lost in the last decade. The strike split supporters of the ruling African National Congress. Most ANC leaders condemned the action and resolved to stick to their pro-market policies. But the ANC secretary general, Kgalema Motlanthe, backed it at a public rally and called on workers to "hate capitalism".

He was reflecting the massive pressure from below against the ANC's policy of privatisation and tax cuts for the rich. Last week's strike saw huge marches in Johannesburg, Pretoria, Nelspruit and half a dozen other places. Each was tens of thousands strong. COSATU leaders say the campaign is far from over.

  • S FAULK, London

Baby blues

CHERIE BOOTH has received loads of publicity for challenging the government over parents' right to take leave when their children are born. It is outrageous that New Labour imposed an arbitrary cut off point for that right-it only applies to children born before 15 December 1999. And what about those parents who can't afford to take unpaid leave? Only when I had a child did I realise how truly terrible things are.

It's easy to use up the six weeks paid maternity leave that you're entitled to before the child is even born! Then if I don't return to work by a specified date I have to repay my employer the additional 12 weeks half pay I have received.

Affordable childcare is another nightmare for many families. A woman with a two month old baby was reduced to tears on TV recently because her debts were out of control. Cherie Booth's huge salary means she will not face the stress of trying to juggle time with her child and having enough money to live off.

  • JANE ELDERTON, South London

Sell-off scandal

IT IS scandalous that New Labour continues to privatise the civil service. Part of the new winter fuel payment work in the Benefits Agency has been handed over to a private sector call centre. Ministers offered all the work to the private sector, but the private "partner" cherry-picked the easy work. A parliamentary select committee has looked at how the private company SEMA has handled the Benefits Agency medical services work. Their conclusions identify poor pay, poor service to the public, interference with doctors' reports and institutional racism.

  • SEAN KISBY (Benefits Agency PCS union rep), Cardiff

Wage theft

A STEWARDESS on the National Express coach I was travelling on recently announced that refreshments would no longer be available on the coaches. She explained that National Express has decided it cannot pay the minimum wage so it is making all those workers redundant.

So on top of considerable job losses, passengers will have to bring their own refreshments. It also has much more serious consequences for the drivers, who now become solely responsible for passengers on long distance runs.

  • THERESA GOSS, Cardiff

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Article information

News
Sat 27 May 2000, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1698
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