Socialist Worker

LETTERS: Richard Branson is taking Virgin passengers for a ride

Issue No. 2519

Billionaire, serial privatiser and convicted fraudster Richard Branson

Billionaire Richard Branson (Pic: flickr/nrkbeta)

Richard Branson was keen to try and prove that Jeremy Corbyn did not have to sit on the floor of one of his overcrowded, overpriced trains.

Hearing the words “renationalise the railways” must bring fat cat Branson out in a cold sweat.

It’s true that he pays around £3 billion to the government for the opportunity to make himself even wealthier from these rail franchises.

But he still rakes in massive profits.

You can bet Branson keeps a close eye on the profit margins though.

The moment he isn’t making enough from his railway franchise he will drop it like he has with so many other Virgin subsiduaries.

Corbyn quite rightly says that a nationalised rail service could be run for the needs of people rather than the profits of a few fat cats like Branson.

Mark B, Manchester

Corbyn’s train ride was brought to the public attention by Virgin East Coast claiming there was no overcrowding.

All the train companies make profit for shareholders.

Between 1997 and 2012 on the West Coast Mainline, Virgin Trains paid out a total of £500 million in dividends, having received a direct subsidy of £2.5 billion.

To put it another way £500 million was taken out of the railway and given to individual shareholders.

Despite the success of the publicly-run East Coast line the government re-privatised the line. It was handed to Virgin Trains and Stagecoach in March 2015, so future profits will go to corporate shareholders instead of being used to lower fares and fund investment.

The success of East Coast is a clear indication of what the railways would look like if they were run for people, not for profit.

Deryck de Maine, Edinburgh

Call centre workers need organisation

The company that had dominated the telephone fundraising market, Pell and Bales (P&B), ceased trading last week.

Profits were so good that Simon Pell sold the company to a venture capital firm called Panther for a reported £10m in 2008.

But for those of us who worked at P&B life wasn’t so good. Every day targets needed to be met—and, if they weren’t, managers would make your life hell.

We were low-paid and on zero-hour contracts and at risk of the sack for minor indiscretions. We organised and won the London Living Wage and the first pay rises in 6 years. Sacked union activists such as myself were reinstated.

Change came after the tragic suicide last year of 92-year-old Olive Cooke. She had been tormented by charity cold-callers.

This is what has caused the crisis that has led a number of fundraising agencies to close and lay off hundreds of workers.

This is the result of outsourcing and the drive for profit.

Unions in the charity sector need to oppose outsourcing and campaign for workers to be taken on in-house with decent pay, conditions and on permanent contracts.

Pat Carmody, Oxford

Celebrate Grunwick

In your article on Grunwick (SW 17 August) you refer to the strike by Asian workers in 1965 at Courtauld’s Red Scar textile mill in Preston.

You point out the courage and determination of the strikers, and that the unions and white workers in general did not support them.

Ray Challinor, a member of the International Socialists (forerunner of the SWP) publicised the strike and raised money.

A mass strike meeting of 900 people gave him a standing ovation.

At the time there was some discussion of the formation of separate black unions.

Ray’s intervention may have helped, in a small way, to avert that danger.

There is a full account of Ray’s role and the text of a Labour Worker article he wrote at

He should not be forgotten.

Ian Birchall, North London

Your feature on the Grunwick strike celebrates the struggle of the Grunwick photo processing workers.

However, there’s more to be said about the refusal by postal workers at the nearby Cricklewood sorting office to handle Grunwick’s mail.

The Grunwick managing director described it as “cutting the jugular vein of Grunwick”. But it was called off by UPW union “leader” Tom Jackson.

The action underlines strike leader Jayaben Desai’s comment that the strikers were “drowning in support, starving for action”.

Sheila Cohen, London

Nato could plunge the world into conflict

You say in your editorial (24 August) that Nato was formed in 1949 to officially defend democracy against Russia and the Eastern Bloc’s imperialist Warsaw Pact alliance.

But its real aims were much bigger.

The Warsaw Pact was only formed in 1955. This shows that just as there is no real reason for Nato to exist now, Western imperialism even jumped the gun then.

It made out the threat was greater than it was.

The inclusion of Portugal in Nato when it was a fascist dictatorship, and Greece and Turkey when they were military dictatorships show the emptiness of the alliance’s democratic credentials.

What we should worry about is that an invasion of any of the 28 member states, or any future member, under any possible contrived situation, could lead to World War Three.

Jim Hutchinson, Gateshead

Ant or Dec? Who cares?

The Mirror newspaper makes a big issue about Jeremy Corbyn not recognising Ant and Dec.

I wish that I couldn’t recognise them.

The Mirror has consistently nailed its colours to Owen Smith’s mast.

Given a choice between Corbyn, Smith, and Ant or Dec I think I would go for Jeremy Corbyn by a massive margin.

Rob Murray, South Tyneside

Reject British honour system

Well done to Howard Gayle, former Liverpool player, for knocking back an MBE.

The ruling classes work on the assumption that we can be bought off by dangling a few baubles in our face.

But Howard, who has worked hard to break down racism in football, told them to stick it.

Alan McShane, Liverpool

Gender is a construct

It’s 2016 and women are still being told to reduce or shrink themselves if they’re considered “too much” by the mainstream.

Newsflash! Men and women have the same hormones, in varying degrees.

What’s normal for one person might not be normal for the next. Get used to it.

Clare Selina Farmer, on Facebook

Defend the welfare state

Nobody likes to have things stolen from them.

So why are so many people so indifferent when it’s the government robbing us?

Public services such as libraries are being closed all the time.

Schools are forced to become academies, which are private entities in all but name.

There’s a land grab going on, and it’s our land.

The time has come to make a stand and save the welfare state, before we don’t have one left to save.

Colin, South London

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