Socialist Worker


Issue No. 1931

I'd strike tomorrow

I read your coverage about working in supermarkets (Socialist Worker, 27 November).

I have worked at Sainsbury’s for two years. Before that I worked for Tesco, but I left because of bullying by management.

Things were OK here until about February of this year when management’s attitude worsened. Lots of people left. Now it’s the run-up to Christmas and they aren’t taking on any new staff.

I have Repetitive Strain Injury. I showed management a letter from my GP saying I should be put on light duties. But they told me if I didn’t go on the checkout I would be disciplined.

We have to pass 338 items through the checkout every hour for eight hours. They think we are robots. But I am not a robot, I am a human being. I asked my union, Usdaw, for help. But they are so far up the bosses’ arses they don’t care. My dad worked for the TGWU union.

He brought me up to believe that unions are there to help working people. But this lot just take your dues and do nothing.

I am 48 years old. I earn £5.19 an hour and the job is unbearably stressful. It’s the same right across the retail industry.

The management only care about building up their image. They don’t care about us. They bully us and threaten us with being disciplined if we complain.

I would go on strike tomorrow if I could.

Angie, Hampshire

How we can save the environment

It is great to see Andrew Stone demonstrating that socialists have the theory and policies we need to tackle climate change (Socialist Worker, 20 November).

All Andrew’s suggestions are good ones. But I think we need to add a few more important ideas. Transport is the fastest growing contributor to climate change.

More council housing would allow people to live nearer where they work, reducing the need for travel. However, it’s not just jobs that have become too far away.

Local shops, schools and services are being removed and replaced with out of town supermarkets, so called choice in education and centralised services.

These are all often only accessible by car. We need to support local supply of goods and services whenever possible.

Secondly, improving and expanding public transport is necessary but not sufficient. Cars did not take over because they were more efficient, but because superior tram systems were destroyed and distances people needed to travel were increased.

Thirdly, even if we implemented the best policies immediately, climate change for the next few decades is going to happen.

We need policies that help humans and other species cope best with a changing climate.

Many such policies would also reduce the output of greenhouse gases.

For example, we should be supporting small farmers against big agribusiness and supermarkets that are driving them off their land into the coastal mega-cities of the Third World, which are at risk of flooding due to melting ice caps and rising sea levels.

We also should be ready to defend the rights of environmental refugees. Already millions of people are forced from their homes due to environmental disasters. These numbers are bound to rise.

Mostly this affects poor people from poor countries who have done least to cause global warming. They need our support.

James Woodcock, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine

Letters are a lifeline

Thank you for publishing the addresses of some of the prisoners being held as “terrorism suspects” (Socialist Worker, 27 November).

Letters are a lifeline for the men, and a gesture of solidarity that Blunkett and the prison authorities can’t miss.

Two of the men you mention – Rachid Ramda and Mamdouh Abu Rideh – have been receiving more mail than they can deal with. They are touched by the support, but for the moment they say, “No more, please!”

Their difficulty is a measure of the hard work of their supporters.

Until a few months ago the men were virtual pariahs and received hardly any mail.

This isolation, compounded by the hopelessness and uncertaintly facing those of them interned without trial under the Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001, creates enormous stress.

Four of the 12 internees have had to be moved from Belmarsh prison – three to Broadmoor Psychiatric Hospital and one to house arrest – as a result of the collapse of their mental health.

Socialist Worker also listed several men facing extradition and a number of men who are awaiting trial in Britain on terrorism charges. They were arrested in theatrical, politically motivated police raids.

All these men deserve to be regarded as political prisoners. Please write to them!

For up to date addresses and information go here

Richard Haley, Scotland Against Criminalising Communities, Edinburgh

Stealing our liberty

Detention without trial is now possible in this country – under the Mental Health Act.

All the authorities have to do is decide the patient is a risk to themself or other people, and their liberty can be removed for six months. This happened to me.

John Bunney, Somerset

Blunkett’s snub to bereaved mothers

We are five grieving mothers. Our daughters were imprisoned for non-violent offences, but died while in the “care” of the prison service.

On 19 October 2004 we wrote to David Blunkett asking for a meeting with him at the Home Office, and made it clear that we wished for our meeting to be with him and not a junior minister.

The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the continuing crisis in women’s prisons (a further two women inmates had died in the week before our letter was sent). Our letter was ignored.

On 19 November 2004 we sent a further letter to David Blunkett, but again no reply was received from him. Instead we received a letter dated 25 November 2004 from Ms H Banks, Women’s Team, Burton-upon-Trent, asking if we would like to meet her instead.

This is unacceptable. We have to interpret this as evidence that Mr Blunkett does not regard the deaths of women and children in his care to be of great importance.

To date David Blunkett has made no public statement about the women and children who have died in his care, which we find utterly reprehensible.

Pauline Campbell, mother of Sarah Campbell
Pauline Hart, mother of Jennifer Clifford
Mel Buckley, mother of Paige Tapp
Nalini Kotecha, mother of Sheena Kotecha
Janet Wade, mother of Rebecca Turner

Did we get it wrong on ABSOs?

SOCIALIST Worker’s supplement on Anti-Social Behaviour Orders (ASBOs) ignored big issues about the socialist approach to thuggery.

You talk as if there’s just a bit of boisterous activity caused by boredom.

But my sons and their mates – working class people – have been robbed with violence by other working class kids so many times over the last dozen years that we’d cheerfully kill the thugs, never mind ASBO them.

Are there really people who don’t understand why ASBOs sometimes ban hoods and bandanas? They must never have been stopped late at night in the street and robbed.

Low level anti-social and anti-worker behaviour is happening all over. From this basic anti-social culture, some develop into real nasty pieces of work.

Blair should spend money on youth facilities. Socialist Worker is absolutely right to make that the centrepiece of the debate.

But while the young thugs that you airbrushed out of the debate are still active, workers are entitled to demand action against them. How are they different from racists and rapists?

How are they better than scabs? Shouldn’t workers act against scabs?

Eddie McDonnell, Manchester

Deadly side of China’s boom

The mining disaster in Shaanxi Province, China, which left over 100 workers dead last week is a direct result of neo-liberal policies.

A side-effect of China’s recent economic growth is a chronic energy crisis.

To alleviate this the government has given the green light to the increased development of mines in an attempt to plug the hole in China’s coal stocks.

These mines have appalling safety records, as corners are cut to make more profit. Official figures say that 4,151 miners died in the first ten months of this year.

Such disregard for workers’ lives is adding to growing unrest in Chinese society. It is estimated that in October alone three million people across China demonstrated or took strike action.

David Wilson, Jiangsu Province, China

A question of legality

Whenever I picket my workplace the police tell us that the law says we can only have six people on the picket line.

Is this true?

Tony Collins, Tube worker

Verdict against New Labour

Well done George Galloway. The bastards were not able to grind you down (or us).

People like my MP Siobhain McDonagh may now hang their heads in shame for being in the pockets of Tony Blair.

Stephen Smith, Mitcham, Surrey

Their money is not enough

George Galloway’s libel victory against the Daily Telegraph is a victory for everyone who believes in a genuine free press.

But we should remember that the debacle in Iraq continues because the likes of the Telegraph achieved its aim in selling the legitimacy of the war to the bulk of the British public.

Shouldn’t the question today be whether journals like the Telegraph are as culpable as the politicians for illegal international acts? And should their punishment be more than just monetary?

Nick Vinehill, Snettisham, Norfolk

Website was vital for me

I was in the audience of Question Time in Manchester last week. I wanted to thank you for your excellent up to date website, which really helped me prepare for the programme.

I would not have been able to make my contribution about the racist aspect of identity cards if I had not had read the article on your website.

The interview with George Galloway, posted immediately after his victory, was also really useful.

If other Socialist Worker readers want to go on Question Time they can apply through the BBC’s website at


Forthcoming programmes are in Plymouth and Leeds.

Kate Richardson, Manchester

Religious persuasion

Fundamentalist Christians, headed by Phil Williamson of the Christian Fellowship School, Liverpool, went to the law lords last week demanding the right to be allowed to smack children at their schools.

James Dingemans QC – yes, he of the Hutton Inquiry – told the lords that the 1996 Education Act, banning physical punishment in schools, infringed the Christian Fellowship’s human rights.

Two years ago the group was claiming corporal punishment was part of their “Judeo-Christian heritage” justified by the Book of Proverbs: “The rod of correction imparts wisdom.”

Personally I’m watching the outcome with interest, as a basic tenet of my religious belief involves human sacrifice!

Keith Prince, Chingford, Essex

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Article information

Sat 11 Dec 2004, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1931
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