Socialist Worker

Letters: Tony Sewell has a long history of disdain for working people

Issue No. 2750

Teachers campaign against the free school in 2013

Teachers campaign against the free school in 2013 (Pic: islingtonteachers.org.uk)


So-called “educationalist” Tony Sewell fronted the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities’ whitewash of racism last week. Years before that, teachers in Islington, north London, got a taste of his contempt for the rights of working people, whatever their ethnicity.

In 2013, having previously been appointed by then mayor Boris Johnson to chair a London Education Commission, Sewell was chair of governors of a new 16-19 free school.

Staff there were forced on to effectively zero hours contracts, with only seven days a year sick pay and minimum maternity rights.

They joined the NUT union, now the NEU, and asked for union recognition. They were told the school would only consult members on an “individual basis” and that “there is no further need for the NUT”.

When the teachers voted for escalating strikes to win union recognition they were told, “We are not prepared to recognise you on a voluntary basis and this will remain our decision whether or not industrial action is taken.”

Shortly before the strike was due to begin every teacher was made to attend, alone, a meeting with Sewell.

He looked down on them from a raised platform and tried to bully them in to submission.

Showing great courage and determination, however, they all refused to answer his questions and told him to speak to their union.

After two days of strikes Sewell and his partners in crime capitulated.

They recognised both the NUT and the GMB unions, and put all our members on national pay and conditions.

Ken Muller, Formerly joint secretary, Islington NUT/NEU

  • Brilliant. A government report that can have sections of the working class fighting with each other as to who gets the worse deal. They’ve been promoting this for years.

Andrew Timothy Price, on Facebook


A crisis of capitalism

Nick Clark’s article Capitalism—Is It More than Greed? brilliantly argues that greed is built into capitalism through the bosses’ competitive drive for profit.

It also argues that this is both the source of economic development under capitalism and the terrible destruction and misery that it produces.

Capitalism— is it more than greed?
Capitalism— is it more than greed?
  Read More

Some of that destruction comes from the inevitable tendency for the rate of profit to fall.

This occurs because the drive to raise productivity and lower costs forces bosses to invest more on technological development and less on the workers who work that technology.

But the exploitation of workers, paying them less than the value of the goods they produce, is the source of profit. What each capitalist has to do in order to ward off rivals has very bad consequences for the capitalist system as a whole and for us.

We have been in a period of low profitability across the world as a whole over the last 50 years. There will be some economic recovery when lockdown is eased, but it will still be in the context of relatively low profits.

So recovery will be fragile, unemployment will rise and attacks on workers will continue as will the destruction of the environment. That is why we need to end the system of production for profit over need urgently.

Rob Hoveman, West Yorkshire


Chaos in Suez Canal shows up fragile trade

In his analysis of the blocking of the Suez Canal by The Ever Given  Alex Callinicos refers to a Washington Post piece by professor Laleh Khalili.

The piece was about the increase in the size of cargo ships following the Suez Crisis in 1956 and also the 1967 Israeli war on the Arab states.

Suez crisis driven by pursuit of profit
Suez crisis driven by pursuit of profit
  Read More

Her book, Sinews of War—Shipping and Capitalism in the Arab Peninsula, is excellent.

It provides analysis and insight into the trade routes created and followed by the shipping companies which move 90 percent of the world’s goods in vessels, including behemoths such as the Ever Given, in their relentless pursuit of profit.

This incident demonstrates the fragility of that trade.

In her book, Khalili examines the history of resistance by seafarers and port workers.

Read more about it at bit.ly/LalehKhalilireview

Dave Clinch, Devon


All workers need a living wage—however old they are

All workers need a living wage—however old they are (Pic: Guy Smallman)


Why are we left out of the living wage?

The government said last week that it will be increasing the minimum wage by a few pence.

I don’t understand why 16-22 year olds don’t get the national living wage.

We have to pay the same costs of living as everyone else and do the same work as anyone else, so we should be paid equally for that work.

I’ve worked in lots of different kinds of minimum wage jobs since I was 17.

It seems very unfair that a 23 year old can earn £2.35 more per hour than a 20 year old for the exact same work.

As a young person, I already feel disillusioned and disrespected by Westminster, and their inability to address this issue makes me feel even more like they do not take young people seriously.

I feel this is something that people are not getting angry enough about.

Anna, Leeds


Socialist Worker not right on the virus

Your article on easing lockdown measures does not get things quite right about the situation regarding the number of cases, hospitalisations and deaths.

The situation appears to have improved since three to four months ago.

The lockdown, which the Tories did very belatedly, is a factor.

More importantly, the vaccination programme by NHS staff.

It is possible to point out real improvements without in any way letting the Tories off the hook.

Julie Webster, on Facebook


Pimlico school ready for war?

Pimlico academy is my old school.

After this “Christian” academy chain took it over a few years ago, I noticed a full metal plate medieval suit of armour in the lobby.

It was still there when one of the pupils was being interviewed on TV this week.

What is a suit of armour doing in school? Is beheading heathens part of the curriculum?

Merlin Reader, on Facebook


Gas workers need support

The British Gas workers are being treated atrociously.

Doesn’t the GMB union realise that if they don’t stop fire and rehire, lots more of their members will be attacked too?

Sue Rogers, north London

  • Where is the Labour Party? Why is it not actively backing the workers?

Carl Walker, on Facebook


Stand up for Travellers

I heard a speech at the Norwich Kill the Bill protest.

The speaker said everyone knows someone who thinks Gypsy, Roma, Traveller racism is acceptable.

We must speak to them urgently because this bill is horrific.

Gin Putland, on Facebook


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