CONCERN IS growing among BT workers over the company's massive new restructuring programme, labelled NewGRID. Some of the biggest union meetings for years have been taking place around the country over the plan, and now three key London engineering branches of the workers' CWU union have called a mass meeting. NewGRID will affect all BT workers, and the company wants to end all current demarcation and grading structures.
BT wants there to be a single pay structure for all non - management grades. CWU union leaders have yet to carry the debate on NewGRID into the rank and file, and with BT wanting a deal by April the danger is a ballot could be sprung on workers before proper debate. That is why the initiative by three branches to call a mass meeting on 17 February is welcome and should be emulated elsewhere.
DELEGATES from CWU telecom branches have backed a pay claim for BT workers this year of a flat rate £128 increase, plus a 6 percent increase in allowances.
AROUND 120 women attended a national NUS women's conference in London last Saturday and pledged to launch a campaign to fight against low pay for women. Sheila Rowbotham and Hilary Wainwright both addressed the conference. Many women spoke of the need to fight for radical change across the whole of society to end sexism and discrimination. A picket of IPC Magazines, publisher of FHM and Loaded, is planned on 14 February.
WORKERS LAID off from the Spartan Redheugh steel plant were due to protest outside a creditors' meeting on Tyneside on Monday. The workers are angry that the plant was put into receivership after £2.4 million was unaccounted for in the company's finances. They are demanding something is done to find out what happened, and also that they are taken back on in any possible deal to reopen the plant.
North West Water
OVER 500 North West Water workers in the firm's network maintenance depots staged their second one day strike on Monday. The workers, members of the GMB union, mounted pickets at depots in Trafford, Stockport, Bolton and elsewhere in protest at management contracting out jobs to external firms from 1 April. The firm, part of the giant United Utilities, has given no guarantees on pay, conditions or pensions. North West Water made an operating profit of over £240 million last year. Unfortunately national leaders of UNISON, which also has members in the depots, are refusing to back the strike. The workers have written to local MPs, and union officials have lobbied MPs in London. They planned a demonstration in Manchester on Saturday.
A PROTEST was due to take place on Wednesday outside the Pik A Pak electrical depot in Ipswich in protest at the sacking of trade union member Barbie Lindsay. Barbie is a UCATT member as well as a local justice of the peace, and has worked at the depot for nine years. She and her union say the case is simple victimisation of a trade unionist at a plant where UCATT has been recruiting members. Pik A Pak is part of the City Electrical Factors group, which is the largest supplier of electrical equipment to the construction industry in Britain.
People & Protest
- SOME 130 people attended an excellent 'People and Protest' forum in Hackney, east London last week. Speakers from Jubilee 2000 and the SWP, a Homerton firefighter, and Jim Stanley, whose brother Harry was shot dead by police, addressed the forum. Dozens of people signed up to join the various campaigns which had stalls at the event.
- OVER 80 people attended a lively People and Protest forum in Glasgow last Thursday. Socialist Worker journalist Charlie Kimber and Brian Quail of Scottish CND addressed the meeting. Those at the meeting expressed full support for the fight to scrap Section 28.
- TONY BENN was one of the speakers at a 65 - strong People and Protest forum in Chesterfield on Friday.
- SOME 120 people attended a People and Protest forum in south London last Wednesday. Speakers included Barry Coates of the World Development Movement.
- AROUND 20 people attended a People and Protest forum at Warwick University last Thursday.
- PEOPLE IN Byker, east Newcastle, are mounting a campaign against a plan by the New Labour city council to expand a local incinerator.
The council wants to privatise the incinerator in a deal with French multinational Vivendi. It also wants the incinerator to be allowed to burn more toxic products, some of which could release deadly dioxins. A meeting last week of some 150 people opposed the plan and is building a campaign.
- OVER 100 people attended a meeting in Hepscott, Northumberland, last week in protest at plans to turn the former Shadfen Park coal drift mine into a waste dumping site.
- SOME 150 people packed into a meeting called by local pensioners' groups in Crawley last week. The meeting was a 'tremendous success' according to organisers. It was addressed by pensioners' leader Bruce Kent and local Labour MP Laura Moffat.
- Pensioners' march: Saturday 19 February. Assemble 1.30pm, Surrey Road (Strand), London. Called by Greater London Forum for the Elderly.
AROUND 200 people attended an anti-racist conference at Bradford's Buttershaw High School last Saturday. The event was initiated by teachers motivated by the Blair Peach conference in London last year and students who had attended the Stephen Lawrence inquiry when it visited Bradford. Many people signed the petition calling for the immediate suspension of the two Leeds footballers interviewed by police during inquiries into the recent racist attack.
CIVIL SERVANTS belonging to the main PCS union have been sent ballot papers to vote on a 'partnership' agreement with the New Labour government. The ballot has been sent out now to avoid a debate around the deal at the upcoming PCS biennial conference. The ballot is an attempt by the Blair - friendly leadership of the union to sign up ordinary civil servants to the government's 'modernising' agenda. This includes wholesale privatisation of public services, 'flexible working', efficiency drives and attacks on welfare provision. Activists should urge the biggest no vote possible in the ballot.
Blockade Faslane nuclear base
Monday 14 February, 7am Meet Friends Meeting House, Elmbank Crescent, Glasgow, lunchtime onwards Sunday 13 February, for overnight accommodation and transport
Called by Scottish CND. More details: 0141 423 1222 and at www.cndscot.dial.pipex.com
Mumia Must Live!
- North London: 8pm, Wednesday 23 February, Tottenham Green Centre, Philip Lane, London N15. Speakers include: Jim Stanley, Weyman Bennett.
- Notting Hill: 7pm, Tuesday 22 February, Tabernacle, Powis Square, Notting Hill, London W11. Speakers from NUJ, Amnesty International, and others.
POSTAL workers walked out unofficially last week at the Howley Park Industrial Estate in Morley, near Leeds, a large depot serving many local sorting offices in the area.
AROUND 80 electricians stopped work at the £150 million World Cargo Centre at Heathrow Airport on Monday of last week. The unofficial one day sit-in brought work to a halt at the prestigious site. The electricians, who belong to the AEEU union, were protesting against the transfer of four workmates to another site in the north of England.