Support kept our strike going strong
GLASGOW'S NURSERY nurses returned to their workplaces on Monday of last week, heads held high and retaining the dignity they have shown throughout their 14 weeks of strike action. Many were in tears, some were relieved, but the overwhelming emotion was one of anger at having been bullied and starved back to work by a Thatcherite Glasgow city council threatening to sack us with anti-union laws!
In February of this year Scotland's nursery nurses took a historic decision to take national all-out strike action.
For each and every one of these workers the next few months would become a financial and emotional struggle, and, for some, a life-changing experience. From their first nervous days on the picket lines these brave and inspiring women grew in confidence and determination.
Sadly their tenacity and courage was not matched by that of the leadership of our Unison union. They tried desperately to appease their New Labour bosses at both local and national level and underestimated the commitment the strikers had. Meanwhile the workers were becoming educated and organised, helped in no small way by the unwavering and magnificent support given by both Socialist Worker supporters and the Scottish Socialist Party, who stood shoulder to shoulder with us on picket lines, street collections and at meetings.
They lent a sympathetic ear and much-valued political analysis, helping to keep us strong after every setback. We can never thank you enough. I would also like to thank Socialist Worker for publishing and supporting our struggle.
I can only conclude that myself and many of my colleagues are not the same people we were before this historic strike began. Perhaps we have lost out in fiscal terms but I believe we have gained far more in experience, camaraderie and in knowledge.
We will never allow ourselves to be manipulated either by our trade union or employers again. We return to work still proud. Even with the derisory pay awards, increased working hours and revised remits we still feel victorious and ready to take on the Scottish Executive on their much promised job review.
This time, however, they will be dealing with a much more politicised workforce. Scotland's nursery nurses are here to stay. 'We're no gaun away!'
Maire Gordon, Glasgow
Pensions: battle we can win
THE ASSAULT on public service pensions rights by this government has the potential to become one of the biggest battles workers have fought in recent years. We have every chance of winning.
Some 40 percent of working people now look forward to an impoverished old age. Those now retired receive a pension 20 percent lower than they did 15 years ago. An estimated 64 percent of 16 to 24 year olds have no pension plan. There is now a crisis looming, which the government is seeking to solve at our expense. Its mad plans are for 1.2 million public sector workers to up their contributions, not be able to access any pension until 55, and only be able to access full pension rights at 65.
The final salary scheme (a pension based on your wages in the last two or three years of work) is to be replaced by an 'average' wage over the whole of your working life. The real problem for the government is that once workers begin to realise the full horror of its plans people are rightly galvanised into fighting them. In the Bolton NUT teachers' union, we have been campaigning on this issue for some months, with an indicative ballot for strike action in September last year.
This has prompted an ongoing run of workplace meetings alongside the Unison union. Our ballot result is beginning to have an effect beyond Bolton and is prompting a welcome activism at the top of our unions.
The pensions issue provides us with an opportunity to re-establish links with the rank and file and get us back to the roots of our politics. Concerns over our income in old age now reach into every sector of working class life. We can seize the chance to give Blair a bloody nose.
Barry Conway, Bolton
Expressing the feelings of D-Day
I WOULD like to criticise your cutting of items from my letter on D-Day (Socialist Worker, 5 June). I had kept my letter as short as I could. I was trying to express some of the feelings of the crew and the atmosphere cruising towards what we knew would be the firepower of hundreds of warships, coastal guns and planes.
Not surprisingly we talked about 'coming back'. There were thousands of military and naval experiences, we could see only in our own vision. Chris Bambery covered the dark forces of the war, but many people who would have agreed with him still were embroiled in the military naval conflict to end the power of fascism.
With hindsight we can see it all. In 1944-5 in the North Sea, heading for a reported E-boat contact at action stations, a quick Marxist response would be, 'Keep your head down.'
D J Davis, South London
Unfortunately, for reasons of space we often have to edit or leave out a section of a correspondent's letter or article. We work hard to ensure that the main points of the letter are kept in the published version. We will always take great care to avoid upsetting the author through our editing, and it is regrettable when this occurs. We would also like to apologise to Mr Davis for misspelling his name.
Socialist Worker, editorial board
We need carnivals
THE DECISION by the Manchester police force to ban the Unite Against Fascism carnival on 30 May is an absurd one. Don't they realise that banning an important event on the grounds that there would be 'trouble' is only going to pander to the Nazi British National Party (BNP)?
They are making the BNP look respectable, which they are obviously not. This was proven over a month ago when the BNP invited the French Nazi leader Jean-Marie Le Pen over for a visit. Carnivals are absolutely imperative in supporting Unite Against Fascism in its campaign to drive the BNP back into the sewers.
C A Dowthwaite, Barrow-in-Furness
Two big threats to our health
I AM writing to you about the Mental Health Bill, which will deny people their human rights. Physical conditions can and do give rise to symptoms of mental illness, which are misdiagnoses by doctors and psychiatrists. A person will not be able to seek redress in the courts when such misdiagnoses are not resolved through the NHS complaints system.
A person misdiagnosed will be forced to receive treatment and neuroleptic drugs. Physical conditions will remain untreated. The Mental Health Bill is expected to be included in the queen's speech in October. This introduces the right for psychiatrists to 'forcibly' treat a person with medications within their own home.
The young, students, the workforce and the professionals are all vulnerable to the misuse of these bills.
J A Turner, Northampton
MULTINATIONAL drug-dealing company British American Tobacco are developing cigarettes that taste of chocolate to hook young people. Is it time for a total ban on smoking like they have in Ireland?
I know we don't want to give the powers that be more control, but we must balance that against protecting young people from this addiction.
Dennis Mallin, South London