Socialist Worker


Issue No. 1797

Just a number to BT's bosses

I AM one of BT's workers who is waiting anxiously to discover whether I will be included among the 18,000 jobs to go over the next three years. That is almost one in five of the workforce. It is at times like this that you really know you count for nothing, and are always capable of being sacrificed to the banks, the management and the gyrations of the international telecoms markets.

I work in a 'customer care' part of the business and am paid just over £280 a week, very little in London. I work hard, averaging some 90 conversations with callers a day. It is a stressful job where there is never an end to the work. I am potentially monitored all the time, and there is an immense pressure to increase sales.

BT does have serious business problems. But those of us who actually produce the cash for BT bosses are not responsible for its disastrous strategy of buying advanced mobile networks in Germany and Britain. We are not to blame for the fact that BT management took a profitable business and turned it into one with £28 billion debt.

But it is us and our families who will now be expected to pay the price. Ben Verwaayen, BT's chief executive, continues on a basic salary of £700,000 a year, a bonus of up to £910,000 a year and a share bonus of another £910,000 a year. When he joined the firm earlier this year he was handed an initial share award worth £2 million.

I don't imagine he's quaking in his boots after the budget, and I bet he is worried more about 'implementing financial discipline' than he is about the effect of his job cuts.

MARY, West London

Even the police treat refugees better than this

THE multinationals are pushing each other aside in the squabble to make profits from the exploitation of asylum seekers. This is one business growing under New Labour. Every asylum seeker within a 25-mile radius of Manchester now has to report to a 'centre' run by Group 4. It is on an industrial estate. On entry you are body searched and could be detained.

One African asylum seeker recently won the right to continue signing on at Bootle Street police station. Treatment is better there. On the site of the closed Agecroft colliery, a new private prison has been used to detain asylum seekers. Some were bussed up by Group 4 away from the hunger strike at the Harmondsworth centre.

At every stage of the process of reporting, reception, transportation, detention and removal, big business makes money. Last month the widespread resistance from asylum seekers and their supporters was heard at a 400-strong conference in Manchester. We have shown we can hit back at New Labour's attacks.

We have had some success in raising opposition against vouchers, imprisonment and forced dispersal. Blunkett's new policy is to 'house' more asylum seekers in warehouse-type centres. Defending asylum seekers goes hand in hand with fighting the multinational companies. Support Refugee Week of Action from 15 to 22 June.

MARK KRANTZ, Manchester

How we beat the Liberals

SHEFFIELD'S 'Primary Regeneration Team' are currently making their way round the city trying to either close or merge schools on the pretext that class sizes are falling. Surely small classes should be praised, not used as an excuse to shut schools? In inner city Sharrow and Heeley they were hoping to shut Lowfield Primary and send the children to a new site.

At Lowfield we organised a big, bold and brilliant campaign fighting around the slogan 'No closures, no mergers, no cuts!' We held a number of activities including a massive public meeting, a crossing protest and a balloon release, as well as doing mass petitioning in the local area and city centre.

Our campaign received tremendous support from Lowfield pupils, parents and staff, the local community, trade unionists, the Green Party and the Socialist Alliance, among others.

Last week we organised a lobby of the Lib Dem council to save our school. The cabinet member for education announced that, due to massive opposition at Lowfield, the Lib Dems had backed down from the planned merger of the two schools. This proves that when you fight you can win.

ANGELA SHANN, Lowfield parent and Sharrow Socialist Alliance council candidate

Big business loves Blair

IT IS outrageous that a Labour government will use taxpayers' money to bail out those 'poor, oppressed' Railtrack investors, and yet keep this business or even the whole of the rail industry in the private sector. It does, however, clarify everything about what the New Labour government stands for today.

When in opposition, politicians like Tony Blair and Stephen Byers were cultivated by the bulk of the media as ideal left of centre alternatives. This was principally because of their exploitable right wing leanings that are so manifest in government today. Now, far from being 'control freaks', they govern like 'controlled freaks' who have no alternative but to compensate the likes of former Railtrack investors.

NICK VINEHILL, Snettisham, Norfolk

Ali G is alright

I FIND Sacha Baron Cohen (Ali G) hilarious and extremely brave. He makes a laughing stock of the racist, sexist idiots by adopting their attitudes and showing them up.

I am only 15 but one of the most important lessons I have learned is that bigotry does not go away if you ignore it-it grows stronger. Therefore I and many others praise Sacha Baron Cohen. Yes, he is outrageous, but incredibly funny with it.


The list of shame

ON THE day of the budget I received a letter from Bart's Hospital. It noted that my child was on a waiting list for an important ear operation and asked if I wanted him still to be on the list. If I did not reply within two weeks I would be struck off and have to start the whole application process again.

What if I'd been on holiday, or unable to read English well (the letter was only in English)? What if it'd been lost in the post or I'd just forgotten about it? It is disgraceful that trusts are doing such manoeuvres — all in the name of New Labour being able to declare a waiting list 'success', no doubt.



New views on Israel

LABOUR MP Gerald Kaufman, a firm pro-Zionist and baiter of the left, has denounced Ariel Sharon as a war criminal in a blistering Commons speech. His stance makes a mockery of Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks's claim that criticism of Israel is just a mask for anti-Semitism.

The wave of opposition to Israel's war crimes comes from millions of people across all communities absolutely opposed to racism in all forms. Support for Israel's oppression of the Palestinians can only divide Jews from those who would otherwise be our natural allies against racists and fascists. To invoke the Holocaust in order to justify oppression serves neither the memory of the Nazis' victims nor the need to combat Nazi organisations today.

An increasing number of Jews in Britain have begun to seriously question their allegiance to Zionism. We need to recover in its place the tradition of internationalism, anti-racism and anti-colonialism that so many Jews identified with in the past.

ROB FERGUSON, South London

Is it Arabs at fault?

WHY IS it that the Arab countries will not let one single Palestinian 'refugee' into any of their many countries? Palestinians have found no safe haven in other Arab nations, despite the vast Arab territory many times the size of the West Bank and Gaza.

Out of the 100 million refugees since World War Two, theirs is the only refugee group in the world that has never been absorbed or integrated into their own peoples' lands. The Palestinian people and their leaders are being manipulated by other Arab nations.


Give land for peace

ARIEL SHARON has unleashed the biggest military assault on the Palestinian people since the invasion of Lebanon in 1982. We must remember that he has nuclear capability. He threatens world peace far more than any other person in the world at this present time.

Land for peace is the only realistic basis for a solution. The people of Palestine must have their territories returned to them, according to UN Security Council resolutions 242 and 1397.

Boundaries of the Palestinian and Israeli states must be clearly drawn, and no more encroachment must take place into Palestinian- held land. Yasser Arafat, the Palestinian leader, must be allowed to negotiate on behalf of his people, and no more attempts should be made on his life.

The spirit of the oppressed people in Palestine is an inspiration to us all. We must also protest, and there are many ways in which we can do this. In particular, join the national demonstration in London on 18 May.


Please see both sides

WHAT A PITY that your viewpoint on the Middle East conflict is not as rational as that demonstrated on other topics. I notice that nowhere do you condemn the nauseating and reprehensible Palestinian suicide bombing campaign.

Are we to regard that as a tacit seal of approval for such a course of action?

DR K DAVIS, Cockermouth, Cumbria

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Article information

Sat 27 Apr 2002, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1797
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