Socialist Worker

Waiting for Gordon Brown won’t wash with us

Issue No. 1979

For years we have been told by trade union leaders to wait for Gordon Brown to deliver us from Tony Blair. We are assured that even if Brown won’t bring radical change, he will at least be a pointer back to Old Labour.

Now the “waiting for Gordon” argument is shot down. Brown wants to rule out any sweeteners to encourage us into accepting working until 67. He wants to effectively freeze public sector pay by limiting any wage rises to 2 percent. Speaking at the CBI bosses’ conference, he lauded “enterprise” and rubbished “regulation”.

Union leaders representing public sector workers traded off retirement at 65 for new starters in return for maintaining retirement at 60 for existing workers. Having been given an inch, the prime minister and chancellor now want to take a mile.

The pessimism in the TUC is so bad some are counselling that unions back the Turner report’s proposals against Brown and Blair—rather than asking why we can’t retire early like the bosses urging us to work to an early grave.

Union leaders support affiliation to Labour by telling us they can exert influence in the party. If that’s true, they should be raising merry hell. Trade unions have seven million members and 230,000 union representatives across the land. They should be organising a rebellion against the idea that anyone in the world’s fourth richest country should have to work until they are 67.

Bolkestein directive

The EU’s neo-liberal race to the bottom

Irish Ferry workers have been taking action over plans to sack them and replace them with eastern European workers on worse wages and conditions. One worker on a ferry was recently found to receive just 70p an hour.

The start of next year will see European trade unions protest at the European parliament over a proposal known as the Bolkestein directive. This will allow workers from Poland or Latvia to work in Britain, France or Germany on Polish or Latvian wage rates and conditions.

The aim is to lower wages and decrease rights at work across Europe. Once again the free market cheerleaders want to play divide and rule, by claiming that “pampered” western workers want to deny job opportunities to their eastern counterparts. But recently we saw Polish bus workers join a strike in Staffordshire for better pay. Why should they accept lower wages than their workmates?

Eastern European workers are welcome here — but all workers in any country are entitled to the same rights and wages as citizens of that state, no matter where they originate. Rather than join a race to the bottom, we should fight to extend the best available wages and conditions.

Murdoch’s minions

What on earth does the Sun mean by ‘us’?

“State workers should never have been allowed to retire at 60. Not while the rest of us toil until 67 to pay THEIR pensions.”

That was a Sun editorial last week. But who is the “us” it refers to? What are the chances of Sun editor Rebekeh Wade working until 67? And her readers might be interested to discover what her pension pay-off will be.

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What We Think
Sat 3 Dec 2005, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1979
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