Socialist Worker


Issue No. 1990

Management forced workers to strike during the construction of Wembley (Pic: Sarah Cox)

Management forced workers to strike during the construction of Wembley (Pic: Sarah Cox)

Wembley failure is fault of bosses

The fact that the new Wembley stadium won’t be ready in time for the FA cup final didn’t come as a shock to workers on the stadium site.

This is not because we have been sabotaging the project or have been too out of it on drugs to do the work, as some newspapers have suggested. It is because the whole project has been managed by the Multiplex consortium.

Multiplex thanked the Sun for its alleged exposé, which diverted attention from the mess it has made of the whole thing. They promised to build a stadium at an agreed price in the hope of being able to cut costs along the way.

That meant we went on strike in September 2004 because we were in effect sacked twice.We were transferred from one company to another, and we also refused to work a 66-hour week.

While Multiplex made a loss of £50 million on the project, the company’s directors still got £980,000 between them. Bosses use composite companies to pay wages to workers in the form of dividends to avoid paying national insurance.

If the Olympic sites are as much of a disaster it will be because of the bosses, not the workers.

Jon, Steel erector at Wembley

Express path to division

The Daily Express, in true tabloid fashion, ran a story on its front page last week praising White Hart Lane school in Tottenham, north London. The new head has scrapped the teaching of science subjects in Turkish children’s own language.

This was trumped up to be a victory against political correctness gone mad. As it happens the government had praised the school when teaching in Turkish was first introduced by the previous head, David Daniels, in 2003.

The success of the approach was such that this year it was due to be extended to Somali pupils. But the new head, Joan McVittie, claims, “We need to prepare them for work and life in London, so when they are in school they should communicate in English.”

Only science lessons for GCSE candidates were taught in Turkish – providing pupils with the chance to have abstract ideas explained to them without the hindrance of a language barrier.

It is said teaching in pupils’ mother tongue has not improved science results. The truth is that the introduction of the language programme was partly responsible for the improvement in the number of pupils getting five GCSE passes – the benchmark used in the government’s league tables.

But in 2003 and 2004 the results show 27 percent and 36 percent of pupils attaining five GCSE’s, only to fall to 18 percent last year and 17 percent in January 2006, as the school was thrown into crisis by the sudden departure of the old head to a city academy school.

In addition there has been a tendency to enter black and ethnic minority pupils into vocational BTEC qualifications that don’t require English and maths, but nevertheless count as the equivalent of four GCSEs.

A meeting in Tottenham on black educational underachievement last week highlighted many issues that could be applied to other ethnic minorities. One of those is how important it is that senior staff support anti-racist policies and initiatives for disadvantaged students.

Parents and students at White Hart Lane are now considering how to respond to the head’s outrageous behaviour, and to demand the reinstatement of the language programme.

Gary McFarlane, North London

Education in Cuba

I have just returned from a visit to Havana, Cuba, with a group of art students from Cardinal Wiseman high school in Ealing, west London. We spent a brilliant week working with students specialising in art at the San Alejandro school in the Marinao district.

An exhibition of the resulting work will be held during Easter at the NUT teachers’ union conference, then later at its head office in Euston.

There are shortages of food, housing and transport, as well as low income levels for Cuban workers. But I met a ministry of education official who earns the same £3 per week as most teachers and other professionals.

The single most amazing fact for anyone connected with education in Britain is that class sizes for Cuban children aged five to 14 are set at a maximum of 20.

There are often two qualified teachers per class.

So next time you hear Tony Blair and his cronies talk about wanting a “world class education system” for Britain ask why Labour can’t countenance any class size limit here – of 25, or even 30 – when we know that the private schools he bases his ideas on boast about their own low class sizes.

Nick Grant, West London

Irving and the Nazis

MOST of the coverage of the jailing of David Irving for Holocaust denial in Austria has focused on him being a “historian” locked up for his views.

But this fails to take into account the fact that Irving spent much of the 1980s and 1990s speaking at neo-Nazi rallies in Germany, Austria and other parts of Europe.

Irving is more than a Holocaust denier. He has spent the last few decades trying to keep alive Hitler’s politics and revive the Nazi movement. The longer he and his like are locked away, the better.

Katherine Branney, East London

Muslims face racist test in Germany

Muslims living in the south west state of Baden-Württemberg applying for a German passport now have to submit to unprecedented discrimination. Those suspected of not being “constitutionally loyal” can be interviewed by government representatives.

The basis for these interviews is a handbook that encompasses 30 different points, each one containing one or more questions.

These questions are based on a stereotype of Muslims as homophobic terrorists. One example is: “You have heard about the attacks on 11 September 2001 in New York and 11 March 2004 in Madrid. In your eyes, were the perpetrators terrorists or freedom fighters? Explain your opinion.”

Another question is, “What do you think about the following statement: ‘Democracy is the worst form of government we have, but the best one which exists’.”

One question is, “Imagine that your adult son comes to you and explains that he is homosexual and wants to live with another man. How do you react?”

According to these criteria, one would have to take citizenship away from many Germans—above all, from the German pope Joseph Ratzinger.

That only Muslims are singled out for interviews shows the initiative is just another racist attack on Muslims.

Stefan Bornost, Berlin, Germany

A chance to vote for change in Italy

A general election will be held in Italy on 9 and 10 April. For the first time Italians living abroad will be able to vote from their countries of residence for extra lists of candidates.

The centre left alliance L’Unione (The Union) will present joint lists of candidates for the whole of Europe, one for the chamber of deputies and one for the senate.

This will give Italians living elsewhere in Europe the chance to vote for a candidate from each list. The Rifondazione Comunista candidates are Alberto Sipione (Switzerland) for the chamber of deputies and Anna Picardi (Germany) for the senate.

Wherever possible, we ask European alternative left parties to support the candidates by making them known among your Italian sympathisers, inviting them to public debates and urging Italians and Italian associations to vote for them.

Fausto Bertinotti, Rifondazione national secretary, and Gennaro Migliore, head of Rifondazione International, Rome, Italy

For more information please e-mail Carlo Cartocci at [email protected]

Iraq torture is horrifying

The torture by US troops in Iraq (Socialist Worker, 25 February) is unacceptable behaviour on the part of our military, not to mention the fact that it is “illegal, immoral and inhumane”.

Of course, we must be supportive of our troops, but as a nation we cannot and must not condone such cruel acts of violence.

Undoubtedly our troops must have a great responsibility to help Iraq reorganise itself, but what I have read should horrify us.

I hope other citizens of the US and the world will stand up and condemn this horrendous behaviour.

This is a sad and lamentable depiction of what the US stands for.

Maximillian Gutierrez, Dallas, Texas, US

SR is a great addition to SW

Congratulations on the first SR I received with a recent copy of Socialist Worker.

I am a fairly recent subscriber to the paper. I always find interest in Socialist Worker, and I was very impressed with the supplement.

It was not just the content, and the opportunity that it gave writers to deal with wider ranging subjects in greater depth that struck me, but equally the presentation.

It was sharp, bright, compelling and presented itself as a modern magazine that would have immediate appeal to a readership beyond committed members and subscribers. Good work by all concerned.

I look forward to the next issue.

Stephen Leather, by e-mail

Keep fighting for new world

I write from Argentina and want to congratulate you on your newspaper.

There are many things happening in your country, and I know that common people are against the movements of the “butcher” Tony Blair.

The war is between the US and Britain on one hand and Venezuela, Argentina, Iran, Syria and North Korea on the other.

I want a better world for my little girl Camila. The future is in your hands.

Nicolas, Thames, Argentina

Success in Liverpool

Shocked and angered by the Islamophobia resulting from the Danish cartoons, we decided to call a Respect meeting in Liverpool to discuss the issue and show solidarity with the Muslim community.

At three days notice 74 people attended a lively discussion in Toxteth.

Many people from the local mosque came, as did trade unionists and students. Shiloh Binns from the family of murdered black teenager Anthony Walker spoke.

The point was made forcefully that freedom of speech for racists often results in murders like that of Anthony.

Liverpool Central Mosque was sufficiently inspired to organise coaches for 18 March anti-war demo.

A renewed sense of unity and confidence ensued from the meeting.

Beccy Lewis, Liverpool

Food lies and famine

It is not only in the area of promises that governments have exaggerated claims.

Globally, the proportion of children is falling. A fall in birth rates lowers total food need and raises average food need.

This means that the World Bank, using the same “virtual dollar” for everyone, is either progressively overstating or artificially creating a “fall” in poverty.

This error appears in both the UN Millennium Goals and in claims from economists in general.

A partial solution to hunger in the human species may lie in rules for social scientists, whereby they are required as a condition of employment to describe information accurately.

Matt Berkeley, by e-mail

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Sat 4 Mar 2006, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1990
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