THANKS FOR your article about overwork and low pay (Socialist Worker, 3 July).
I work part time in Safeway’s in Leeds. The company has recently been taken over by supermarket giant Morrisons.
We are told that we are now part of the “Morrisons family” and to “enjoy the change”. But conditions have got worse since the takeover.
Sir Ken Morrison revealed to Radio 4 last week that he thought Safeway’s workers, mainly based in the south of England, didn’t work as hard as Morrisons workers, as “there’s a different culture in the company and, of course, we’re northern.
“We have the unique northern character where we are very cost- conscious and we work very hard.”
What exactly does Sir Ken know about “working hard”? Where I work, full time staff on average work 45 hours a week, often at unsociable hours. Take-home pay after tax is about £200 a week. Work at the store completely dominates their lives.
Even the local management at Safeway’s, who are as “northern” and as “cost-conscious” as the best of them, think Morrison is a greedy bastard.
That a company boss in the 21st century can be so open about the fact that he thinks his workers on £5 an hour are still all too lazy tells you everything you need to know about working in Blair’s new Britain.
Member of Usdaw, Union branch F107
I WAS amazed to see that EasyJet has launched an advertising campaign based on the slogan “Tell the boss to stick it where the sun don’t shine”.
I worked for EasyJet in 2002 and frequently felt the same feeling—about my own boss. We had to fight very hard to get any sort of union recognition and, for example, had to pay for our own uniform.
I have heard that things have improved and the TGWU union has better access. But, according to the EasyJet website, the pay and conditions for cabin crew are still rubbish.
Cabin crew are still required to pay for their uniform. Probationary cabin crew take home between £800 and £900 per month. Stick it!
Mary Jennings, West London
Greens have let us down
ON 10 June Labour lost control of Leeds City Council for the first time in 24 years.
Now we have the disgraceful decision by the Green Party councillors to join with the Tories and Lib Dems to run this major metropolitan council.
This is the so called Rainbow Coalition
The coalition has promised it will make decisions based on what is best for “our great city”.
The coalition partners talk of having more efficient and better services to make Leeds a more prosperous, fairer, cleaner and safer city.
In reality, Leeds is a city with massive class differences.
While millions are spent on the gentrified city centre with its million pound flats, the working class areas are some of the poorest parts of Britain.
They are very different from the richer areas in life expectancy, education provision and health facilities.
Workers in Leeds will face further attacks from the new council bosses.
The Green Party will be part of the problem for us, and no longer part of the solution.
How different it could have been if the proposals put to the Green Party leadership to come to an agreement with Respect in the Euro elections had been taken up.
We would have got a larger number of MEPs and created a beacon of hope for those fed up with Labour’s betrayals over privatisation and war.
The Green Party in Leeds is now giving a radical face to further neo-liberal policies that will benefit the rich to the detriment of the poor.
Steve Johnston and Sally Kincaid, Leeds
Nurses are not like the police on race
I WAS saddened and concerned to read of the death of Azrar Ayub in psychiatric custody (Socialist Worker, 3 July). It is true that black men are disproportionately represented in mental health services and are more likely to be restrained and sedated.
However, I felt the tone of the report echoed those reporting the death of black people in police custody. It is important to recognise the fundamental differences between the penal system and mental health services.
Unlike the police, most nurses enter the job from a genuine desire to help people and perform a socially useful function.
Tragic deaths such as Azrar’s will continue to occur as long as the major response to severe mental ill health is custodial and framed by the medical model. Medical responses to essentially social and emotional problems are, at best, ineffectual and, at worst, extremely damaging to patients.
It is undeniable that acutely psychotic patients may, on occasion, behave in a manner that is dangerous to themselves or others and this must be dealt with in an effective and (usually) safe manner.
Unlike the police, most nurses consider the use of these techniques one of the least favourable aspects of the job.
Mental health services which are truly able to meet the needs of the most vulnerable and alienated, rather than New Labour targets, will begin to eradicate tragic deaths of detained patients.
Stephen McLean, Brighton
Protest at the G8 in Scotland
THE G8 summit in July 2005 will take place in Gleneagles, Scotland.
Already participants of the social movements in Scotland are discussing ways of highlighting why the G8 is part of the problem rather than a solution. A counter-summit and protests are likely to be organised.
Given the failed history of the G8 it is no surprise that people have protested whenever the G8 meets. Gleneagles in 2005 is likely to be no different.
The G8 (previously the G6) met for the first time in 1975. It has had 30 years to alleviate the misery and poverty in the poorest parts of the world.
Yet today an estimated ten million children die every year because of poverty, a sixth of all humanity live in slums, and at least a billion people on the planet subsist on the equivalent of a dollar a day or less.
The leaders of the eight richest countries in the world may take their photo opportunities but there are millions of us ready to point out their hypocrisy and reveal the G8 for what it really is: a rich cabal disguised as pious philanthropists.
The anti-capitalist and anti-war movements have shown millions that another world is possible.
We are not going away.
Gill Hubbard, Glasgow
A good deal?
I THINK your coverage of pension issues (Socialist Worker, 3 July) is very confusing.
It is true that the workforce at Network Rail have won considerable concessions over their wages and pension scheme.
They are in a favourable position and have enough bottle. But their victory is a victory over private, not state, pension.
This means that their success does not help anyone else—least of all the 90 percent of women who work in industry who have only the miserable state pension to rely on.
However, their success will help the fat cat fund managers who rip off the pension funds.
Hugh Lowe, West London
I was right on Groucho Marx!
IN LAST week’s Socialist Worker’s letters page Paul Daly wrongly claimed that my article on Groucho Marx was inaccurate in two ways.
Firstly, not only did Groucho have a daughter, in fact he had two!
Their names were Miriam and Melinda. They are mentioned in every major biography about their father and there are photos of them in Stefan Kanfer’s Groucho (Penguin).
Secondly, as far as my version of the swimming pool story goes, it can be found on page five of Stefan Kanfer’s Groucho, Groucho by Hector Ace and, finally, Groucho told the story on NBC’s A Tribute to Groucho Marx, which was first broadcast in 1972.
Two inaccuracies—not bad for a letter that only makes two points.
Martin Smith, East London
An alliance for decent pensions
THE successful TUC march for a decent pension is a significant shift towards strengthening the solidarity between young and old to challenge the Blair/Brown policy of allowing the state pension to wither on the vine.
Since Thatcher abolished the link with wage rises, the single person’s pension has fallen by £30 a week.
The pension for a couple has fallen by £60 a week.
There has never been a better time to establish a formal link between trade unions and pensioners to campaign to end poverty pensions.
In Plymouth the local trades council has invited a delegate from the Devon branch of the National Pensioners Convention.
We have also forged links with the local student union, supporting them in their fight against tuition fees.
This broad alliance could be copied, at national and local levels, across the country.
Any alliance should not just be a talking shop.
The campaign by Devon pensioners against their outrageously high council tax, and our demonstration against pensions minister Malcolm Wicks’s visit to Exeter on 19 July show the value of direct action in publicising the issues and shaming New Labour.
Paddy Ryan, Plymouth
Fahrenheit 9/11 left me cold
I HAVE just seen and was disappointed by Fahrenheit 9/11.
Anyone with any sense knows that the war in Iraq was all about money and oil.
So this makes it unlikely that anyone will go and have their minds changed by it.
The film simply confirms what we on the left knew already—Bush and his entourage are corrupt and were prepared to murder thousands of innocents to enrich themselves and their companies.
There are a few revelations. These are largely about the Bin Laden family connections to the Bush family.
But really there’s nothing new.
If you were pro-war (not very likely) the film will anger you.
If you were anti-war, you’ll nod your way through it because it will simply confirm what you already knew or suspected.
By the end, while I agreed with every comment made by Michael Moore, I was left with a profound feeling of “So what?”
Ketlan Ossowski, by e-mail
Iraq—this is not democracy
SO, THE government of Iraq is bringing back executions, and the prime minister is thinking about imposing martial law and postponing elections.
I guess democracy is in the eye of the beholder.
Chuck Mann, Greensboro, NC, US
Abortion rights face new attack
I AM very worried about signs of a new assault on abortion.
This week the press are reporting that senior politicians, including Tony Blair and David Steel, are considering whether to restrict the time limit for abortions.
Even if there are no new laws, women are being made to feel increasingly guilty for having an abortion. And provision for such operations varies hugely across the NHS.
No woman wants to have a late abortion. But the way to stop late abortions happening is to fund improved facilities and make it easier to get early abortions.
Ann Jenkins, Manchester