Dated: 21 Jun 2003
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US FORCES have launched military operations in central Iraq over the last few days on a scale not seen since the height of the war. This is the same war that was supposed to have ended two months ago. Instead of liberation and justice, there are daily reports of civilian suffering. US troops are breaking into homes, rounding up young men and opening fire on bystanders.
AROUND 500 council workers met last week in one of the biggest union meetings in Sandwell in the West Midlands for many years. They voted unanimously to campaign against the New Labour council's plans to privatise their jobs through the setting up of an Arms Length Management Organisation (ALMO) to run housing.
OVER 170 people packed into St Alfege school hall in Whitstable in Kent to hear George Galloway speak on Wednesday of last week. He received warm applause after describing the witch-hunt against him by Blair and the Daily Telegraph. Other speakers included Lindsey German from the Stop the War Coalition and Aram, an Iraqi refugee.
THE FIGHT against low pay by journalists reached a critical stage this week. National Union of Journalists (NUJ) union members at Bradford Newsquest were due to meet on Tuesday to decide whether to reballot for more strike action. They had been on all-out strike until Wednesday of last week.
"IT'S ABOUT time the low paid stood up and gave the politicians and the fat cats a good shaking," says Annie, a striking nursery nurse from Edinburgh. She is one of thousands of workers across Britain who are fighting to end poverty pay and stop bosses treating them like second class citizens.
A 102 year old woman in Kent faces eviction from her care home because she can't afford to pay the increased fees. Winifred Humphrey is a victim of the privatisation of care for the elderly. Over 86 percent of care homes are in private sector hands. They are run as a business with high fees for residents and low pay for staff. This is the reality of Blair's "modernisation" of public services.
AS THE car giant Ford celebrated its hundredth anniversary, it was also being fined £300,000 for safety breaches that led to the death of a worker. Christopher Shute drowned in a vat of hot paint at the Ford factory in Southampton.
THE RELENTLESS testing of school pupils is coming under increasing fire from teachers and parents. But as anger grows against the tests, education secretary Charles Clarke has announced that even more will be inflicted on school students. Clarke is demanding that pupils are tested in all subjects at the age of 14 so they can decide which subjects to drop at GCSE level.
ISRAELI PEACE activists say Ariel Sharon ordered the assassination of a leader of the Palestinian group Hamas in order to "bury" any chance of peace. The Gush Shalom group says the attempted assassination of Dr Abdel Azziz Rantisi on Tuesday of last week was designed "to destroy Palestinian prime minister Abu Mazen and prevent a planned truce".
IF YOU think college fees are terrible now, look what could be in store. The government says it wants to cap top-up fees at £3,000. But the retiring vice chancellor of Cambridge University, Alec Broers, has called for the cap to be raised to £6,000.
ANTI-NAZI campaigners are building local support for demonstrations on Saturday 28 June against the Nazi British National Party (BNP) councillors in their area. The marches in Burnley, Dudley, Broxbourne and Halifax are mobilising a range of people opposed to the BNP. In Burnley the BNP has eight councillors, and was standing a candidate in the by-election on Thursday of this week.
OVER 300 people marched in Manchester last Saturday to mark the opening of Refugee Week. They demanded the end of the war on asylum seekers and an end to their destitution. Zeesham Mirza, ten years old and originally from Pakistan, told the rally, "On Wednesday we will be out of our house, there will be no social or anything. My dad is not allowed to work. We have nothing."
THERE WILL now be a series of local attacks brigade by brigade after the end of the firefighters' dispute. The national agreement is clear that money for promised pay increases beyond 4 percent is dependent on achieving "savings" locally, to be assessed by the audit commission.
SOME 1,000 lift engineers in the Amicus union working for Otis struck from Friday of last week until Tuesday of this week. The workers are protesting against an imposed pay settlement of 1.7 percent.
ACTIVISTS IN the PCS civil servants' union are campaigning to ensure that the right wing Moderates group which has dominated the union is defeated in national executive elections.
Video footage shows Guy Smallman, a freelance photographer who has taken pictures for Socialist Worker, being hit by a stun grenade fired by the Swiss police. Guy was covering the recent protests against the G8 summit in Evian when he was caught with crowds of people peacefully leaving Geneva.
OVER 300 people attended the West Country premiere of the film Jeremy Hardy Versus the Israeli Army in Exeter last Saturday. People came to see the film made by Leila Sansour about the journey broadcaster Hardy takes when he agrees to become a volunteer with the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) and join them in their work in Palestine.
THE NATIONAL conference of Britain's biggest union got under way on Tuesday as Socialist Worker went to press. Delegates representing 1.3 million members of the Unison public sector workers' union faced a series of key debates.
STUDENT PROTESTS in Iran have brought fear of radical change for the country's rulers and nauseating hypocrisy from George Bush. Thousands of students took to the streets in five nights of protests that began last week. They started in the main university area in the capital Tehran. By the weekend protests were taking place in several other cities - Isfahan, Shiraz, Ahvaz and Mashhad (a major religious centre).
FRENCH TRADE union leaders may have allowed their Tory government to survive the mass protests over its attack on workers' pension rights. There were two more days of strikes and demonstrations involving hundreds of thousands of workers last week, and more protests were planned this week. But they were not on the scale of the earlier strikes that repeatedly paralysed the country in recent weeks.
"BLAIR'S REFORMING reshuffle," read the Guardian's headline on Friday last week. How naive can you get? In the first place, the post of Lord Chancellor is undoubtedly an outdated hangover from an earlier era.
LAST WEEK'S headlines in the mainstream press showing a large increase in the rise of sexually transmitted infections will come as no surprise to anyone who works in the area of sexual health. Sexual health workers, many with great expectations of a Labour government after years of the Tories and their back to basics morality, have been lobbying the government consistently over crippled resources and a steady rise in infections. The Sun's shock warning "Sex could kill you!" laid the blame at the feet of irresponsible young people. It also blamed asylum seekers for the rise in HIV. A cursory glance at government policy gives a truer picture.
"I KNOW it's an overused phrase, but we've been utterly sold out." With those words Fergus Richmond, a firefighter from Ayr, summed up the bitterness of Fire Brigades Union (FBU) members at the end of their pay dispute on Thursday of last week.
NEW LABOUR'S pensions minister, Andrew Smith, announced measures last week that will shatter the working conditions of millions of public sector workers. They will have to work an extra five years before claiming their full pension. Future nurses, teachers and sections of the civil service - who can now get their pension at 60 - will have to work until they are 65. Existing staff could still retire at 60 but their pension would be reduced.
FIFTY YEARS ago, on 15 June 1953, sixty workers on a hospital building site went on strike. They were faced with a new pay deal which meant wage cuts of up to one third unless they increased output by 10 percent. The employers insisted that "productivity" must come first. A familiar enough scene, repeated time and again around the world. But this was in East Germany.
THE POLITICAL level of this year's GMB congress was great, with really heated debates on issues like tackling racism and the war on Iraq. The congress voted to change the rulebook to expel racists from the union and to oppose the Nazi BNP.
What's wrong with the current system?
"IT WOULD be morally indefensible to oppose it." This claim was made by one of those behind the "protato" – the genetically modified (GM) wonder crop we were told last week will solve malnutrition in India. No one should be fooled.
Radiohead's new album has caused a stir in the music press. Radiohead are immensely popular. Hail To The Thief sold over 60,000 copies in Britain in the first two days of its release. They are also highly political. Lead singer Thom Yorke denounced the war on Iraq. The band support campaigns against Third World debt and in defence of asylum seekers.
WHAT A debacle. Tony Blair's disastrous cabinet reshuffle was supposed to help strengthen his government's purpose and resolve. It has had the exact opposite effect. Now a number of key Blairites like Alan Milburn have joined the ever expanding ranks of ex-ministers on the back benches.
Why they want us to keep taking the pills THE BANNING of the anti-depressant drug Seroxat for people under the age of 18 highlights how multinational drug companies and their New Labour friends are putting profit before people's health. The ban was introduced after evidence released from the 1990s showed that children were twice as likely to experience mood changes and have urges to harm or kill themselves after taking the drug.
IMAGINE THE outcry if the Home Office gave residency to a Muslim political activist wanted by Interpol in connection with the murder of a policeman. Imagine if that person was found living in luxury and working with children. Now imagine if that person was a racist member of South Africa's fascist Afrikaner Resistance Movement (AWB), which used extreme violence to oppose black majority rule.