Dated: 26 Jul 2003
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NEW FIGURES show there's a £10 billion hole in New Labour's spending plans. It's no secret where much of the money has gone. Around £3 billion has already been spent on the war against Iraq and the occupation. Every month at least another £150 million goes on the bill.
THE TRIAL of the men charged after last year's fire at the Yarls Wood refugee detention centre has already exposed the myth that refugees have an easy life in Britain. Yarls Wood was Labour's flagship centre, built to hold 900 men, women and children. But it was destroyed by a fire last year. In a document presented at the trial, a custody officer claimed he and his colleagues were ordered to lock the refugees in as the fire swept through the building.
ANTI-WAR activists are preparing a campaign over the summer to end the occupation of Iraq and to bring the government to account for its lies and war crimes. That was the message of a spirited meeting last week which brought together representatives of London Stop the War groups to discuss how to build effective action in the next two months.
THE KILLING of Saddam Hussein's sons should have meant the beginning of the end of opposition to the occupation of Iraq, according to Tony Blair and George Bush. But within hours of the killings last week US troops opened fire on Iraqi civilians, killing five people near a checkpoint in a poor suburb of Baghdad. Local residents told journalists that they shed no tears for Saddam's sons, but the deaths of the civilians made them prepared to resist the occupying forces.
POSTAL workers were on the brink of strike ballots or even unofficial walkouts as Socialist Worker went to press. Nationally, final talks with Royal Mail bosses were taking place to see if management would offer a decent pay deal that was not linked to crushing productivity demands.
THE FIRST effort by the British National Party (BNP) to use their place on an English council to stop immigration ended in failure last week. The two BNP councillors for Tipton in the West Midlands proposed at a Sandwell council meeting that migration to the area to be "halted at the earliest opportunity".
THE NEWLY formed Westgate-on-Sea Socialist Alliance last week helped win an important victory. Kent County Council had sent letters to the parents of three pupils at St Crispin's infants school telling them they could not be offered a place at the local junior school, St Saviour's, because of lack of resources. The parents had approached their local councillor and their Tory MP for support but heard nothing more.
SOME 450 RMT union members working for ferry operator Caledonian MacBrayne's Clyde and Western Isles divisions started balloting this week for strike action over pay and hours.
BALLOT PAPERS were due to be sent to Amicus members at Fujitsu Services in West Gorton in Manchester on Wednesday of this week. The workers are fighting against attacks on their union recognition and redundancy agreements, and for sick pay, an equal pay audit, and a pay rise. Media coverage of the workers' recent rally has already lifted spirits.
UNION recognition victories at the Daily Telegraph and the latest by 200 journalists at Trinity Mirror in Wales - after a 15-year fight - show the transformation going on in the media industry. The latest issue of Better Read, the rank and file newspaper for media workers, analyses the progress made by the journalists' NUJ union and other unions in the last 12 months.
THE DRIVERS and support staff, all members of the RMT union, escalated action with a four-day strike beginning on Friday of last week. On the day the strike started over 400 Stagecoach workers staged a lively and very noisy march through the streets of Exeter to a mass rally addressed by Bob Crow, RMT general secretary.
STRIKE ACTION by different groups of workers in London councils continued this week. The battle is over a demand for £4,000 London weighting. Unison announced this week that it is extending future actions wider than the original boroughs targeted.
TECHNICIANS AT one of Britain's biggest PFI hospitals, the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, walked out on Friday of last week. The workers, members of the Unison union, were furious after being told by their trust bosses that their jobs could be sold off to a private company.
THE BRITISH Airways (BA) workers at Heathrow were right to walk off their jobs two weekends ago. This small group of low paid, mainly women workers defied the rich suits that run a huge multinational company.
FOR AS long as I can remember, people have been saying that the left needs to organise at a European level to match the development of the European Union. For years, this was just talk. Now, in an absent-minded sort of way, it's happening.
IT'S THAT time of year again when Edinburgh holds its breath and waits for the biggest arts festival in the world to explode across its streets. The Edinburgh Fringe is a highlight of the year for many socialists and radicals across Britain and, indeed, throughout the world. In these days of mindless musicals and trash "reality TV", the Fringe offers an opportunity to escape the mass manufactured garbage which so often dominates our culture.
THE MEDIA coverage of the walkout at Heathrow missed the two most important issues - what conditions are like for the check-in staff and why they are so angry. Workers on BA's check-in counters are on between £200 and £240 a week before stoppages. Tabloid editors and columnists wouldn't get out of bed for that. Far from costing BA money, its low paid workers have contributed to huge profits over the years.
FAR FROM being a drain on the economy, workers from abroad keep key industries and services in Britain going. The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) showed last week how some parts of the NHS would "cease to function" without nurses from South Africa and the Philippines. Guardian journalist Felicity Lawrence has uncovered how "in food processing there is a hidden army of labour on whom we all depend".
SINCE DAVID Kelly's death, I have been seeing everywhere the parallels with the Watergate scandal that brought down US president Richard Nixon in 1974. And it's not just me. Liberazione, the Italian daily, filled its front page with Blair, a Union Jack and one word, "Blairgate". Bush is in trouble over weapons of mass destruction too.
UNOFFICIAL strikes are illegal, hated by the press and are not supposed to happen anymore. But they're back. The workers who walked out at Heathrow revived traditions of union militancy from the 1970s. Ian Morris was a leading militant among Heathrow's engineering workers back then. He spoke to Socialist Worker.
THE BLAIR government is now in a deep crisis. The war has left a bloody and costly occupation behind in Iraq. The trail of lies and deception is now reaching back into the heart of the government. The movement built by the Stop the War Coalition struck the whole governing system with such force that its aftershocks are still reverberating through the corridors of power.
NOBODY SHOULD expect the resistance to the US occupation of Iraq to go away after the killing of Saddam's sons last week. The actions against the occupying troops have accelerated and US troops are suffering increasing casualties.
The Hour of Two Lights by Terry Hall and Mushtaq
TONY BLAIR headed off this week to Sir Cliff Richard's Sugar Hill estate in Barbados for a luxury holiday. But he won't be able to escape the reality that New Labour is falling apart.
TENS OF thousands of people flocked to Hyde Park in London last Saturday as part of the annual lesbian and gay Pride event. The march from the Embankment grew and grew as people joined in along the route. It followed the path taken by the great stop the war marches, and many people on the Pride demonstration took leaflets for September's march against the occupation.
THE DEFEAT of Mick Rix, the leader of the Aslef train drivers' union, has caused big waves. Many union activists are asking how it could happen. As contentious as what went wrong is the question of what should come next, and what his defeat means in other unions.
THERE'S AN old song, to the tune of the Red Flag: "The working class can kiss my ass/I've got the foreman's job at last..." Cynical it may be, but it expresses a truth. Time and again, workers' representatives get sucked into the bosses' system.
THE GOVERNMENT insists that its foundation hospitals plans have nothing to do with privatisation of the NHS. But the attendance list at a government-sponsored conference on "Foundation Hospitals: The Way Forward" last month tells a different story. The two-day gathering took place at the Royal Lancaster Hotel in London, and details were revealed in Private Eye magazine. Delegates paid £816 a head to hear various officials from the Treasury and the health department.