Dated: 23 Nov 2002
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TONY BLAIR and chancellor Gordon Brown are united in their determination to curb workers' pay. That's why they have attacked the firefighters' claim. But the real pay scandal is the record payouts to the fat cats. The boss of drugs giant GlaxoSmithKline got £7 million last year. He is after a further rise even though the company's share price has collapsed.
CHANCELLOR Gordon Brown laid into workers who are in need of decent pay in his speech in parliament on Monday. He claimed that if firefighters and all public sector workers got a 16 percent rise it would cost £16 billion. New Labour could easily raise £29 billion a year by taking some simple steps.
SOME 50,000 pensioners had their income cut by 20 percent last week. The announcement came from one of Britain's biggest insurance companies, Equitable Life. Yet New Labour still wants to make us all rely on private pensions. The average Equitable pension, built up by people saving for many years, is £6,000 a year.
"TOP-UP" fees for university students, floated by New Labour, are causing widespread anger. Even 120 Labour MPs have now signed motions against the idea. Margaret Hodge, the minister for higher education, has tried to sell "top-up" fees by claiming New Labour wants to end a system where "the dustman subsidises the doctor".
THE FIRST joint strike in higher education in the London area was held on Thursday of last week. Two unions, the AUT and Natfhe, represent lecturers in the old universities and the "new" universities (ex polytechnics). They joined with members of two other unions representing support staff, Unison and Amicus, to strike for an increase in the London weighting allowance. The demand is for £4,000 a year.
"WE WANT to stay with the council." That's the message from Luton's council tenants, who have voted by an overwhelming majority (nearly 90 percent of some 2,000 residents who voted) to keep the council as their landlord.
OVER 3,000 postal workers were on the verge of strikes against privatisation as Socialist Worker went to press. Strikes will go ahead unless Royal Mail managers back off completely from their plan to hand the Cash Handling and Distribution (CHD) section over to Securicor. Talks between management and the CWU union were planned to take place this week. On a 67 percent turnout CHD members voted by a remarkable 95 percent for action. Immediately after the vote Royal Mail and Securicor announced they were dropping their original privatisation plan.
WORKERS FROM the Amicus-AEEU press and paintline section at Raven Manufacturing on Altham Industrial Estate near Burnley remain defiant as they enter their eighth week of strike action. They are fighting for a 3 percent pay claim.
SACKED WORKERS from Friction Dynamics have won a victory at an industrial tribunal. The tribunal ruled that the 86 workers were unfairly sacked from the North Wales factory eight weeks after going on strike against a 15 percent wage cut. The workers have maintained 24-hour picket lines for the 18 months since they were sacked.
STRIKING NHS workers gathered at the windswept Stobhill Hospital, Glasgow, on Thursday of last week. Freezing rain did not dampen the spirit of the workers, who had gathered to lobby the NHS trust demanding an end to poverty pay.
UNITED Nations weapons inspectors went into Iraq again on Monday. US president George Bush is still desperate to go to war against Iraq. "The inspections cannot work-period," said a senior US Pentagon official last week.
IN THE aftermath of the United Nations Security Council resolution authorising the return of weapons inspectors to Iraq, many people have deluded themselves that this makes war less likely. Even Richard Perle, the ultra right wing adviser to the Pentagon, argued on BBC News 24 last Sunday that the aim of Bush's administration was no longer "regime change" in Iraq but the removal of Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction. This apparent shift in US objectives may only be a figleaf covering the administration's real intentions.
THE PETER and Paul Fortress in St Petersburg was once a prison but is now a museum. You can wander round its cells and see grainy photographs of its former occupants, political prisoners under the old Russian Tsars 100 years ago. A large number are women-revolutionaries usually from middle class backgrounds who braved torture and exile for their cause.
THE TWO-day firefighters' strike last week, and the support it got, rattled the government. Large sections of the capital's tube system shut during the strike when workers took impressive action over health and safety (see below). The strike also transformed the 55,000 members of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU). FBU general secretary Andy Gilchrist told over 600 people at a fundraising gig in west London on Friday of last week that his tour of mass meetings showed a deepening confidence among firefighters that they will win.
A WAVE of support and solidarity greeted firefighters and emergency control room staff from the minute they walked out the door. "The vast majority of our people have never been on strike before," Tam McFarlane, secretary of the south west England region of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU), told Socialist Worker. "The support they have got from other trade unionists and the public has been just overwhelming. And we are talking about areas like Somerset, Cornwall and Devon. It's given them confidence to stand up to the press attacks. No one in the fire service wants to be on strike. But the solidarity we are getting convinces us we are right to take this difficult step, and that we will w
THE FIREFIGHTERS' strike dominates the headlines and causes something approaching panic in New Labour leaders and hysteria in the right wing press. Two arguments in particular are launched against the strikers from inside the labour movement. From the right comes the view of New Labour's favourite (and knighted) professor, George Bain.
A STRIKE often brings out the best in working class people. It always brings out the worst from the rich who run the media. The handful of men who control most newspapers and TV stations hate strikes and strikers. They unleash every lie, every bit of filth, to try and demoralise strikers and turn other people against them.
I SPENT two days last week with the asylum seekers sheltering in a disused church in Calais. Everybody should know the truth about their lives. The 120 people involved were made up of 85 Iraqi Kurds and 35 Afghans. The Iraqis were bitterly aware of the hypocrisy of governments that are prepared to launch a war against "tyrant Saddam Hussein" but act in the most brutal fashion towards people who have fled Iraq.
IT HAS been hard to avoid the top ten "Great Britons" series currently on TV. It pushes the idea that history is made by remarkable individuals - most often kings, queens, top military brass and other establishment figures. Socialists have a completely different view - that it is the struggles of millions of ordinary women and men that have shaped history.
WE PRINT some of the e-mails we received from our readers about the recent European Social Forum (ESF) and the million-strong anti-war demo in Florence, Italy.
Bowling for Columbinedirected by Michael Moore
"SCARGILLITE" is how Tony Blair attacks the firefighters' union. But it is not Scargillism that is threatening our livelihoods and public services - it is Thatcherism, the doctrine of Blair's New Labour government. On every front those at the core of this government are pushing right wing policies animated by the spirit of the former Tory leader. Education secretary Charles Clarke and his sidekick Margaret Hodge are two of New Labour's "ultras". They are determined to force students to pay "top-up" fees of up to £10,000 to go to some colleges. Clarke also wants to force every student to pay fees, regardless of their or their parents' income.
IT IS with deep sadness that present and past members of Portsmouth SWP record the death of Jill Molyneux last week. Jill was a lifelong socialist whose first political involvement was in solidarity with the Hungarian Revolution in 1956. She joined the International Socialists in 1972.
AS A delegate to this year's TUC conference in Brighton, I sat through Tony Blair's speech where he warned trade unionists not to turn their backs on the New Labour government. The alternative, he exclaimed, would be a return to Tory rule - "18 years of being ignored, derided and attacked as the enemy within".
AN EMPLOYMENT tribunal has been hearing shocking allegations of brutal and racist bullying in the British army. Timur Kalayaci had lived all his life in Hackney, east London. Like many people in Hackney he is of Turkish background. He is also a Muslim. He joined the army, believing all the propaganda about serving queen and country, and the image of "equal opportunities" the army has pushed in recent years.