Dated: 16 Nov 2002
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FIREFIGHTERS RISK their lives for just £21,531 a year. They were absolutely right to reject the Bain inquiry into the fire service. This inquiry was supposed to be "independent". But it accepted the government's pay policy wholesale.
THOUSANDS OF postal workers could soon be on strike. The result of a strike ballot among 3,500 workers in the cash handling and distribution section was due to be announced this week. Everyone expected it to be a big yes for action and that leaders of the CWU union would have to immediately set out dates for strikes.
WORKERS AT Resourcesaver in Bristol took strike action for 48 hours last week in protest at management reneging on an agreement for a 40-hour week. They were also protesting against the continuing practice of compulsory overtime.
THE STOP the War Coalition is organising a national conference for Saturday 7 December. The coalition has built the resistance to Bush and Blair's war drive in Iraq. It co-organised a 400,000-strong march in London on 28 September and called the nationwide day of action on 31 October.
THERE WAS a highly successful strike of lecturers in the Natfhe and ATL unions, and college workers in the Unison union across England and Wales on Tuesday of last week. Socialist Worker received reports from a number of colleges that we couldn't fit in last week:
TRADE UNIONISTS and local activists in York have launched an anti-privatisation campaign called PFI Watch. This follows the decision of the New Labour council to push ahead with PFI projects in three York primary schools.
WORKERS CLOSED down courts across the West Midlands on Monday of this week. AMO, the union for magistrates' courts staff, called the first strike in the courts' history. Hundreds of union members stayed away from work demonstrating their anger at proposals to harmonise pay that will see 150 staff take pay cuts.
STREET CLEANERS were on the picket lines at Ley Street depot in Redbridge, east London, last week. The Unison union members are part of the Londonwide campaign for £4,000 London weighting for council workers. Steve Wheeler, a street orderly on Wanstead High Street, said, "We had a pay cut ten years ago. People are fed up living hand to mouth. We are fed up working seven days a week for this money. It's wrong for the government to give themselves a 40 percent pay rise when they don't give it to the rest of us."
CRANE DRIVERS stopped work at sites across Britain on Monday to hold protest meetings about their pay and conditions. Some 80 drivers attended in Wembley, London, and meetings took place at another five sites including Manchester and Glasgow.
THE NAZI British National Party got 519 votes in the Downham ward by-election in Lewisham, south east London, on Thursday of last week. This alarming number of votes gave the BNP third place with 20 percent of the total vote in the ward. The Liberal Democrats won the council seat with 998 votes. Labour came second with 769. The BNP is cashing in on the atmosphere created by home secretary David Blunkett.
PICKETS WERE out in force at social security offices across central and north west London on Monday and Tuesday. Over 1,000 strikers in the PCS civil servants' union were defending union activists Chris Ford and Phil Henry.
WORKERS IN Rhyl in North Wales ended their six-day occupation of their factory on Tuesday of last week. The 35 women workers sat-in at the Fineline Cymru factory after it was placed into receivership. The company announced that all the workers would be sacked, and refused to pay the women wages owed to them.
THE GOVERNMENT is on the back foot over privatisation of council housing. Sheffield council has just announced it is officially calling off its transfer, and ministers now acknowledge that stock transfer will be rejected by tenants in most areas.
ARRIVA TRAINS Northern has lost the franchise to run the TransPennine service. The decision by the Strategic Rail Authority (SRA) last week comes after Arriva lost the franchise for Mersey Rail. The move boosted RMT members on Arriva, who are engaged in a long-running pay battle with the company.
TRANSPORT AND General Workers Union members working for BAA airports have voted overwhelmingly for strikes. On a turnout of over 70 percent they voted two to one to strike against a pay offer of 1.7 percent plus £150.
<blockquote>"I'm just an American boy, raised on MTV and I've seen all those kids in the soda pop ads but none of them look like me so I started lookin' around for a light out of the dim and the first thing I heard that made sense was the word of Mohammed, peace be upon him." </blockquote>
THE ROYAL family are supposed to be role models for the rest of us. They are held up as examples of devotion to duty, and symbols of national unity and pride. We are expected to curtsey, bow and scrape before them. But the revelations after the collapse of the trial of butler Paul Burrell have exposed the reality.
THE US is preparing for slaughter in Iraq. The administration may be hoping that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein could be ousted by a military coup. But Bush is willing to unleash a bloody battle that will raze Iraq to the ground.
UP TO a million people marched against war through the Italian city of Florence last Saturday. All day they arrived to swell the city to two or three times its normal size. The march was a dense, colourful and energetic show of total opposition to any attack by Bush and Blair on Iraq.
"THE BEST army in the world." This is how the New Labour government and right wing papers like the Sun describe the British army. As Britain gears up to back George Bush's planned attack on Iraq they will be piling on the pro-war and pro-army propaganda. Through the media they promote the image of "our brave boys" putting their lives at risk to defend democracy.
"YOU CAN'T get elected if you're a Blairite." That comment about the swathe of left union leaders who have been elected recently came from John Edmonds, outgoing general secretary of the GMB union. It's a breath of fresh air to see left wing leaders replace the likes of Sir Ken Jackson in the AEEU-Amicus union. They have been dubbed the "awkward squad".
EVERY YEAR hundreds of workers are killed at work, and thousands more suffer injuries from unsafe working conditions. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is the official body charged with ensuring safety standards at work.
It was 80 years ago that fascism first came to power, and it happened in Italy. There is a myth that Benito Mussolini seized power after his March on Rome and the occupation of the city by his fascist shock troops. Fascist columns did assemble at four points near the city – but they were lightly armed, ill fed and left standing in the rain.
"WILDCAT Chaos." That was the front page headline of the Daily Record, Scotland's biggest selling newspaper, on Friday of last week. It was responding to, and trying to vilify, the unofficial walkouts by hundreds of workers in Glasgow hospitals and the Glasgow underground. Clerical and administration workers in nine hospitals in North Glasgow NHS Trust, mainly women, walked out on Thursday and Friday. Around half the workers at Gartnavel Hospital had joined the strike by Monday of this week.
THE EUROPEAN Social Forum (ESF) in Florence, Italy, vastly exceeded even the most optimistic predictions. It did not just succeed-it was a political triumph. Around 60,000 people took part in the three days of meetings leading up to the anti-war demonstration. People came from every continent, and from 105 countries. There were students and trade unionists, unemployed people and pensioners, activists and campaigners.
OPPOSITION TO war on Iraq dominated many of the debates and discussions in Florence. Thousands of people crammed into meetings and forums determined to build a united, strong, mass anti-war movement. An overwhelming majority agreed with a call to turn 15 February into a united Europe-wide day of protest.
THOUSANDS OF trade unionists came to the European Social Forum. Their numbers reflected the rise in workers' struggle in much of Europe. There were members of many British unions present, including the CWU, RMT, Amicus, Unison, PCS, NUJ, Natfhe, Prospect, NUT and TGWU. There were more than 2,000 people at just one of the meetings on trade union struggles.
SIX THOUSAND people packed into a huge hangar-like room 150 yards long for a debate on relations between parties and the movement. Bernard Cassen from ATTAC, the movement against financial speculation, said it was "born out of the disillusion with the failure of political parties and unions to deliver the ecological and social policies people want.
The film Donnie Darko is set in a middle class school in small town America. It is a far cry from most teen movies on offer today. It is a satire about the end of US president Ronald Reagan's era in the late 1980s. Donnie Darko shows how you have to deal with more than your sexuality and your parents when you're a teenager. This film recognises that you also have to confront the world you live in.
ANYONE WITH a computer can now access talks on almost every imaginable aspect of socialist history, theory and argument, and much more besides. The fantastic website www.geocities.com/resistancemp3 consists of hundreds of original talks "on topics from anti-capitalism to Zionism by Socialist Workers Party members, Noam Chomsky, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King and others". Most of the talks are recordings of speeches at the annual Marxism event organised by the SWP in London each summer. Others are recordings from the media and meetings elsewhere.
I could not put down the fantastic book by Arundhati Roy The Algebra of Infinite Justice. It is a collection of the main political essays she has written so far. The book includes new essays on Bush and Blair's "war on terror", the Hindu chauvinist BJP government in India, and the effects of privatisation on ordinary people.
THE WORLD is much closer to a terrifying war after the United Nations Security Council vote last week. "Senior British and US officials say that both George Bush and Tony Blair privately regard war against Saddam as inevitable," reported the Observer on Sunday.
End silence on new apartheid ALONG WITH five other members of my trade union, the rail workers' TSSA, I have just returned from a fact-finding visit to the Palestinian West Bank and Gaza Strip. We witnessed a frightening expansion of settlements and "Jewish only" roads linking these settlements.
THE QUEEN is not the only toff with a memory problem. She conveniently forgot her conversation with Diana's butler which could have prevented millions being wasted on a trial. Now a top judge has forgotten that he owned shares related to a case he was trying.