Dated: 26 Oct 2002
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Cabinet ministers grabbed 40% rise
BUS WORKERS in London were the latest group to join the revolt against low pay as they marched through the capital on Tuesday of last week. Up to 300 workers in the TGWU union from different bus companies marched behind banners from depots across the region. They are demanding the same pay as tube workers.
AMICUS UNION members at Raven Manufacturing near Burnley struck over pay for the fourth Monday in a row this week. Their original claim was for 3 percent and a catch-up rise for low paid assembly line workers, with a shift allowance, sick pay and a pension scheme. Striking press and paintline workers are furious about the management's offer of 1.5 percent, putting them on just £5.80 an hour.
REFUSE WORKERS in Trowbridge, West Wiltshire, last week told management where to shove their pay offer until all workers are put on the same contracts. The 45 GMB union members have been privatised by the council and now work for the Cleanaway contractor.
MEMBERS OF the PCS civil servants' union in DEFRA, the merged departments of agriculture and the environment, were surprised to be told on Wednesday of last week that the strike set for Friday had been called off. A pay offer had been made to the core department, but no matching offer had been made to the Rural Payments Agency.
A TRIBUNAL in Liverpool into the unfair dismissal claim of John Davis is continuing. John is one of the 87 Friction Dynamics TGWU union workers from North Wales who were sacked after taking eight weeks strike action.
ACTION BY selective groups of workers across London councils was continuing this week in pursuit of their £4,000 London weighting claim. In previous weeks parking attendants were out on strike for a week in many boroughs. Last week action hit telephone switchboards and internal post.
WE LIVE in a military economy that relies on huge defence spending, massive arms production companies employing thousands, and billions of pounds worth of arms sales. The war machine is big business with a big influence on the politics of Western nations.
GLOUCESTER council has been forced to back down over its plan to privatise the city's archaeology unit. This was after we held a 100-strong lobby on Wednesday of last week. We now have a firm commitment to keep the unit open.
AN INTERNATIONAL protest against the closure of the Sangatte Red Cross refugee camp and the detention of refugees in Europe took place last Saturday. Beginning in Dover, delegations from Britain, France and Belgium crossed the Channel to protest outside the Sangatte camp.
POSTAL WORKERS across Britain in the Cash Handling and Distribution (CHD) section start a strike ballot next week. The Post Office wants to sell CHD to Securicor, a full privatisation that will affect 3,000 workers.
HEALTH WORKERS in Swansea look to have forced giant private contractors ISS Mediclean into offering at least some staff better pay. The workers' Unison union postponed a week-long strike which was due to begin on Monday of this week. Over 500 low paid health workers working for ISS Mediclean have already taken three days of strike action.
RAIL SERVICES across the north of England ground to a halt at the weekend as rail workers on Arriva Trains Northern and First North Western struck over our long-running pay claims. Despite freezing weather over 50 striking guards and retail staff on Arriva Trains Northern joined a mass picket at Skipton station, North Yorkshire. Bob Crow, general secretary of the RMT rail union, joined them and spoke at a lively meeting after.
SOME 350 social workers in Leeds, members of Unison, held three days of strike action over pay last week. This follows a one-day strike in September and ongoing industrial action where workers refused to take on any new cases.
THE LONDON weighting dispute in higher education is continuing to spread. There was a one-day strike by support workers in the Unison union in the old (pre-1992) universities on 26 September.
WE ARE planning to hold a mass protest against privatisation in Newcastle on 2 November. We face radical proposals that will mean the wholesale privatisation of services in the city.
THE SCOTTISH anti-war movement took to the streets for the first time since 28 September last Saturday.
GEORGE BUSH IS as determined as ever to attack Iraq. Some newspapers last week claimed a United Nations (UN) deal had averted war. But despite all the manoeuvring at the UN Bush is preparing to attack Iraq. Last week the US continued its huge build-up of weapons in the Gulf. US troops are pouring through the Suez Canal in Egypt. One ship carrying fighter jets has arrived in the Persian Gulf, and another is heading there.
TONY BLAIR is putting lives at risk. But trade unionists the length of Britain are organising to protect the safety of themselves and the public, while standing in solidarity with the firefighters and control room staff. Even the government virtually admits that its "alternative fire service" run by the army is wholly inadequate.
MILLIONS OF workers struck across Italy on Friday of last week in the second general strike the country has seen in six months. They were protesting against attacks on workers by the right wing government of businessman and friend of Blair, Silvio Berlusconi. Berlusconi wants to make it easier for bosses to sack workers.
I AM a bit of a fan of the TV programme The West Wing. In it a fictional president of the US often has emergency meetings in the war room, where military advisers turn up and talk tough. Radio 4 had a great, if alarming, programme on last week about what these meetings are like in real life. It went through just how close the world was to nuclear war 40 years ago in October 1962.
TONY BLAIR last week gave a speech blaming the IRA for violence in Northern Ireland. Yet just the day before, a former soldier gave shocking evidence at the Bloody Sunday inquiry which graphically illustrated the responsibility of the British state.
BLACK history month, which is under way, is a chance to celebrate the achievements and history of black people. It is also an opportunity to discuss racism and the resistance to it. Such ideas are as relevant to white people as they are to black and Asian people.
ALL THE main political parties were rejected in three out of the four mayoral elections announced on Thursday of last week. Independent candidates won in Stoke, Mansfield and Bedford. The media reported that the Nazi BNP grabbed a significant vote in Stoke, but almost entirely missed the spectacular success for the Socialist Alliance in Hackney, east London.
"SOCIALIST WORKER reaches the parts the mainstream press doesn't. Its tireless support for workers in struggle, including firefighters, and its persistent exposure of the failings of capitalism makes it compulsive reading. I would recommend it to all those involved in the fight for justice, peace and socialism." Paul Embery, Branch Secretary Islington FBU
"A RISING tide of student activism. A burgeoning national anti-war movement that is gaining momentum by the day." That was a recent description of US protests against war on Iraq in the Washington Post.
"MAKE NO mistake - we are witnessing a double crisis of the Blair government, and a turning point both nationally and internationally. The firefighters' strike is shaping up to be Blair's equivalent of the miners' strike of 1984-5. This is the most important few months for socialists since the 1980s. Bush is readying his troops in the Middle East. Blair is preparing his strike-busting plans.
DEEP DISILLUSIONMENT with a Labour government. Firefighters stage a national strike as they spearhead wider opposition to low pay. A government that trade unionists got into office now sets about breaking a popular group of workers.
THE government recently struck a "deal" to allow "foundation hospitals" to go ahead. These plans caused a huge rift inside the Labour Party. On one side was health secretary Alan Milburn, backed by Tony Blair. On the other was chancellor Gordon Brown. What are the foundation hospitals?
THERE IS vast inequality in what people get paid. The press may criticise one or two particular fat cats, but it takes for granted the everyday inequality between managers and most workers. Why should such inequality exist?
MANIC STREET Preachers have been one of the most controversial and political bands of the past decade. October sees the release of their "greatest hits" album, Forever Delayed. There is much that disappoints about the Manics these days. Their upcoming national tour is sponsored by Carling and the tickets are expensive. The band also seems to be keeping quiet over war on Iraq when other bands like Massive Attack and Blur support the anti-war movement.
CHRIS HARMAN'S A People's History of the World has now been reprinted after it sold out. Leading US historian Howard Zinn said about A People's History of the World, "I have had many people ask me if there is a book which does for world history what my book A People's History of the United States does for this country.
NO ONE should have any doubt why the government is refusing to budge in the face of the firefighters. Andrew Rawnsley, the well connected political commentator of the Observer newspaper, reported on Sunday a discussion he had with "a member of the New Labour high command just before they came to power":
SOCIALIST Worker readers will be saddened to hear of the recent death of one of the paper's oldest readers. Beatrice Mary Jones was born into a fairly privileged family in August 1901. As a teenager she read about the harsh lives of working class people, and in 1917 her sympathy for the Russian Revolution led her aunty to declare her a "Bolshie".
THE HORRIBLE racist abuse that black England players Emile Heskey and Ashley Cole received during the recent match in Slovakia has caused outrage in the press over here. Newspapers like the Sun have rushed to condemn the racism and state that it would never be accepted in Britain.
SOLDIERS ON standby to scab on striking firefighters had to be rescued from a blaze last week by the workers they are supposed to replace. The Princess of Wales Royal Regiment was forced to call its local brigade when a fire started in the barracks.