Dated: 19 Oct 2002
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FIREFIGHTERS AND emergency control room staff have been voting for their first national strikes in 25 years. None of them relishes going on strike. They have been forced into it by a government that treats them with contempt. It is the same arrogant New Labour government that backs George Bush's war drive even though unprecedented numbers of people in Britain oppose it.
MILLIONS OF people in north west England and East Anglia this week faced worry and uncertainty over their electricity supply. An enormous crisis is sweeping Britain's power generating industry, with power stations already being shut and warnings that worse could be to come. Millions across Britain could face the kind of power cuts which hit California in the US two years ago.
Channelled onto the dole HUNDREDS OF workers face the dole as a result of the planned merger of two TV companies. Carlton and Granada are set for a £2.7 billion merger which will make top bosses a fortune. Things are different for those who do the work.
TRAIN COMPANIES are to be allowed to hike up their fares despite one of the worst years ever for delays. The government's Strategic Rail Authority (SRA) has said London and south east England operators, which run 70 percent of services, will be able to raise fares by 1 percent more than inflation.
THE COMPANIES due to take over the infrastructure of London's tube under the government's PPP privatisation scheme expect to get a 500 percent return on their investment. The figure comes from a study by the Labour Research Department.
THE WORLD Trade Organisation (WTO) is demanding that Britain and British firms embark on wholesale privatisation of public services, government documents revealed this week. They revealed that Britain faces WTO demands to "remove all establishment restrictions on hospital and social services, rest, convalescent and old people's homes".
"NOT GUILTY." That was the jury's unanimous verdict on 12 charges against Asians who defended their community in Burnley from racist attack. The jury in Preston Crown Court last week sided with the Asians who on 24 June last year mobilised to stop gangs inspired by the Nazi British National Party terrorising the area.
THE ATTEMPT by London Underground management, with the connivance of the government, to inflict a serious defeat on the rail unions has spectacularly backfired. London mayor Ken Livingstone came to an agreement with leaders of the RMT and Aslef unions on Wednesday of last week. This has pulled the rug out from under the tube bosses. Livingstone met the unions' call for independent mediation over this year's pay claim and related issues.
WORKERS IN the press and paintline section at Raven Manufacturing near Burnley are continuing their series of one-day strikes over pay. Pay levels are appalling, with this group of engineering workers on just £5.80 an hour.
Lecturers and support staff in London universities are now set to strike on Thursday 14 November over allowances for working in the capital. A meeting of the London region of the Natfhe union, which represents lecturers in the former polytechnics, decided the strike date last Saturday. The AUT union, which has members in the "old" universities, is balloting for a strike on the same day.
THE LONDON pay strikes mean that a meeting for union activists called by the Public Sector Alliance on Monday of next week takes on added importance. The alliance draws together representatives of the London regions of the main public sector unions.
AN EMOTIONAL meeting of over 100 people in a Nottingham school celebrated a rare victory over David Blunkett and the Home Office last week. An Iraqi family seeking asylum in Britain, Jamil and Sara Daoud, and their four children, Majid (age 11), Hoda (nine), Mostafa (six) and Marwa (four), have beaten back a threat of deportation and are back in Nottingham.
ROLLING STRIKE action by council workers in London continued last week as finance staff in nine London boroughs walked out. The selective action is part of the workers' fight for an increased London weighting allowance.
A MAJOR demonstration and rally are planned in Newcastle upon Tyne in suppport of public services and against privatisation. GMB union general secretary John Edmonds and CWU union general secretary Billy Hayes are among the speakers.
Probation officers have backed a plan to strike over staff shortages and workloads. Delegates at the probation officers' Napo union conference in Eastbourne, East Sussex, last week overwhelmingly agreed on a one-day strike, boycotts and work to rule action.
AROUND 60 people attended the Unity Conference called by Ealing National Union of Teachers (NUT) last Saturday and heard an inspiring set of speakers. The conference was introduced by Christine Blower, secretary of Hammersmith and Fulham NUT, and ex-president of the NUT.
STRIKES BY drivers in the Aslef rail union on First North Western last weekend were solid again. The Aslef union is asking all drivers to put £5 into a FNW disputes fund. Drivers on the Merseyrail company have offered to put in £10 each. More drivers are discussing escalating the dispute.
AROUND 200 European activists gathered in Barcelona two weekends ago to make final preparations for the European Social Forum (ESF) in Florence from 6 to 9 November. The ESF will be a festival of resistance. Every aspect of the new movements will be debated out at huge meetings, self organised seminars and workshops. The assembly in Barcelona agreed that the main demonstration in Florence on Saturday 9 November should focus against an attack on Iraq.
MORE THAN 500 protesters marched against war and nuclear weapons in Plymouth last Saturday. The protest was called by the Nuclear Free Coalition in Plymouth and included a mass sit-down blockade of the main gate into the nuclear dockyard in the city. Devonport dockyard services Britain's nuclear fleet, including those carrying Trident nuclear missiles.
LONDON firefighters are in explosive mood. Firefighters across east London only took 999 calls on Tuesday of last week. They were defending the FBU's policy of not cooperating with the government's so called independent inquiry into firefighters' pay.
SOME 500 porters, telephonists and cleaners in the Unison union at Swansea's Singleton, Morriston, Hillhouse and Cefn Coed hospitals were on the verge of escalating strike action as Socialist Worker went to press. The issue is resistance to poverty pay levels.
OVER 450 people crammed into a Globalise Resistance and Scottish Palestinian Solidarity Campaign hosted meeting on "Do we need a global intifada?" in Glasgow on Thursday of last week. The reception for Haidi Giuliani, the mother of Carlo Giuliani who was murdered by the police during the G8 protests in Genoa last year, was electric.
AROUND 350 people attended the Socialist Alliance conference on the euro last Saturday. There were four different motions put to the conference. Most of the speakers in the debate agreed that the euro project was not about a convenient currency but was about making privatisation and attacks on workers easier.
STRIKING WORKERS who were sacked by their millionaire boss took their case to an industrial tribunal last week. The 87 workers were employed at the Friction Dynamics car components factory in Caernarfon, North Wales. They went on strike in April 2001 when boss Craig Smith imposed a 15 percent pay cut.
CIVIL SERVANTS working in the new Job Centre Plus offices were kicked in the teeth last week by the government's announcement that 20,000 jobs will go in the next four years.
POSTAL WORKERS across Britain will soon start a strike ballot over their bosses' plans to privatise the Cash Handling and Distribution (CHD) section. The Post Office wants to sell CHD to Securicor, a full privatisation that will affect 3,000 workers.
GEORGE W Bush's press secretary said last week, "If the UN fails to act against Iraq we will work with our coalition." There is only one leader who the White House can point to as loyally backing the war drive - Tony Blair. It would be a great blow against war if Blair had to pull back from supporting Bush.
MOST PEOPLE have a favourite soul singer. For many Otis Redding was without peer. Others cite Sam Cooke and Ray Charles as the originators, and James Brown still remains the Godfather. In my opinion Solomon Burke should be included on that list. You may not have heard of him, but his musical influence runs deep.
THE WORLD media's attention has been so focused on George W Bush's plans to attack Iraq that little notice has been taken of the fact that the global economic crisis is getting worse. Take the three biggest economies – the US, Japan and Germany.
SOCIALIST WORKER is at the forefront of building the anti-war movement. But the paper does much more than that. It reports on the strikes by firefighters, tube workers and teachers. And it shows how to give solidarity to those who are fighting against Blair's Tory policies. It brings the voices from the anti-capitalist movement around the world to socialists in this country. To do this we need money for leaflets, placards and for the paper itself. Why not try taking a SOCIALIST WORKER collection sheet round your workplace?
THERE ARE plenty of people in Indonesia who have good reason to hate Western governments and big business. Tragically, some of them may have directed their anger in awful fashion at ordinary holidaymakers. Indonesia is the world's fourth most populous state and stretches over hundreds of islands.
1. "THE THREAT comes from Iraq. It is a great danger to our nation." George Bush
THE GOVERNMENT'S decision to suspend the Northern Ireland Assembly is supposed to be a response to alleged spying by a Republican (see below) supporter. In fact, Tony Blair's decision says to Northern Ireland's Unionists that all is well and the Catholics have been dumped on again. When the Good Friday agreement was signed in 1998 the vast majority of Irish people, Catholic and Protestant, hoped for an end to violence and some sort of normality.
Naomi Klein worked on her first book, No Logo, in the four years before the great anti-capitalist protests in Seattle. It was published just after and – according to the Guardian – sold 180,000 copies in Britain last year alone. Now she has a new book out. It is a collection of the various pieces of journalism she has written since No Logo propelled her to the forefront of the movement against capitalist globalisation.
Ten years on, the characters from Trainspotting have returned, this time to make a porn movie. Irvine Welsh sets up a series of neatly timed coincidences to bring them back to Edinburgh along with a new character, the beautiful but bulimic student Nikki Fuller-Smith.
DON'T EXPECT much sunlight to filter into the cinema if you go and see Mike Leigh's new film, All or Nothing. The film is an almost relentlessly bleak portrayal of life on a run down estate. Phil, played by Timothy Spall, is a taxi driver who has sunk into deep depression. His common-law wife makes more money than him.
George Bush and Tony Blair claimed that their "war on terror" would make the world a safer place. The horrific bombing of the Sari nightclub in Bali last weekend shows that they were lying.
Guarantee on NHS is a con TONY BLAIR'S speech at the Labour Party conference was hailed by the media as brilliant. The best description would be "a bunch of lies" – and not just about Iraq or Palestine. As someone who works in cancer care, I was outraged when Blair used the government's "achievements" in this area to show how well the NHS is doing. Blair told the Labour delegates, "Listen to this story of a woman who has breast cancer who saw a consultant within two weeks. Saw him because now every urgent patient suspected of cancer has to be seen within two weeks. Treated within four weeks because that is now the maximum time for breast cancer treatment. Five years
Bush's battalion of blunderers THE US might have the most sophisticated military hardware in the world, but its military intelligence remains a contradiction in terms. The US army's 11th Psychological Operations Battalion, known as "psy-ops", is just back from Afghanistan and preparing for Iraq. Its job is to sell "brand America" and undermine enemy morale.