Dated: 15 May 2004
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In 10 June elections vote Respect
AFTER THE shocking images of torture by US and British soldiers come the shocking lies and excuses from New Labour ministers. The Red Cross says it \"repeatedly made its concerns known\" about reports of Iraqis being tortured for more than a year.
GEORGE BUSH has demanded another $25 billion to fund the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan. The White House promised that the $87.5 billion approved last November would last for at least a year. So far, the \"war on terror\" has cost the US $160 billion. The UN Human Development Report for 2003 says that all its minimum goals could be met if $100 billion was spent on aid to poorer countries.
\"I'VE BEEN waiting for someone to stand against Blair.\" So said Harold, one of the shoppers in Ridley Road market in Dalston, east London, to campaigners for Respect: The Unity Coalition last week.
STRIKING NURSERY nurses in eight Scottish councils have again shown their determination to win decent pay and regrading. They have stayed on strike despite intense pressure to return. A mass meeting of nursery nurses in East Ayrshire voted last week to reject the council's latest derisory offer.
OVER ONE million local government workers could be heading for a major pay battle. Last week both sides in the negotiations over the local government pay and conditions deal upped the ante. The giant Unison, TGWU and GMB unions agreed to consult their members over the deal and possible action unless the employers back down before 21 May. The employers issued a press release saying that they would stand firm over their offer of a derisory 7 percent over 3 years.
PROTESTS BY parents and school students are making waves in Northumberland. The Labour-run county council plans to shut 45 schools as part of a move from a three-tier system-with first, middle and high schools-to a two-tier school system with primary and secondary schools.
TENANTS AND trade unionists from across Britain were travelling to the House of Commons this week to lobby their MPs and attend an important meeting about council housing. It is the All-Party Council Housing group of MPs' inquiry and meeting on the \"Fourth Option\".
TRADE UNIONS have begun to book coaches for the rally called by the TUC and the National Pensioners Convention in London on 19 June. It will see thousands, perhaps tens of thousands, of trade unionists show their anger over pensions-an issue which is becoming more important by the day.
\"THEY TREAT us like slaves. It is almost criminal.\" Those were the words of one striking worker at the Euro Packaging factory in Highgate, Birmingham. In the first week of a 48-hour walkout and overtime ban, expected to last for the next eight weeks, up to 200 workers walked out over poor pay, working conditions and threatened redundancies.
PARENTS AT Craven Park Primary School in Hackney, east London have won an absolutely stunning victory in their battle to save the school. Two months ago we were told that the school must close by July, and that our kids would be dispersed across the borough.
COLLEGE LECTURERS in the Natfhe union are set to strike across London on Thursday of this week. The strike follows a 77 percent vote for action to demand £4,000 London weighting in further education colleges. Colleges across London are facing recruitment problems because young lecturers cannot afford to stay in overpriced London housing.
AROUND 150 delegates attended the annual Bectu broadcasting workers' union conference in Liverpool last weekend. The conference agreed that Bectu would support future anti-war demonstrations and to donate money to the Stop the War Coalition.
'I WAS suspended at the beginning of November last year after allegations were made regarding my behaviour on the picket line during last year's big unofficial strikes. I was then dismissed on 30 December. John Farnan, the union's divisional rep for the Anglia region, represented me during the disciplinary hearing, and did an excellent job. But, after taking my 15 years service (and clean conduct record) into account, the investigating manager still summarily dismissed me.
CHRIS BARRETT'S case has been plastered over the media since he was sacked. He was accused of playing squash while off sick with an injured ankle, but it was clear from the start that London Underground wanted a high-profile scalp as part of an offensive against tube workers and their unions.
THE BIGGEST industrial dispute under Blair has burst into flames again just as he is hammered by events in Iraq. The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) conference this week voted to withdraw immediately from implementing the \"modernisation\" package that forms the settlement for last year's pay fight. The union is now reinstating a ban on overtime, abandoned as part of that deal.
RAGE AGAINST bullying managers swept through the civil service last week as hundreds of members of the PCS union walked out on unofficial strike action against victimisation. Their action came as the union leadership stepped up the dispute in the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), planning a new series of national strikes.
"TURN IRAQ over to the United Nations (UN)." That is now the cry of many who opposed the US war on Iraq last year, such as the Green Party. But the shrillest calls over the last two weeks for the UN to run Iraq have come from the very people who were more than happy to back the invasion.
Last week we argued that it is movements from below that can change the world. They draw their power from their capacity to mobilise large numbers of people. Movements provide most of the energy and creativity involved in great challenges to our rulers. The overthrow of capitalism will involve an immense movement from below. It will engage the self transforming activity of millions of working people, struggling for economic, political and cultural power.
I have to warn readers of a nervous disposition that I am about to use two words that will create fear and trembling among you. The words are Margaret Thatcher. I'm sorry if you're now hiding behind the sofa. The only reason for mentioning her dread name is that last week celebrations were held to mark the 25th anniversary of her general election victory in 1979.
WE HAVE been posting Socialist Worker direct to a seller in the Welsh town of Cardigan. On Saturday she and a friend decided to set up a stall in the town centre and use the \"Get the troops out of Iraq\" petition.
Jim Rogers was an activist in the FBU firefighters' union and a Labour council leader in Harlow, Essex. Now he is heading up the Respect coalition's list of candidates in the Eastern constituency for the European elections
POLITICIANS HAVE said that the allegations of torture by British troops have impugned the reputation of the army. In fact, torture is a weapon long used by the British army to terrorise those who have challenged its imperial power.
ONE WEEK before the start of the Iraq war Charles Kennedy gave a remarkable speech to the Liberal Democrats' conference. He told delegates, \"The threat of war now looms over us all. Increasingly it seems we shall see conflict very soon, perhaps next week and probably without a second UN resolution authorising the use of force. When war comes, I want to make it absolutely clear that the Liberal Democrats will be backing our troops. We supported the deployment to the Gulf in support of UN Resolution 1441. If they are now asked to risk their lives for their country and for all of us, they will have our unqualified support. They are in the Gulf region to deal with a dangerous and bruta
Vernon God Little
US POLICY in Iraq is in meltdown. The pictures of torture by US and British forces in Iraq have underlined graphically that this is a war of terror, not a war on terror.
BLAIR'S FAVOURITE New Labour council is trying to break our union. We are absolutely clear that Newham council in east London intends to lead the way in smashing the town hall union to force through Blair's plans to \"restructure\" public services-cutting our pay and jobs and selling off the people's assets to the fat cats. We are going to step up our action and we are determined we are going to win. But in discussing strategy with Unison union regional officials, the question of our political relationship to the government dominates the debate.
MACEDONIA IS one of the countries NATO poured its troops into in a \"humanitarian\" intervention that was hailed as bringing peace and stability. And the Macedonian state has shown it is willing to kill innocent people to keep on board with its US ally.