Dated: 14 Sep 2002
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Blair says we will pay 'blood price' to back the US
THE ANNUAL gathering of the Trades Union Congress (TUC) this week was unlike anything even the most seasoned delegate could remember. The threat by George Bush and Tony Blair to launch war dominated the opening day on Monday. It led to one of the most important and electric debates ever seen at a labour gathering in Britain.
POSTAL workers across Britain have begun a strike ballot at long last. It has been called by the CWU union in opposition to management plans to launch a joint venture with one of Britain's nastiest multinationals. Bosses want to transfer CWU union members in the Romec cleaning and maintenance section to a new company 49 percent owned by construction group Balfour Beatty. After weeks of delay the ballot began last week.
WESTMINSTER Unison members are very angry and hurt by the decision by our union, both regionally and nationally, to instruct us to return to work. Union leaders called the return to work after a seven-week strike by nearly 300 Unison members against Westminster Tory council's plans for wholesale privatisation of services. This decision came after the council initiated legal action against the strike, using the anti trade union laws. But if the national and regional union had followed the strategy of the local branch, this legal action would not have happened.
HOSPITAL campaigners and health workers were set to hold a lunchtime rally on Thursday of this week.
DOUG McAVOY, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers (NUT), is to authorise a ballot for one-day strike action in London over allowances for working in the capital. NUT leaders say the ballot will take place before half term and they hope the NASUWT, the second largest teachers' union, will also vote for action on London allowances.
BRANCH SECRETARIES in the Natfhe union were to meet on Friday of this week to discuss more strikes over pay by further education (FE) college lecturers. The union's FE committee is to meet on 21 September to confirm future action. Unison and other unions representing FE support staff are balloting for strikes. Activists in Natfhe are arguing for both a joint strike (probably on 5 November) and also using the lecturers' existing vote for action to hit college bosses earlier.
AROUND 30 Unison union members staged a lobby of Liverpool City Council controlled by the Lib Dems last week. They were protesting at what they see as management's victimisation of a Unison union convenor and a senior shop steward.
AROUND 60 people came to a meeting in Cardiff last week to discuss the democratisation of the unions' political funds. Speakers were Socialist Alliance member Paul Foot, Plaid Cymru's trade union liaison officer Ian Titherington, and Vale of Glamorgan Labour councillor Stuart Egan.
A NEW pay deal is being put to 150 cleaners, gallery attendants, information desk staff and security staff in the PCS civil servants' union who work in the Museum of Scotland.
FIREFIGHTERS AND control room staff were in confident but angry mood in the run-up to their union's recalled conference in Manchester this week. They are confident as indications flood in from across Britain that 55,000 FBU union members are prepared to vote overwhelmingly to strike over pay.
WORKERS ON Arriva Trains Northern (ATN) are buoyed up by news that their long-running series of strikes is hitting the company's balance sheet hard. Bob Davies is chief executive of Arriva Group, the transport empire that has the Arriva Trains Northern franchise.
OVER 150 people attended a showing of the Not In My Name video in Liverpool last week.
WORKERS AT Caparo steel works are at the forefront of the battle to defend "final salary" pension schemes. Crucially, they are not just talking - they are fighting.
OVER 600 people gave a magnificent kick-off to the campaign against Israeli sporting and cultural tours on Wednesday of last week. They protested against the football "game of shame" between Scotland and Israel under-21s in Hamilton. The Scotsman reported that "300 police and 90 stewards were on duty in and around the ground, more than were used at the Champions League final."
DRIVERS ON Edinburgh's main bus services have voted decisively for strikes over pay. Over 75 percent of drivers voted for action, despite a union recommendation to accept a 5 percent offer.
JOURNALISTS at EMAP Healthcare/PSM in London are considering further action after their one-day strike. Union members were told by national NUJ officials last week that an approach had been made by the conciliation service ACAS over the dispute. Branch members agreed to pursue this avenue to see if anything resulted.
ALL CHARGES against the five protesters who occupied the Shoreham docks of Euromin to highlight the corporate killing of Simon Jones have been dropped. The Crown Prosecution Service has announced that it considers it is not in the public interest to proceed with the prosecutions.
SUPPORTERS OF the Anti Nazi League launched a leafleting campaign in Brislington, in Bristol, after the area was targeted by the Nazi BNP. The Nazis distributed their propaganda after a local meeting with BNP leader Griffin.
HOME SECRETARY David Blunkett has stooped to a new low with a disgusting attack on young Asian men in Bradford who have been given outrageously long prison sentences. He described them in a speech last week as "maniacs" who should stop "whining" about receiving jail terms of up to eight and half years.
THE GOVERNMENT has agreed a £410 million bailout for Britain's biggest electricity generator, which threatened to let its nuclear power plants go bankrupt last week. British Energy provides 25 percent of electricity in Britain. It said on Thursday of last week it faced bankruptcy. Only three weeks previously it had insisted there was "no financial crisis".
THE CURRENT state of British politics is weird. Successive governments have enjoyed majority support for the wars they have waged over the past 20 years, from the Falklands onwards. But now we find public opinion lined up overwhelmingly against the war that George W Bush and Tony Blair are determined to prosecute against Iraq. The opposition stretches right across the political spectrum.
"WE MAKE the music, they own it," is an old saying jazz musicians often quote. "They" are the record companies. Music is big business. Sony Music sold in excess of $14 billion worth of music last year. Five major corporations control 94 percent of all records sold. But according to City analysts the good times may be coming to an end for music retailers like EMI, Sony and Capitol.
BLAIR: Bush's poodle, chief warmonger in Europe PUTIN: butcher of Chechnya, linked to gangster capitalists JIANG ZEMIN: Chinese leader thanks to the bloodshed of Tiananmen Square CHIRAC: wants to make money from blood spilt for oil
War may have been at the centre of the debates that rocked the TUC congress, but it was far from being the only issue where unions and the government seemed set on a collision course. The prospect of the first national firefighters' strike for 25 years, anti-union laws, and attacks on workers' pensions all surfaced on the first day of the conference.
AWARD-WINNING campaigning journalist Paul Foot has been selected as the Socialist Alliance candidate in October's election for mayor of Hackney in east London. Voting begins on Monday 7 October, in three weeks time. His campaign has already attracted national media attention. Socialist Worker spoke to Paul Foot.
THE POLITICAL temperature has rocketed in recent weeks. There is the potential for the coming together of mass opposition to the war on Iraq and a very important industrial battle in the fire service. A senior Labour MP said last week, "I don't know about regime change in Iraq, but we certainly need regime change in Downing Street."
"THIS WHOLE affair has nothing to do with a threat from Iraq - there isn't one. It has nothing to do with the war against terrorism or with morality. Saddam Hussein is obviously an evil man, but when we were selling arms to him to keep the Iranians in check he was the same evil man he is today. In the same way he served Western interests then, he is now the distraction for the sleight of hand to protect the West's supply of oil. Under the cover of the war on terrorism, the war to secure oil supplies could be waged." That was the case argued by Mo Mowlam last week. Mowlam was for four years a New Labour cabinet minister - and the most popular one. Her attack on Bush and Blair's war pl
MARTIN AMIS'S book Koba the Dread has caused a storm of comment. Its subject is Stalin, socialism and the possibility of social change. He argues that the reality of Stalin's crimes has been largely ignored, especially by the left.
THE MURDER of an Iranian refugee in Sunderland two weeks ago has shocked many local people. Peiman Bahmani was stabbed in the street he lived in at 3.40pm. He died later in hospital. A man has been charged with murder and racially aggravated assault. The tragedy shows what happens when the Nazis gain a foothold in an area by whipping up racism, and provide a false focus for ordinary people's frustration and discontent.
PALESTINE IS Still The Issue, the new film by the journalist John Pilger, is a rarity on TV. It is a painfully honest documentary that refuses to toe the established political line.
IF YOU'VE spent the last two years planning to read Zadie Smith's novel White Teeth you can now take a shortcut. Channel 4 has turned the highly popular novel into a four-part series. It is about the way that people from different backgrounds mix in modern Britain.
TONY BLAIR is marching towards the deepest crisis he has yet faced. He is caught in the jaws of mounting opposition on two fronts. Delegates at the TUC conference this week ripped into his craven support for Bush's war against Iraq, and into the heart of New Labour - profit before people. They backed the firefighters, who are heading for national strikes next month against low pay. Those union leaders who spoke out echoed the clear majority of people in Britain.
I AM one of the 6,000 call centre workers employed by Reality who were balloted for strike action over a threat to cut our jobs. I voted yes to strike. Reality is a multi-million pound catalogue company owned by Great Universal Stores.
THE FIRM at the centre of the chaos surrounding clearances for teachers and others working with children is Capita. It runs the Criminal Records Bureau, which handles the clearances, under a £400 million public-private partnership.