Dated: 06 Jan 2001
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Privatisation wrecks railways
TEN THOUSAND manufacturing jobs a month will go this year, says TUC union leader John Monks. If, as most economic commentators predict, the US boom ends, then thousands more will be destroyed. But there are important signs of resistance. Workers are angry at being playthings of the system's rollercoaster boom and bust. Even union leaders who instinctively back Tony Blair are appalled at the results of New Labour's jobs policy. But only pressure from workers will make them turn their words into deeds.
LONDON Underground workers were to begin ballots for strike action this week after management rejected union demands to preserve safety and staffing levels. The ASLEF and RMT unions are fighting the effects of New Labour's proposed PPP privatisation of the tube. The dispute hits at the heart of New Labour's privatisation mania. Strikes on the tube have the potential to kill the sell-off and add to the pressure on the government to renationalise the railway.
TENANTS AND trade unionists are preparing for a major lobby of parliament against council house privatisation on Wednesday 24 January. The lobby has been called to demand that New Labour drops its attempt to end council housing and force through the privatisation of all remaining 3.2 million council homes in Britain.
SIGNALS IN the area of the 1999 Paddington rail crash were "exceptionally difficult" for drivers to see and did not comply with industry standards. That was the conclusion of the official Health and Safety Executive (HSE) inquiry into the Paddington disaster, in which 31 people were killed when two trains smashed into each other.
HEALTH WORKERS in Dudley in the West Midlands struck for three weeks over Christmas and got a huge boost from the solidarity they received. Over 250 strikers and their families tasted the level of support at a party just before Christmas.
NATO MILITARY chiefs are under growing pressure to investigate a possible link between depleted uranium shells used by its forces in its bombing of Kosovo and a spate of deaths from cancer. Italy's military prosecutor is examining five deaths of military personnel who were in Kosovo.
RESEARCH BY the Health and Safety Executive, due to be published later this month, has uncovered intolerable working conditions and stress levels at call centres.
MICHAEL HESELTINE last week joined Tory leader William Hague's filthy campaign to play the race card in the run-up to the election. The man Tony Blair claims is a "one-nation Tory" launched a vicious attack on asylum seekers. "Let's not mince our language here," he said, claiming that most refugees were "bogus".
THOUSANDS OF council workers in Hackney, east London, struck for a day on 20 December in a big escalation of the battle against cuts pushed through by the ruling Tory-Labour coalition. The action before Christmas was extremely effective and needs to be built on now, because very serious challenges lie ahead. The unions organised emergency cover, but apart from that there was an almost total shutdown in both the manual and white collar services.
POSTAL workers will face serious challenges this year as reports in the press are saying that Post Office bosses and the government are preparing to attack them and their CWU union. Fortunately there are plenty of signs that postal workers are prepared to resist any attacks.
LABOUR WON the by-election in Falkirk West by the thinnest of majorities just before Christmas. Labour's majority of 13,800 in 1997 was slashed to just 705 over the Scottish National Party (SNP).
TRADE UNION officials rammed through an appalling deal at Luton airport just as workers were expecting to launch strike action over the Christmas holiday. Members of the TGWU union voted narrowly to accept the deal, by 217 to 179, the week before Christmas.
RICHARD Branson, Tony Blair's favourite boss, is trying to block the recognition of the AEEU union on his Virgin Atlantic airways. Around 1,400 of Virgin's cabin staff, just over half the workforce, have joined the union.
OVER 50 union activists attended a meeting in central London on the Tuesday before Christmas to celebrate the election of socialist Mark Serwotka as the general secretary of the 260,000-strong civil servants' union, the PCS. Mark argued that his election victory against a Blairite candidate showed the anger ordinary members feel over the betrayals of New Labour and the right wing leadership of the union.
BUS DRIVERS in the West Midlands last month voted to reject a five-year pay deal which could lead to a ballot over strike action in the new year. This was the fourth time Travel West Midlands bosses have put the offer to the drivers, who rejected it by 1,509 votes to 1,292. The drivers are angry that the deal still means new drivers will get less pay than longstanding workers.
WHILE BILL Clinton, the outgoing US president, attempted to broker a new peace deal between Israel and Palestine over Christmas and the new year, Israeli troops continued their brutal murder of Palestinians.
YOUNG WORKERS at McDonald's in France have shown how to take on the fast food multinational and win. McDonald's workers struck and occupied the Boulevard St German outlet in the centre of Paris just before Christmas. Their 15-day occupation won huge support.
TURKEY: The Turkish state murdered 30 left wing political prisoners in a military assault on 20 prisons just before Christmas. The massacre was so savage that it brought condemnation even from European governments that are keen on Turkey joining the European Union. The roll call of the dead and how they died is harrowing:
"WE'VE had a good run. Enjoy it while it lasts because you cannot always expect it to be as good." So warned Eddie George, governor of the Bank of England, just before the new year. He spoke as a mood of deep gloom was spreading among the world's capitalists at the thought that the US boom of recent years might be collapsing. The Financial Times reported:
A FORMER spy for the British secret service and a product of the establishment has written a brilliant novel that rails against the power of multinationals. John Le Carré is best known for books of British and Russian government intrigue during the Cold War like The Spy Who Came In From The Cold.
MANY OFFICIAL documents covering 1970 have just been released to the public. They reveal precisely what happens when there is a high level of strikes. Thirty years ago workers' action echoed through the whole of society and dominated government thinking at the highest levels. Almost every cabinet meeting, under both Labour and Tory governments, focused on strikes.
ONE OF New Labour's sickest acts so far has been its relentless attack on asylum seekers. In reaction to the tabloid and government offensive a substantial number of people have started to fight back.
THE BOOK Oil by US author Upton Sinclair was a bestseller when it was published in 1926. The story of the oil boom in California is told through the eyes of Bunny, an oil tycoon's son who has sympathies with workers. But the real hero is Paul, a committed socialist, who leads an oil workers' strike and returns from a visit to Russia full of excitement for what the Bolsheviks are doing.
PRESS REPORTS this week claimed that Tony Blair was waiting for one crucial endorsement before he could think about launching a general election campaign. It wasn't from a union leader or a pensioner or a student, or any of the people New Labour promised to help in 1997.
JACK STRAW'S seasonal greetings were bogus. They did not stretch as far as those seeking asylum. Solomon was told that he had to sign on at the police station on 25 December, between 7pm and 8pm. His crime? None. Solomon was a hard working student. He worked to keep himself and was successful in his studies. Then the government had a crackdown on asylum seekers. Now Solomon has been criminalised.
THE NEXT general election is already dominating political debate. Some reports suggest the election could be as early as 29 March. The mainstream media presents us with a single choice. On the one hand are William Hague's right wing Tories, deliberately playing the race card and whipping up nationalism over the euro.
EAST KENT health authority bosses are trying to ship the sick abroad for treatment. Around 195 people in the area have been waiting over 12 months for NHS operations.