Dated: 20 Jul 2002
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A MILLION striking council workers spearheaded the revolt against low pay this week. No wonder they are fighting. Over 275,000 council workers in England and Wales get less than £5 an hour and two thirds are on £13,000 a year or less before tax.
THE ATTEMPT by the right wing leadership in the PCS civil servants' union to overthrow democracy has entered a crucial week. The court case between elected general secretary and socialist Mark Serwotka and outgoing general secretary Barry Reamsbottom began on Tuesday of this week. It will decide who runs the union.
ARRIVA RAIL workers in the north of England marched to join the annual Miners' Gala in Durham last Saturday as they staged their fifteenth one-day strike.
ANGRY HEALTH workers demonstrated outside the Royal London Hospital in east London on Friday last week. They were demanding the reinstatement of their Unison union branch secretary, Phil Billows.
A "SPENDING spree" which will transform public services. That's how most of the media cheered chancellor Gordon Brown's spending review this week. They hailed education as the big winner, along with the NHS where extra money had been announced in the budget earlier this year. Housing and transport, they told us, will get extra too.
"THIS COULD lead to the biggest pensions rip-off in history." That was the reaction last week of GMB union leader John Edmonds to the report on pensions prepared for the government by Alan Pickering. It says workers will face either a cut in pension income or benefits or both unless they pour even more of their wages into company schemes. Pickering says this move is justified because such benefits are "bells and whistles".
"I AM 51 and a GMB union shop steward in Manchester. I work on the Benchill estate in Wythenshawe as a family service worker. My job involves working with and helping people, teaching basic parenting skills, helping their children get access to services, and so on. I'm based in a childcare centre with places for 50 children.
THOUSANDS OF anti-capitalists, socialists and trade unionists from Britain and across the world gathered in central London last week for Marxism 2002. Marxism is an annual event hosted by the Socialist Workers Party. It includes a wide variety of meetings and speakers discussing the alternative to capitalism and the kind of movement we need.
TRIALS OF the Post Office's new delivery scheme began this week amid farcical confusion. Post Office chairman Allan Leighton said he had ordered the firm's managers to rethink the pilot scheme after hearing the details for the first time on a news programme.
Success school closure threat THE Labour-controlled education authority in Hackney, east London, has decided to shut Kingsland Secondary School in what can only be described as a spiteful move. The authority itself is due to be wound up at the end of this month. Closing Kingsland is its parting gift. Parents received a letter at the end of last week informing them of the closure in July of next year. It suggested they remove their children from this September. That leaves parents just a days to find alternatives.
FIRE BRIGADES Union (FBU) members are outraged at the employers' response to their pay claim. The body representing the employers last week rejected the union's call for a new pay formula that would increase the pay of firefighters to £30,000, with comparable increases for control room staff.
JOURNALISTS AT the Rotherham Advertiser are the latest to vote for a strike ballot over pay. The NUJ union members decided to ballot after rejecting a 2.3 percent offer. The Liverpool Post and Echo Weekly group is meeting this week to decide whether to hold a strike ballot.
WORKERS AT West Ferry printers in east London were in a confident mood this week after winning a 2 percent pay increase. The giant plant prints a large section of Britain's national newspapers, including the Guardian, Observer, Daily Telegraph, Sunday Telegraph, Financial Times, Express and more.
UNISON MEMBERS working for London's Westminster council are set to start strikes next week over privatisation, attacks on their pensions and working conditions. The action is due to start with 77 workers in the parking and highways licensing departments coming out.
A MEETING of 50 activists from the lecturers' union Natfhe has agreed significant steps to coordinate resistance across colleges and universities. The annual general meeting of the Natfhe Rank and File group was the largest for many years.
AROUND 100 people attended an excellent meeting called by a Cambridge peace group which took place last Friday night. The meeting, entitled "Middle East crisis-what should Britain do?", was addressed by George Galloway MP and Cambridge academic Dominic Jenkin.
AN APPEAL court decision has given a big boost to the justice campaign for scores of young men given long sentences following last year's disturbances in Bradford.
THE FUTURE of Tony Blair's favourite union general secretary hung in the balance this week. On the first count of votes Sir Ken Jackson was in front of the left challenger, Derek Simpson, by 89,300 to 88,500 for the leadership of the giant Amicus engineering, electrical and manufacturing union. But a recount then put Derek Simpson ahead. Further recounts were taking place as Socialist Worker went to press.
THE HEAD of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) sensationally admitted last week that international bankers had forced a desperately poor African country to sell grain just as a famine began. They demanded that the life-saving grain was sold in order to repay debts.
OVER 100,000 South African council workers started their second week on all-out strike on Tuesday. They are fighting for a minimum wage of £150 a month. At present the minimum wage is £125 a month.
THE GOVERNMENT of Turkey, a key US ally, stands on the brink of collapse. A string of cabinet ministers and leading MPs have resigned from the Democratic Left-the party of Turkey's prime minister, Bulent Ecevit-over the last two weeks. Now a group of nine dissident party members are demanding radical change and the removal of Ecevit, its veteran leader.
THE DEBATE at a Tower Hamlets council meeting in east London last week took an unusual turn. Campaigners took advantage of a little used procedure to table a motion calling for the council to officially "twin" with the Palestinian town of Jenin.
I HAD to speak at a meeting last week with a title that seemed to be quite daft- "Is the recession over before it began?" This was on a day that saw massive panic on the stockmarkets, and after George Bush had said he was worried about "how tender the system can be". He's been on television twice since to try to reassure the American people. On each occasion the result has been to increase the sense of panic. It has a much bigger political impact in the US than here. That's because the nonsense about "people's capitalism" has conned many more people there.
SOCIALISTS hope capitalism will collapse, paving the way for socialism. That was the gist of what Lord Meghnad Desai, a former economics adviser to chancellor Gordon Brown, had to say in a debate last week. The truth is that socialists don't believe socialism will automatically rise from the wreckage of capitalism. Nor do we leap for joy at recession, slump or capitalist crisis.
CESAR BLANCO Moreno was on his way from work last month when he was shot dead in the street. The unknown gunmen made their escape. Everyone in the town knew why Cesar had been killed.
"IT'S official: stunning new report exposes crime figures are falling." This is a headline you could have read last week, but didn't. Instead the tabloids were full of stories about gangs of hoodlums running out of control, terrorising vulnerable people.
AN OLD slogan in anti-racist movements in Britain is "we're over here because you were over there". Rozina Visram shows how true that is. From the beginning, Asian migration to Britain is entwined with the way Britain established and built its empire. Queen Elizabeth I granted a charter for trade to the Governor and Company of Merchants of London in 1600, founding the East India Company. And it was the company's ventures which sparked the first movement of people between South Asia and Britain.
WEDNESDAY'S walkout by over one million council workers is the biggest strike yet under Tony Blair. It has brought the reality of life for millions of working people-low pay and insecurity-to the streets of hundreds of towns and cities.
GEORGE BUSH is beating the drum of war louder as financial scandals sweep the US. He has brought forward a meeting with his loyal manservant Tony Blair to discuss attacking Iraq. Leaked papers from the US military talk of deploying 250,000 troops in the Middle East to launch a full scale invasion.
HOME SECRETARY David Blunkett's new policy on drugs announced last week shows how New Labour cannot adopt a rational approach to the issue. His "drugs tsar", Keith Hellawell, resigned in protest at Blunkett putting cannabis in the least dangerous category of illegal drugs, class C. The overwhelming evidence that cannabis is far less dangerous than alcohol or tobacco and that most people support a change in the law has forced Blunkett to retreat.
THE HEALTH and Safety Executive (HSE) is supposed to provide independent scrutiny of companies. But just how independent is it? Alan Osborne was appointed director of rail safety at the HSE this week.