Dated: 21 Feb 2004
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THERE WERE picket lines in towns and cities across Britain this week as 90,000 civil servants went on strike against low pay. Next week some 50,000 lecturers in the AUT union in universities will also strike. It is a sign that the growing anger over pay is turning into action. Millions of workers face the same struggle to make their wages last to the end of the month and pay the bills.
CALLS ARE mounting for a full independent inquiry into the tragic deaths of four rail workers after details emerged of a near identical incident last year. Rail workers told Socialist Worker they have been warning for months about the continued use of subcontractors and unsafe working practices. These are the underlying issues that investigations into previous rail incidents have skirted round.
"WHEN I heard the noise my first instinct was to run and call the police. Then I realised it was the police." This is pub owner Dawn describing the terrifying moment 150 police raided her property in Peckham, south London.
STRIKING lecturers at Leicester College have voted to face down their principal and to stay out on strike over half term. The indefinite strike by 150 members of college lecturers' union Natfhe is a vital battle for the union, which has faced a decade of market-driven attacks in further education colleges.
TENS OF thousands of university lecturers are to strike over pay across Britain and Northern Ireland next week. On Wednesday 47,000 lecturers belonging to the AUT union in the "old" universities, those which were never polytechnics, will be out. In addition to Wednesday's strike, lecturers in Wales will also strike on Monday, in England on Tuesday, in Scotland on Thursday and in Northern Ireland on Friday.
A LONDON Citizens' Delegates Assembly attracted around 400 people on Thursday of last week. The assembly, 70 percent of which was black or Asian, voted on proposals to put to candidates standing for mayor of London on 10 June.
THE NATIONAL Union of Students (NUS) has called for a national shutdown of higher education next Wednesday to coincide with the AUT lecturers' union strike next week. The shutdown is part of the NUS week of protest against government plans to impose top-up fees of up to £3,000 a year on students.
WORKERS AT Land Rover were being balloted this week after their bosses were forced to make a revised pay offer. The 8,000 workers in Solihull and Gaydon in Warwickshire have held two 24-hour strikes supported by mass pickets.
MORE THAN 1,000 people marched in London last week as part of demonstrations in several countries demanding the release of Kurdish leader Ocalan and freedom for Kurdistan. Demonstrators in London were agreed that the US occupation of Iraq had not brought genuine Kurdish liberation any closer.
SIXTEEN maintenance engineers, members of the Amicus union, at the Metzeler company in Coalville, Leicestershire, are striking every Monday for a 73p an hour pay rise. This Monday was their third strike, and the workers are also implementing an overtime ban.
A PACKED town hall meeting in Camden on Tuesday of last week gave a major boost to the campaign to win direct government investment in the borough's council homes. The meeting followed the no vote by Camden tenants to the government's plan to set up an Arms Length Management Organisation (ALMO) to take over the borough's council housing.
BUS DRIVERS with First Bus in the Lothians in Scotland struck for the day on Saturday. Workers at garages in Musselburgh, Dalkeith and Livingston were all out after a ballot in which more than two thirds of the 400-strong workforce voted for action.
OVER 70 people attended a conference on the "war on terror" last Sunday, hosted by Leeds Coalition Against the War.
OVER 4,500 nursery nurses across Scotland have returned a magnificent 81 percent vote for indefinite strike action to win better pay through regrading. The ballot result, on a 68 percent turnout, comes after a campaign of one-day strikes stretching back to last summer.
THE CAMPAIGN to win the reinstatement of sacked Cambridge postal worker Paul Turnbull had a massive boost last week. A court case against him has been discontinued by the prosecution due to lack of evidence. Paul had been charged with using threatening words and/or behaviour as a result of the incident which led to his sacking by Royal Mail.
SACKED firefighter Steve Godward has won his appeal against dismissal from West Midlands fire service. He was suspended during last year's pay dispute following allegations of sabotaging equipment and organising an illegal picket.
THERE ARE red, angry faces at the RMT union. There are red, humiliated faces at Metronet. Tube workers are angry at Metronet's recent sacking of six Farringdon track workers.
EVERY MEMBER of the journalists' NUJ union will receive a ballot paper this week over whether it should have a separate fund for political campaigns. It is important to say yes. The events of the past three weeks-Lord Hutton's attack on the BBC and, by implication, investigative journalism in general, along with the magnificent walkouts of BBC staff in defence of the corporation-show just how high the political atmosphere can get around the NUJ.
WORKERS AT a glass factory in County Durham have walked out in a dispute over pay and conditions.
"PEOPLE ARE raging," says civil servant Margaret Rose Garrity from Glasgow. "They want more action. We want to bring management to its knees." She summed up the spirit of the strike against poverty pay by 90,000 civil servants on Monday and Tuesday of this week.
Those who control Iranian society have banned many candidates from standing. Why?
ON SATURDAY morning Thomas Hickey, a young Aboriginal boy, was riding his bicycle through Redfern. Somehow he fell off, was impaled on a fence and died. The exact circumstances aren't known. But rumour spread through the Aboriginal community that he had been pursued by police.
AS THE shadows gather around Tony Blair, the sun seems to be shining on chancellor Gordon Brown. The government announced last week that the number of people seeking work fell in January to 1.46 million, 4.9 percent of those of working age.
IN CASE you missed the advertisement and would like to apply for the job, the BBC is looking for a new chairman. He or she will work a four-day week and the salary is around £80,000 a year- nice work if you can get it.
ANNE, A civil servant on strike this week phoned to say how great it was to see Socialist Worker sellers at the picket line. "We felt part of a wider movement and it was so good to see young people who had been active about the war and other issues coming down to support us. They brought their solidarity and also their knowledge. I hadn't heard about the postal strike last year or several other disputes that are happening at the moment. Your paper is a real service."
SUPPORTERS OF Respect: The Unity Coalition have been gearing up for their challenge to New Labour in the 10 June elections. Meetings have been taking place around the country to begin gathering together the growing numbers who want to be part of organising that challenge.
MASS DEATH could soon come to a neighbourhood near you, and George Bush's Department of Homeland Security would be helpless to prevent it. The terrorist in this case could be a mutant offspring of influenza A subtype H5N1-the explosively spreading avian virus, or bird flu, that the World Health Organisation (WHO) worries will be the progenitor of a deadly global plague. The most lethal massacre in human history was the 1918-19 influenza pandemic that culled more than 2 percent of humanity (40 to 50 million people) in a single winter.
'THE PHONES are buzzing, and there's tremendous enthusiasm from the top to the bottom of the movement. Some 21 union general secretaries are backing the campaign. The TUC general secretary, Brendan Barber, is writing to trade unionists urging them to get involved.
ACROSS THE country socialists have been at the centre of building the Stop the War Coalition. This has reached parts no other movement has ever reached, and mobilised numbers the like of which we have never seen before. But it is not just over the war. Already Respect: The Unity Coalition is building up into a serious challenge to New Labour in the 10 June European and Greater London elections. Unite Against Fascism has brought together people in opposition to the BNP on a welcome and unprecedented scale.
DARIO FO is the author of radical theatre classics such as Accidental Death of an Anarchist and Can't Pay? Won't Pay! During Fo's 50-year career he has been awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature-but he has also been arrested, had his house firebombed and been tried dozens of times for blasphemy and libel.
Last week's story was that 20 Chinese cockle pickers drowned in Morecambe Bay, the youngest a girl aged 15. Of the survivors, nine were asylum seekers. They had been living in squalid conditions in Liverpool, sleeping on mattresses on the floor, with little food and poor heating. This week another story. Roma workers from northern Greece fled from a daffodil farm in Cornwall under police escort. They claimed they'd been beaten, threatened and left unpaid. The men were housed in army tents, the women in a windowless cattle shed.
NIGEL, WHO was known to many socialists in London, died after a long and dignified fight against cancer last Thursday. He will be remembered by all who knew him for his dedication to the struggles he was involved with. Nigel was an active trade unionist in Natfhe at Hammersmith College. He hated racism and all forms of class privilege.
MY FRIEND and I were discussing your article on how much (or little) things have changed since the 1840s (Socialist Worker, 31 January). The following day I went into my workplace (telesales) to find that the company had gone into liquidation that very morning and that we wouldn't be paid for the previous week's work.
TWO OF the world's richest countries are strangling one of the poorest countries with debt. Germany and the US are crushing Ethiopia. They are applying pressure through the World Bank and International Monetary Fund to block debt relief. Gordon Brown spoke this week about the horrors of world poverty. But as a director of the IMF he is helping to strangle Ethiopia.