Dated: 28 Feb 2004
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THE FOUR newspaper barons on this page want to whip up fear and hysteria over migrants coming to Britain. They brand migrants as "scroungers" and "benefit tourists". Yet these men are the real spongers who literally rob us of millions.
OVER 100,000 low paid civil servants in the PCS union are debating the next step in their pay battle. Quick and determined action is needed to win this crucial battle with the government. Some 92,000 workers struck brilliantly in the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) on Monday and Tuesday of last week. A number of other departments have also struck recently.
STAFF AT London's Science Museum held a "Mad Hatter's tea party" outside the museum last week as part of their continuing industrial action over pay. Members of the Prospect union served tea and jam tarts dressed as characters from Alice in Wonderland to reflect the feeling among the staff that the way they have been treated by management is madness.
ELEVEN electricians in Manchester are continuing their nine-month struggle against their former employer DAF. The workers were sacked last May. They have picketed sites in Manchester ever since in their fight for justice.
PORTERS AND domestic staff at North Manchester General Hospital are balloting for strike action over pay. They are employed by multinational ISS Mediclean, which is one of the biggest beneficiaries of the creeping privatisation of the NHS.
WORKERS AT Scottish & Newcastle's Fountain Brewery in Edinburgh were outraged enough about the company's decision to close the plant even before the news this week that the company's profits in the eight months to 31 December rose to £471 million. The Transport and General Workers Union (TGWU), the largest union in the brewing industry, has stated its opposition to the closure of the profitable brewery and pledged its support for the members' campaign to keep it open.
WORKERS AT Land Rover have voted to accept a new deal, which the company was forced to offer after two one-day strikes.
BRITISH AIRWAYS CitiExpress pilots, who staff its domestic operations, are in dispute over pay. Balpa, the pilots' union, has been conducting a consultative ballot among its 600 CitiExpress members to establish whether they are prepared to strike over cost-cutting and pay.
OVER 4,500 nursery nurses in Scotland are set to begin an all-out indefinite strike on Monday following a magnificent four to one vote. The action pits some of the lowest paid workers in education in Britain against predominantly Labour local authority employers. The fight over pay and regrading is crucial for public sector workers and beyond.
BUS DRIVERS from First Scotland East, West Lothian's main service provider, held a one-day strike last Saturday, as part of an ongoing dispute with management over conditions and pay. Many drivers began an unofficial overtime ban on Monday of this week. Further strike action has not been ruled out.
TEACHERS IN the NUT union in Croydon will strike on Monday in protest at funding cuts and downgrading of jobs. A strike ballot saw a 42 percent turnout and 82 percent of those who voted said yes to a half day of industrial action.
LECTURERS AT Bishop Auckland College are celebrating victory after forcing the college management to concede a pay rise that it had refused to implement. The college was one of a number which had refused to pay the amount agreed nationally last year.
"WE ARE making a stand for what we believe is right." That was how one worker at the Metzeler car components company in Coalville near Leicester described their battle over pay. The workers, members of the Amicus union, have held a one-day strike every Monday for the last four weeks.
POSTAL WORKERS at Sevenoaks delivery office in Kent staged a sit-in in their canteen last week after management implemented the new TDS delivery system. Around 50 people work at the office. There was anger when a manager said the new arrangements would mean 160 hours of work going out of the office but that there would be no extra money.
HILDCARE SOCIAL workers in Liverpool were set to start a three-day strike on Friday in a dispute over lack of staff and workloads. Around 145 workers, members of the Unison union in Liberal Democrat run Liverpool City Council, will be out on Friday. They will also be out next Monday and Tuesday.
RESPECT: THE Unity Coalition got a brilliant launch in Canterbury in Kent last weekend. Up to 50 people came to a mock trial of Tony Blair and afterwards we spoke about the new Respect coalition.
FOUR MORE lies. Tony Blair ripped up yet more promises last week. "Everyone within the next two years will be able once again to see an NHS dentist," was his pledge at Labour's 1999 conference. The TV pictures of 300 people queuing to register at an NHS dentist in Scarborough last week exposed the grim reality facing millions as the pledge has evaporated.
Myth 1 Migrants are 'benefit tourists' Ask any pensioner, single parent or unemployed person if they would travel halfway across the world to get their meagre benefits. They struggle to get by. Migrants will be even worse off. Home secretary David Blunkett has ruled migrants will not be allowed any benefits unless they have been working continuously in Britain for 12 months. This will give employers a green light to blackmail migrant workers to accept rotten pay and conditions.
THE ARMY spent two days on Leeds University campus leafleting for a presentation on the Officer Training Corps at Sandhurst barracks. Sandhurst is where they train the future battalion bosses to lead the privates to possible death or to commit war crimes. We organised an intervention at this presentation. First came a testosterone-fuelled video showing of Be The Best, interspersed with two wooden corporals losing their lines and composure.
THE PEOPLE of Haiti are caught in a horrible vice. On one side is a corrupt government that has rigged elections and presided over deepening poverty for the mass of people. On the other is an uprising led by brutal murderers who ran a dictatorship that terrorised the country in the early 1990s.
AROUND HALF a million workers in Zambia struck last week against the International Monetary Fund's cuts and the government which implements them. Thousands of Zambians marched on parliament during a strike that closed offices, shops and schools in the capital, Lusaka.
THE RIGHT wing Dutch government plans to deport 26,000 refugees during the next three years. The move is opposed by a majority of people in the Netherlands. A poll showed over 80 percent of people support allowing more refugees to stay. Protests against the government's plan began in the north of the Netherlands, organised by the group Van Harte Pardon (Wholeheartedly Pardon).
ON SUNDAY of last week two Korean socialists, Kim Woo-yong and Chang Ho-chul, were arrested by the South Korean police. The arrest shows the true nature of Roh Moo-hyun's government, which claims to be democratic. Chang has now been released, but Kim is still in custody. Trade unions and left organisations like the All Together group have organised protests against the arrest and are demanding Kim's release.
RALPH NADER's decision to run as an independent candidate in the US election is causing consternation to many opponents of George Bush. Surely, they say, the most important thing is to get Bush out.
Colin Barker continues his series on the 'Where We Stand' Socialist Workers Party statement of principles printed each week in Socialist Worker
OF ALL the excuses I could have come up with for buying the new lads' mags Zoo Weekly and Nuts, "They're not for me, they're for a review in Socialist Worker..." probably wasn't the most believable one to give to my newsagent. They are clearly both products of the same PR focus group-the two magazines look identical. The front cover layout is the same on each, both featuring brash red on black title next to a semi-naked woman, and is punctuated with the shared promise of stories about footballers, footballers' wives and, bizarrely, amputees.
Guantanamo-style 'justice' comes to New Labour Britain "I LIE awake at night searching...searching for the answer to the constant question, why me?" These are the words of a prisoner held in Belmarsh prison- Britain's Guantanamo Bay. He is one of 14 foreigners locked up under David Blunkett's anti-terrorism laws.
RESPECT HAS been in existence for just over a month, and we have a mountain to climb in a short time if we want to make an impact. There are just 100 days to go to the 10 June elections. We are focusing on the European and Greater London Assembly election on 10 June because they are run on a proportional system rather than the traditional "first past the post" system.
'OUR ARMED forces have taken 14,000 casualties in Iraq," says retired colonel David Hackworth. That is the truth George Bush is desperate to hide. The US has pitted the most powerful army in the world against a country devastated by sanctions. The Iraqi people have, of course, suffered the most from the war. But Bush and his gang care little more for the overwhelmingly poor white, black and Hispanic soldiers they pitch into the hell of Iraq.
I CAN'T get out of my mind the photo that appeared on the front page of the New York Times on 30 December. It showed a young man sitting facing a class of sixth graders in Blairsville, Pennsylvania.
COUNCIL TAX has shot up by almost half since New Labour came to power. This has shifted the tax burden from the rich and onto ordinary working people. The tax rose by an average of 13 percent last year, and is expected to go up another 7 percent this year. This would bring the total increase since 1997 to 49 percent-far more than earnings have risen over the same period.
A GRUBBY row has broken out among government ministers over immigrant labour from the Eastern European states that are set to join the European Union (EU) in May. On the one side stands the Blair camp, which feels the most urgent priority is to cave in to the racist rantings of the right wing press-owned by such migrant billionaires as Rupert Murdoch.
LECTURERS AND senior admin staff brought universities to a standstill this week as 50,000 members of the AUT union struck over pay. Students protesting over New Labour's top-up fees scheme joined them on Wednesday.
THE continuing incarceration of people at Guantanamo Bay is an outrage, and last week's sales of Socialist Worker expressed that. Ruairidh, Martin and Helen have put together a report on their campaigning success in south London:
THE BBC may well feel its back is against the wall in its battle with New Labour over coverage of the Iraq war. But the corporation must be on safer ground with another conflict, World War Two.
BLAIR WANTS to draw a line under the war and move on. He wants us to forget about the 10,000 civilians who have died in Iraq since the war began. He wants us to forget that, far from bringing democracy to the country, the US plans to impose a government on Iraq.
SO MICHAEL Howard had his day out in Burnley. The local Conservatives gathered together all the Asian and black people they could muster, about 12 in total, and placed them where they would be on camera.
DAVID BLUNKETT has proudly announced he is setting up a "British FBI". The Serious Organised Crime Agency is to have 5,000 staff, whose job will be to tackle crime. If Blunkett's agency is really a copycat FBI, then it's not top criminals who have something to fear.