Dated: 06 Mar 2004
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Blair lied about WMD
LOW PAID education workers have begun the biggest indefinite strike in Britain for many years. The 5,000 nursery nurses walked out in three quarters of Scotland's local authorities on Monday. Liz McCulloch, a nursery nurse and Unison union steward in East Ayrshire, explains why:
"I COULD never understand why all those people were calling the BNP fascists. Well I do now," says Maureen Stowe. She has broken all links with the British National Party and is now backing the fight against the fascists.
Some 100 people in South Shields on Tyneside protested outside local Labour MP David Miliband's office on Sunday in support of a Colombian family threatened with deportation.
ACTIVISTS IN the civil servants' PCS union were set to meet in Leeds this Saturday to discuss their crucial battle with the government over poverty pay. Some 92,000 workers in benefits offices, job centres, pension centres and Child Support Agency centres shocked bosses when they struck magnificently for two days last month.
Liverpool strike solid "THIS IS about bullying." Those were the words of one social worker who joined around 145 colleagues on strike on Friday of last week. The social workers, who work in childcare in Liverpool, were out on the first day of a three-day strike over management bullying, excessive workloads and lack of staffing.
OVER 400 people gathered in London last weekend for a conference organised by War on Want on "Privatisation, Power and Poverty". At the opening session author Susan George said that in addition to the "three Ps" of the conference title, we needed to add another one-profits.
THREE ANTI Trident nuclear submarine protesters were found guilty at Plymouth Crown Court last week of crimes relating to attempts to put HMS Vanguard out of action. Sue Brackenbury, who has already served the equivalent of an eight-month sentence on remand, was released after she was sentenced to six months. Matt Bury and Shirley Law were each given a 12-month conditional discharge.
THERE WAS a huge turnout for the launch meeting of Pendle United Against Fascism on Wednesday of last week. Nearly 100 people crowded into Nelson Library to hear speakers from across the political and religious spectrum condemn the threat from the far-right BNP. The meeting was called by Pendle Trades Council.
A GROUP of victimised firefighters in Hampshire have won reinstatement after a landmark legal ruling last week. The Basingstoke Four were sacked five years ago. Senior management in the brigade and the fire authority were determined to break the firefighters' union organisation at the Basingstoke station.
"I APPEAL to everyone not to let the Muslim and Asian communities suffer the way the Irish suffered under the anti-terrorist laws," Paddy Hill of the Birmingham Six urged a public meeting in Moir Hall, Glasgow, last week. The meeting, held on the eve of the Scottish Labour Party conference, was called to oppose the latest government attack on civil liberties.
THE TWO days of strike action by university lecturers in the AUT union were hugely successful. The government and employers are trying to fundamentally change higher education. They want to create a two-tier education system for students. Lecturers could see an end to job security, loss of control over the work process and pay related to where you work, not what you do.
LECTURERS AT Leicester College have suspended their strike in defence of union rights, which has lasted for an amazing four weeks. The all-out strike by members of the Natfhe union was over the college management's attempt to bring in a non-negotiated contract that attacked working conditions. The strikes forced management back to the table.
AROUND 100 postal workers walked out of the West Derby sorting office in Liverpool on Wednesday of last week. They were protesting at the behaviour of a local manager. Mark Walsh of the CWU said, "We actually followed the process in place, which is a grievance procedure between Royal Mail and the CWU to try and stop this sort of action and investigate it fully.
OVER 1,000 teachers and classroom assistants struck on Monday afternoon of this week in Croydon, south London. They were striking against the Labour council's plans to push through £8 million budget cuts which mean 200 job losses.
WORKERS AT the main refuse collection depot in Brighton & Hove staged a 48-hour unofficial strike on Tuesday and Wednesday last week. The walkout followed the suspension by management of GMB steward Richard Warren. Workers returned to work on Thursday after voting overwhelmingly to work to rule-refusing to work overtime or catch up on work missing during the walkout.
MEMBERS of the RMT union working on Metronet, which controls two thirds of London Underground maintenance, voted by five to one for strike action over the sacking of six track workers.
MEMBERS OF the Community and Youth Workers Union (CYWU) were set to strike on Friday this week over pay, conditions, and the continuing crisis in the Youth Service. This is the first time that the union has voted to take strike action 87 percent voted for action.
MAINTENANCE workers at Preston and Chorley hospitals, Lancashire, took strike action on Monday of this week. The members of the Amicus union are fighting attacks on their pay and conditions. Under the government's "Agenda for Change", hospital workers are having their jobs evaluated.
RESPECT: THE Unity Coalition is gearing up to challenge the mainstream political parties in the 10 June elections. At meetings up and down the country the democratic process of selecting candidates for the European Parliament and Greater London Authority elections set for that day is now under way.
ANOTHER KEY trade union is moving to open up its political funds so members can democratically decide how they are used. The Fire Brigades Union is set to allow members to give money to candidates standing against New Labour.
AN AMERICAN airforce plane flew Haitian president Jean-Bertrand Aristide into exile last weekend as US troops landed in the Caribbean state for the fourth time in 125 years. The White House said Aristide had resigned. Aristide now says he was forcibly removed.
THREE MILLION Indian workers struck for the day on Tuesday of last week against plans to cut pensions and other benefits to government workers and introduce flexible working. "This is the 11th strike in the last ten years against neo-liberalism," says Rakesh, leader of the Lucknow banking workers' union federation.
AROUND HALF a million trade unionists in Zambia went on strike recently against wage cuts and tax rises forced through by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. JOYCE NONDE is the general secretary of a union allied to the Federation of Free Trade Unions of Zambia. She was in London last weekend addressing the War on Want conference and spoke to Socialist Worker.
'THESE ELECTIONS are assuming a national character. They are the first since the right wing UMP government won a landslide victory one and a half years ago. This came after the shock of the National Front's Le Pen getting into the run-off in the presidential election, and the huge protests that followed.
NORMALLY THE centre-left monthly magazine Prospect is as good a cure for insomnia as I know. Relentlessly middle-brow and mid-Atlantic, its contributors agonise over how to maintain the global domination of market capitalism and of the United States without being excessively cruel to the poor or suppressing too many civil liberties.
I ONCE thought the late, great Marvin Gaye was white! The reason was simple: I was eight years old and the guy pictured on the front of my compilation album gazing up at a white woman on a swing was a blue-eyed, blond-haired John F Kennedy look-alike.
THE SOCIALIST Worker special issue produced to mark 20 years since the miners' strike is going down a storm. Ken Capstick, who was the NUM union branch delegate at Stillingfleet colliery during the strike and is a former Yorkshire NUM vice-chair, says, "I am pleased that Socialist Worker has produced this special edition to celebrate the struggle of the miners. We were right to fight the brutal Thatcher government. We have to learn the lessons from the strike-that the state will be used to crush workers' resistance and we need to stand together as a class."
"WE NEED an end to the premiership of Tony Blair. On 20 March we will be demanding that Blair must go." That call from George Galloway MP was made to the 600 delegates from across the country at the Stop the War Coalition conference in London last Saturday. The conference came against the background of the build-up to the 20 March national Stop the War Coalition demonstration, and with the war once again plunging Blair's government into crisis.
STRIKING NURSERY nurses were greeted with a wave of support from parents and the public. But they received staggering contempt from their employers, COSLA-the Labour-dominated Confederation of Scottish Local Authorities. "We are in a decisive dispute," says Carol Ball, the Unison union convenor of the nursery nurses' campaign. "All we want is for COSLA to talk to us about a national deal. Yet it's come to an all-out strike. We are calling for support from across the movement."
LONDON'S ASTORIA club rocked last week with 2,000 people determined to beat the British National Party. The event was the London launch of the new Unite Against Fascism coalition. It is campaigning against the British National Party, which is targeting the elections on 10 June. Both the audience and those on stage marked this out as no ordinary political meeting.
"WE WERE behaving like a proper trade union." Such comments came from university lecturers' picket lines across Britain and Northern Ireland last week. The pickets behaved exactly as any other group of trade unionists on strike-making up ditties about overpaid bosses, persuading people not to cross their picket lines, and generally hitting "production" in the workplace. But, of course, these are academics-tutors, researchers, course coordinators, thinkers.
MARY WOLLSTONECRAFT 1759-1797 'HOW MANY women thus waste life away the prey of discontent, who might have practised as physicians, regulated a farm, managed a shop, and stood erect, supported by their own industry, instead of hanging their heads surcharged with the dew of sensibility, that consumes the beauty to which it at first gave lustre.
"THIS NEW video will be an excellent resource for people to use in Stop the War meetings," says school student and anti-war activist Ed Cope from Cambridge. "The makers of this film have managed to bring together material from leading members of the anti-war movement. It slots together interviews with footage from British news and Al Jazeera and film from the Vietnam War. "The nasty face of US and British imperialism is portrayed with powerful images. Nothing is more disturbing than the images from Iraq-the scalps of children in pools of blood, burnt bodies in crushed cars and men being thrust to the ground by soldiers, with plastic sacks over their heads and their hands bound behind
'TONY BLAIR'S New Labour was being returned to power for a second term by an apathetic landslide. "People voted for them because there didn't seem to be a credible alternative. In the country Blair's government would now oversee, the gap between rich and poor has never been wider. The fatally dilapidated railway infrastructure, the crisis in education, in housing, in health, in social welfare. Funding withdrawn, never returned. Thatcher's legacy-time bombs exploding all over the country."
'THE ENEMY within." That chilling phrase sums up how top establishment figures see people who dare to reveal the truth about the war. They dragged GCHQ worker Katharine Gun through the courts for 12 months to terrify others out of speaking out. The government was forced to drop the case against her only because it would have had to reveal the legal basis for attacking Iraq in court.
THE 20th anniversary of the 1984-5 miners' strike has reunited the miners in the Nottinghamshire area who dared to support the NUM union throughout the bitter dispute. After all these years the focus by some of the media is on why the NUM would not hold a national ballot. Over 80 percent of miners were already out on strike. They had voted with their feet.
FULL-PAGE ads appeared in the press last week from the "Doctors for Reform" group. The group called for moves towards people being made to get compulsory private medical insurance to pay for NHS treatment. Doctors for Reform claims to be "an independent, non-party group". Really? It shares the same London address as the Reform think-tank.