Dated: 13 Mar 2004
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12 months on, the carnage in Iraq continues
ANTI-WAR campaigners across the world are preparing to demonstrate on 20 March against the carnage that Bush and Blair have brought to Iraq. The call for protests was raised at the 50,000-strong European Social Forum in Paris last November. The 100,000 who gathered at the World Social Forum in Mumbai, India, in January backed that call.
THE LAUNCH of Unite Against Fascism in the north west of England made front page news in Manchester last week. The Manchester Evening News, the leading newspaper in Britain's third biggest city, gave headline coverage of Unite's press conference. It was held in Manchester Town Hall on Friday.
COUNCIL WORKERS rallied outside Newham Town Hall in east London on Monday lunchtime against a major threat to their trade union branch. At the heart of the fight is the right of trade unions to represent their members, and for members to democratically decide what the union branch does. Up to 100 members of the Unison union joined Monday's rally. They were supported by trade unionists from the local further education college and Unison branches in other London councils.
COMMUNITY leaders, trade unionists and faith groups joined forces at a Unite Against Fascism conference in Sheffield last Saturday to discuss how to counter the threat of the Nazi BNP in the city. They heard from an array of speakers, including world champion boxing coach Brendan Ingle, himself an immigrant from Ireland.
ACTION BY university lecturers over pay continues with growing pressure by the membership on the executive of the AUT union to step up the action. At Leeds, weekly strike committee meetings are attracting 20 or so departmental reps, and the feedback from departments is tremendous.
AROUND 100 people lobbied a Calderdale (Halifax) council meeting on Wednesday of last week in noisy protest at the threat of closure of a popular local school, Mixenden Community Primary. Councillors callously voted for closure-all Labour and Tory councillors. Just one Lib Dem and three Nazi BNP councillors voted against.
CAMPAIGNERS to defend council housing will be in Manchester this weekend to coincide with the Labour Party local government conference. The Defend Council Housing campaign organisation and the Council Housing group of MPs are holding sessions to collect evidence in favour of what has been dubbed "the fourth option-direct investment in council housing".
DELEGATES FROM around the country attended an Institute of Employment Rights conference on pension provision recently. It discussed two key issues-the future provision for pensions and the problems with existing pension schemes.
OVER 100 people attended the Globalise Resistance Scotland conference in Glasgow last Saturday. Participants heard George Galloway denounce as "drivel" Blair's recent speech that though the war in Iraq might have been illegal, it shouldn't have been. Mark Curtis, author and now director of the World Development Movement, spoke of the need for more direct action.
STRIKERS AT Metzeler's plant in Coalville, Leicestershire, held their sixth one-day strike on Monday over the company's pay offer. They were also planning to hold a vote over whether to continue the action. The 16 engineers have been fighting to wrestle a 73p an hour pay rise from the multinational company. They are in the Amicus union. Most of the 500 shop floor workers are in the TGWU union, who narrowly voted for the pay offer.
OVER 400 Notts, Hucknall and Linby striking miners and their families celebrated the 20th anniversary of the strike on Friday of last week. Speakers included ex Hucknall miner Les Dennis, who said that the only ballot there should have been was whether to return to work after the strike without the sacked miners from the pits being given their jobs back.
PORTERS AND domestic staff at Bolton and North Manchester general hospitals (part of the same trust) have voted to strike. They work for ISS Mediclean, a multinational which has profited from the privatisation of the NHS.
OVER 90,000 civil servants in the PCS union are set to strike again for two days on Tuesday 13 and Wednesday 14 April. The strike will close down job centres, benefits offices, pension centres and the Child Support Agency. This is the next stage of the campaign against poverty pay by workers in the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).
"WE'RE SICK of waiting," was the unmistakable message delivered to BT last week. Scores of Communication Workers Union members lobbied the company's London HQ demanding an increase in the allowances paid to employees working in the capital.
TWENTY YEARS after the Great Strike, miners at a West Yorkshire pit struck on Monday in a dispute about new working practices. About 350 workers at Kellingley colliery near Pontefract were on a 24-hour stoppage, and were due to strike again on Thursday this week.
NEARLY 200 postal workers in Peterborough walked out on strike unofficially last week in a dispute over the interpretation of the MTSF (Managing the Surplus Framework) pay and conditions agreement. Workers had just realised the implications of the deal, which was part of the package accepted in a national ballot earlier this year. It means that the seniority principle (that workers who have been in the job longest get first pick of duties) will be abandoned in some cases.
Defend Farringdon Six TUBE WORKERS on a privatised part of London Underground were set to strike on Friday this week over the sacking of six colleagues. Metronet, the private company now responsible for two thirds of the tube track, sacked the six infrastructure workers after it found empty beer cans in a cabin near Farringdon station.
NEARLY 1,000 workers at Aerostructures in Hamble, near Southampton, took part in the first of a series of one-day strikes over pay on Monday. The dispute comes after union members rejected an offer of a 3 percent pay rise from Smiths Group, the multinational parent company, and voted by an overwhelming 87 percent majority to take action.
WORKERS AT Mid Kent Water have started a strike ballot over a maintenance contract for raw sewage work. A GMB spokesperson says, "The ballot comes after harassment of staff who have refused the work."
BUS WORKERS employed by RoadCar in Lincolnshire held a fourth one-day strike on Monday in a battle over pay and union rights. Some 150 workers are members of the TGWU union. They voted by 89 votes to 39 to reject RoadCar's latest pay offer. The company, the biggest in Lincolnshire, is part of the Yorkshire Traction Group.
A MAGNIFICENT 4,500-strong demonstration through Glasgow has kept the nursery nurses' all-out strike in the headlines across Scotland. The demo also blew a hole in employers' propaganda that the strike is losing public support and crumbling. Mary McIntyre from West Dunbartonshire, a nursery nurse for 20 years, told Socialist Worker on last Friday's march:
THE HEROIC struggle by supermarket workers in the US, who were on strike or locked out for four and a half months, ended last week. Unfortunately the leaders of the United Food and Commercial Workers union ensured the workers suffered a defeat.
THE GREEK centre-left party that pursued Blairite policies for four years was swept out of office at last Sunday's general election. New Democracy, the Tory party, took 47 percent of the vote to 41 percent for Pasok, equivalent to the Labour Party in Britain.
Socialism depends on workers overcoming the divisions within their own ranks. The most virulent of these divisions is racism, in all its forms. The racism of Hitler and the Nazis produced the organised mass murder of millions of Jews and Gypsies in the 1940s. What is racism?
LOSE WEIGHT. Eat a McDonald's. That was the amazing sales pitch the junk food giant tried to pull off last week. Even it has noticed that there is widespread concern about people's health as obesity becomes an increasing problem. So McDonald's announced they would cut back on their "supersize" products to appear as promoters of healthy eating. Call me cynical, but I have little trust in a company that puts tap water, available for free, in a bottle and sells it for 95p. Obesity is a serious issue, and can lead to damaging health problems.
"SOCIALIST WORKER is really hitting the mood," writes Tony Barnsley from the West Midlands. One in five Unison members attending Sandwell General branch's annual general meeting bought a copy of Socialist Worker. In all 21 papers were sold.
The bombings on Tuesday last week marked one of the bloodiest days of the occupation. How have Iraqis responded?
BUSH AND Blair's imperialist project needs to have an internal enemy, someone to scapegoat, someone to blame for both national and international ills. Muslims are now the new bogeymen, the new Communists. I was a victim of this recently. On 9 February I was passing through the US from Mexico on a transit flight back to London.
WE WERE detained on 11 December 2002 under the Terrorism Act of 2000. There were six of us-Gurkan Gur, Rory O'Driscoll, Allaatin Kalander, Songul Ozgur, Selver Kapan and Birten Kalayci.
NEW LABOUR boasts that it has been hugely successful at cutting unemployment. The number of people out of work and claiming benefit, 892,000, is at a 30-year low. But this "success" is based on a great illusion. There is increasing evidence that the real unemployment figure is much higher, perhaps two million more.
THE MEMO is from inside Carillion-the rail contractor which employed four track workers killed by a runaway wagon in Cumbria last month. It identifies a shocking catalogue of engineering failures on the West Coast Main Line, where the men were working. It shows that despite the best efforts of rail staff the subcontracting culture across the industry has led to:
THERE ARE moments when the forces which really rule in society suddenly reveal themselves-20 years ago the state unleashed its full might against the miners during the year-long strike. Police, courts, media, judges, the benefits system, coordination between different industries-all were used in a concerted effort to smash the most powerful union in Britain.
European Social Forum London, 14-17 October 2004 It's happening in London The organisers of the European Social Forum (ESF) in London have booked Alexandra Palace, a huge venue in Haringey, which will provide space for tens of thousands of activists.
BRITAIN'S BIGGEST all-out strike is having a big impact in Scotland. Some 5,000 low paid nursery nurses are out actively winning the solidarity they need to win a decent national pay rise. They are getting a great response from delegation work aimed at winning donations from union branches.
Respect candidates who will challenge New Labour were selected in two key regions of Britain last weekend. Socialist Worker talked to those chosen and discusses the battles they will be taking up
FIREFIGHTERS' union leaders are recommending the union opens up its political funds to allow backing for non-Labour candidates. The move, to be voted on at their FBU union conference in May, is the latest sign of a dramatic shift taking place in the unions. The RMT rail union has already moved to open its funds up in the same way, a move which saw the union expelled by the Labour Party last month. Similar debates are now growing in other unions.
RESPECT has written to firefighters' union members. The letter is signed by George Galloway MP, national secretary John Rees and executive member Linda Smith. Linda is the London Region treasurer of the FBU.
MARY QUEEN of Scots may seem a strange subject for Jimmy McGovern's new BBC drama. McGovern is well known for writing that exposes prejudice and oppression. He has consistently championed left wing causes, while at the same time becoming a highly successful writer on series like Cracker.
Star of the Sea By Joseph O'Connor £6.99
BLAIR HAS effectively abandoned his attempt to say international law supported the invasion of Iraq. Speaking to a hand-picked business audience last week, he said "it may be that under international law" the US and Britain are not authorised to topple regimes they don't like.
Don't believe police thugs on any strikers LAST WEEK I watched a good documentary on BBC2 on the Grunwick strike of 1977. The programme openly admitted that the strike was sabotaged by right wing trade union leaders who did not want to divert attention away from the prospects of Labour winning the 1979 general election.
DID A British warplane cause a passenger plane to crash killing all 15 people on board? Has Britain's Ministry of Defence been desperately trying to cover up the incident?