Dated: 02 Feb 2002
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A crucial battle is now underway at South West Trains (SWT) and Arriva Northern. On the one side stand rail workers fighting for decent pay and dignity at work, and against the madness of privatisation.
BRIAN SOUTER-multimillionaire boss of South West Trains and union buster. He is the enemy of everyone who wants a decent public transport system. Souter owns Stagecoach, which runs South West Trains. He built his transport empire by exploiting the chaos of the Tories' rail and bus privatisation. He drove other rival bus firms off the road to gain a dominant position in the bus industry.
Nothing succeeds like failure, especially if you are a boss at Edexcel. Edexcel is the exam board that set an unsolvable maths question, sent exam papers back late and lost some papers.
Revelations that an official in the Trades Union Congress has been trying to stop the election of left wing candidates in union elections are fuelling anger among trade unionists. Socialist Worker reported two weeks ago on smears against Bob Crow, the left wing candidate for general secretary of the RMT rail union. A meeting of the union's west of England and South Wales region took place in Bristol, also two weeks ago.
Shocking new figures highlight just who is greedy in Britain. The richest 10 percent of people in Britain spend seven times more than the poorest 10 percent, according to the government's Office for National Statistics.
Socialist Worker went down a storm with striking Arriva rail workers. At the mass picket in York 27 copies were sold, while 6 were sold to pickets in Cleethorpes, 7 to pickets at Leeds Central station, and 4 in Bradford. Last Friday, in the build-up to the civil service strike, 11 were sold at Albert Bridge House in Manchester, 8 at the Employment Service head office in Sheffield, 4 at Ravenshurst benefits office in Birmingham, and 3 at each of Finsbury Park job centre, Tottenham job centre and Tottenham Benefits Agency.
Over 85,000 Unison union members working in local councils across London are moving towards action over pay. In a few weeks workers in all the 32 London councils will be taking part in an indicative ballot organised by the union. If that goes well a ballot on action will follow, and could coincide with May's council elections.
Over 500 workers at the Caterpillar plant in Peterlee vote unanimously to ballot for an all-out indefinite strike against a pay freeze and attacks on working conditions. The vote, taken by a good old fashioned show of hands, came at a determined mass meeting held in the leisure centre of the County Durham town last Saturday. Workers are fighting a plan by the management of the US-owned multinational to impose a three-year pay freeze and rip up agreements with the union.
Medical secretaries in hospitals across the north east of England are gearing up for a fight over pay. The move follows the victory won by medical secretaries in Glasgow last year, when all-out strike action won a regrading and so higher pay. "Medical secretaries are the hidden workers in the NHS," explained Clare Williams, chair of health in the Unison union's northern region. "They check records and send out appointments.
Around 1,000 workers at Portsmouth naval dockyard staged a protest against privatisation last week. The TGWU union members are civil servants working for the Ministry of Defence. The government wants to privatise their jobs. The workers marched and handed in a petition.
Workers at Manchester airport have voted by 726 to 153 to strike against job cuts. The vote by members of the TGWU union may not signal a quick move to action, as talks with both airport management and other unions at the airport are taking place.
The Anti Nazi League will be holding its conference in early March as the fight to stop Britain's Nazis moves into a crucial phase. The Nazis are convinced that they can win council seats in the local elections in May 2002. The BNP and NF Nazis are targeting areas across Britain including the north west, the Midlands, the north east and east London.
A national strike by tens of thousands of civil servants in the PCS union on Monday and Tuesday of this week defied New Labour and bullying management. It is the second two-day strike by workers in benefits agencies and job centres. The first one was in mid-December. They are challenging the government's plans to remove safety screens in the newly merged benefits agencies and job centres-Jobcentre Plus. Reports were coming in as Socialist Worker went to press that strikers were holding firm.
The Scottish Executive last week proposed that the ballot for the privatisation of 80,000 council homes in Glasgow will start on 4 March. The date was leaked on the New Labour executive's website, and seems to have caught the New Labour Glasgow council unawares.
The Welsh Socialist Alliance (WSA) is campaigning hard in the Ogmore by-election in South Wales. The contest follows the death of Labour MP Sir Ray Powell. Voting takes place on 14 February. WSA candidate Jeff Hurford is well known locally for his involvement in campaigns such as those against the poll tax, racism and the bombing of Afghanistan.
"The Colombian city of Santiago de Cali ground to a halt. Traffic jams could be seen in every direction. Workers, the local communities and supporters filled the city's streets to rally in support of the occupation".
Everyone who ever saw it remembers The Cheviot, the Stag and the Black, Black Oil, the 1973 play by John McGrath, who died last week. The play traced a continuing history of exploitation and class struggle in Scotland, from the savage expulsion of the peasantry to the arrival of the multinationals in the 1970s.
"There is no longer a case of a winter beds crisis-there is a total beds crisis all the time." That was the reaction of a worker at the Whittington Hospital in north London after the furore that erupted over the treatment of 94 year old Rose Addis. Rose's family complained that she was left unwashed for three days in the hospital's casualty department.
"My union has supported Labour candidates in every election since it was founded more than 100 years ago. But no longer can the party take the support of our members for granted."
British Paratroopers deliberately murdering unarmed civilians as they desperately try to run away or crawl to safety. This is what people who watched the recent TV dramas Bloody Sunday and Sunday would have seen.
Two forums, two visions of the world. That's what is taking place at opposite ends of the American continent this weekend. The world's rich and representatives of global corporations are gathering at their World Economic Forum in New York. In the Brazilian city of Porto Alegre tens of thousands of people are converging for the World Social Forum, which challenges everything the New York meeting stands for.
The debates in Porto Alegre have been given added urgency by the unfolding crisis in nearby Argentina. Friday of last week saw a new eruption of mass protest, with clashes with police in the capital, Buenos Aires, and people attacking banks in some cities. The protests were organised by the neighbourhood assemblies that are springing up across the capital and other cities.
Around 150,000 post workers are voting on strikes over pay. The ballot closes on Thursday of next week. Workers have shown support for strikes at mass meetings during the last week. That feeling now needs to be turned into a big vote for action.
George W Bush has given Israel the signal to unleash all-out war on the Palestinians. Last week he backed the menacing presence of Israeli troops around the offices of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. Arafat is now a prisoner of those forces, his every move tracked and controlled by his enemies.
Murder, mutilation, robbery and starvation-that is the reality of life for those Afghans who survived George W Bush's war on terrorism. The US bombing and the turmoil that has followed has moved hundreds of thousands of people from their homes. Many now cling to life in refugee camps. Starvation stalks the country. One camp is home to 150,000 destitute people. International aid organisations admit they are overwhelmed. In the southern city of Kandahar revenge killings and mutilations have become common.
Tigerland First it was the film Behind Enemy Lines, and then the studios hit us with with Black Hawk Down. If, like me, you are sick of the jingoistic, racist and chauvinistic films coming out of Hollywood at the moment then Tigerland is a breath of fresh air. Don't be surprised if you haven't heard of this film-it had a very limited release in UK cinemas.
The scandal surrounding the collapse of giant US corporation Enron is coming closer to the heart of New Labour. The party received £36,000 from Enron after coming to office in 1997. As Socialist Worker reported last week, a string of meetings between ministers and Enron bosses followed.
Benny Rothman should be mourned by every hill walker and climber in the country. In 1932 he led a mass trespass of ramblers onto the beautiful land of Kinder Scout.
Sacked Friction Dynamics workers deserve better The 87 members of the TGWU 4/550 branch at Friction Dynamics, Caenarfon, Gwynedd, were sacked after eight weeks locked out by their employer for going on strike. They are still picketing the plant. Their strike committee chair, Gerald Parry, knows what determination their stand has shown.
"I AM a socialist, but the people I work with aren't interested. How do I convince them?" Every socialist has had to grapple with a question like this. For socialists, the world is so obviously unfair and unjust it can be frustrating that only a minority of the population commit themselves to socialism.
Roger Scruton, one of the right wing's favourite philosophers asked for £5,500 a month from a tobacco company. He said he would use his contacts to get pro-smoking articles in the world's press.