Dated: 13 Jan 2001
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Back jobs fight at Vauxhall Luton – Demo: Sat 20 January, Luton
Steel giant Corus is pushing ahead with redundancies and plant closures. That is the real message from a meeting it held with union leaders on Monday. It focused on the results of redundancies that have already been announced. But many more job losses are coming.
Vauxhall workers in Luton have launched a fightback to save their jobs. Unions at the plant have called a demonstration on Saturday 20 January. They are asking other workers to join it.
Bosses at Goodyear in Wolverhampton want to slash 500 jobs in revenge for workers' refusal to accept pay cuts and longer hours. Management and union leaders recommended to workers that they accept an 11 percent pay cut and longer hours.
Tony Blair is "absolutely proud" of the string of businessmen who have bunged money into New Labour's coffers. Millions of people who have voted Labour will instead be sickened at Blair's courting of the rich. Businessmen do not give money for nothing. They expect New Labour to bow to their interests.
The trial of 12 Afghans charged in connection with a hijacked plane that flew into Britain last year was due to begin on Thursday. But New Labour should be put in the dock over its treatment of the remaining 88 Afghan passengers who have asked for asylum in Britain.
The family of a black postal worker driven to suicide by racism at work have won the first step in their battle for justice. The victim's parents won the right this week to a posthumous employment tribunal hearing over racial discrimination. Jermaine Lee, a 26 year old Birmingham postal worker, hanged himself in November 1999.
"The pledge of John Prescott to cut the number of car journeys in the first five years of Labour rule has been abandoned. There has in fact been a remorseless increase in traffic growth."
The right wing press have launched a disgusting attack on a judge's decision to give Robert Thompson and Jon Venables, jailed for the killing of James Bulger, anonymity for life when they are released from prison later this year. The Sun devoted five pages on Tuesday to a vicious exposé of the lives of the two boys since they were sentenced eight years ago.
The truth is finally beginning to emerge about radioactive weapons used by Western forces in their wars against Iraq and in the Balkans. The revelations on depleted uranium come as the tenth anniversary of the start of the West's 1991 Gulf War against Iraq approaches this month. Several European governments that are part of the NATO military alliance have launched inquiries into depleted uranium weapons.
14 copies of Socialist Worker were sold outside Llanwern steel works in South Wales campaigning over the threatened closure, while 6 were sold at Cardiff's Penarth Road post office. 11 papers were sold at Aston post office in Birmingham along with 5 at Land Rover. Liverpool sales included 11 at the Royal Liverpool Hospital and 10 at Cammel Laird shipyard, while in Manchester 15 were sold at the Co-operative Insurance HQ and 3 at Moss Side Benefits Agency.
The Scottish press slammed teachers as "greedy" last weekend for not jumping for joy at a proposed pay deal. Papers claimed negotiations between the Scottish Executive, teachers' union and local government representatives had come up with a once in a lifetime offer, worth a 21.5 percent pay increase over the next three years.
Nearly 800 workers walked out on 24-hour unofficial strike at Royal Mail's main Nottingham depot in Beeston on Thursday of last week. About 130 workers picketed the depot while managers struggled to deliver a small portion of the more than two million letters that have piled up. The walkout was in response to the sacking of driver Alan McCrackle for taking too much sick leave. It followed the rejection of appeals by two other drivers sacked for the same reason last year.
Hackney council workers in east London are to strike for three days from 29 to 31 January. Urgent action is needed. The leaders of the Labour-Tory coalition that runs the east London council have agreed cuts of £50 million over the next three years. This will mean assets flogged off to private developers and more privatisation of vital services such as school transport for special needs children.
Workers at the Cowley BMW car plant in Oxford were to vote this week on a pay and conditions package. They should throw it out. The package includes a two-year pay offer of just 4 percent followed by a 3 percent rise. "That is pathetic money," says a Cowley worker, "only £13 a week before tax." The deal also includes a new grading scheme and performance related pay. "There's a principle at stake here," says the worker. "You can see how BMW want things to go in the future. They've got flexible hours-now they want flexible money."
Around 1,900 Crown Prosecution Service workers in the PCS civil servants' union started their industrial action campaign over pay on Monday of this week. The action will severely disrupt the work of courts across England and Wales. Bosses claim that the workers are getting a 4.5 percent increase, but for most workers it will work out as 3.3 percent. Top lawyers will get an extra £10,000 a year, while administration staff will receive just £350 more.
A protest is planned outside the Colombian embassy in London on Friday 19 January over the Latin American country's government's support for the US Plan Colombia. The US is pouring huge military resources into the plan under the pretext of a "war on drugs". In reality the plan is a US attempt to impose its will on a country at the heart of a region where it fears social unrest is threatening its business and strategic interests.
The government is in disarray over its plans to privatise council housing, and the chance is there to pile on the pressure to force a complete retreat. A marvellous opportunity to intensify the campaign comes in just over a week, when tenants and council workers join forces for a major lobby of parliament. Already coaches are booked from across Britain to bring people to London for the mass lobby on Wednesday 24 January.
"This is about our union leaders letting New Labour off the hook," was how a worker in East Ayrshire council reacted to the news that leaders of the UNISON union are calling off strikes by council workers across Scotland. Workers in other Scottish councils had the same reaction. "There's a feeling of shock, of betrayal," argued a worker in Inverclyde council. "The union leaders are trying to ditch the fight, to help out New Labour in the run-up to the general election."
Solidarity is flowing in from trade unionists around the country for the strike by health workers in Dudley in the West Midlands. Trade unionists have countered the mainstream media's news blackout on the strike by raising solidarity in their workplaces. The 600 ancillary workers were set to begin a further three-week strike on Wednesday in their battle against being transferred out of the NHS under the Private Finance Initiative (PFI).
Bill Clinton was attempting to secure a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinian Authority as Socialist Worker went to press. But many Palestinians are suspicious of a deal.
Lawyers, doctors and human rights activists in Turkey are cataloguing hundreds of reports of torture and assaults on left wing political prisoners-despite state censorship.
Around 100,000 Czechs demonstrated in Prague's Wenceslas Square last week in support of striking journalists at the state-owned television station. The journalists have been occupying the studios of the station since Christmas Eve in protest at the appointment of Jiri Hodac as the new director general. A parliamentary committee appointed Hodac, who is close to the pro-business leader of the opposition, Vaclav Klaus, who wants to privatise state television. Hodac has already sacked key managers in his attempt to control the content of news broadcasts.
There is a growing sense that different struggles around the world are closely connected. The Palestinian intellectual Edward Said recently wrote that the new intifada against Israel "is another example of the general discontent with the post Cold War order (economic and political) displayed in the events of Seattle and Prague".
Any day now I'm expecting someone in the culture business to tell us that history is the new rock & roll. It's everywhere. One moment it's Simon Schama in his History of Britain series, standing on the battlements, the next it's Tony Robinson and the Time Team in a ditch.
"Everything just getting worse. Health, education, transport-they all need to be in public ownership. Now they are being run down and sold off. It can't go on like this."
William Hague's Tory rabble playing the race card or Tony Blair's New Labour government privatising everything in sight. That is the choice presented to us in this year's general election. But there will be an alternative. Across Britain over 120 socialist candidates are preparing to stand in the election.
The television drama Rebel Heart by Irish writer Ronan Bennett has provoked an outburst from Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble and right wing papers like the Daily Telegraph.
In a Land Of Plenty, which began this week, is the BBC's most ambitious drama serial for a long time. It spans ten episodes. It centres on the life of James Freeman, from his birth in 1956 to the present day. He's born into a rich family and has a comfortable childhood. But there are tensions as well.
Just two weeks after the Christmas holiday period we can already see the coming together of the issues that will dominate British politics for the next four months. The main parties are shadow boxing in expectation of an election in May. But on the ground there is growing opposition to the policies they agree with each other on.
Steel workers feel betrayed The steel maker Corus has issued 150 compulsory redundancies in Scunthorpe as part of this year's job cuts. Workers who have spent their whole working lives in steel are now being sacked because they don't fit management's criteria. These workers feel betrayed. For the last 20 years steel workers in Scunthorpe have faced annual job losses. British Steel told its workers that they could only make their future secure by becoming "leaner and fitter". Each year steel workers delivered better productivity.
Labour development secretary Clare Short delivered a stinging attack just before Christmas on the people who had protested in Seattle and Prague. She suggested they were "self indulgent" and "intolerable", comfortable Westerners who have enjoyed the benefits of capitalism but are now trying to deny them to the Third World.
Chancellor Gordon Brown wrote a big article for the Sunday Times recently singing the praises of capitalism. "The key to neighbourhood renewal is more businesses. American cities have taught us the advantages of business-led regeneration. Our old cities and estates should be seen as new markets with competitive advantages. Changing our culture to one that favours enterprise will come about with the greatest effect if it starts in our schools. I want every young person to hear about business and enterprise in every school. I want businessmen and women to visit our schools and talk to enterprise classes. I want every community to see business leaders as role models."