Dated: 10 Mar 2001
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And there's worse to come 'After the election, only the NHS and the police will be protected from the private sector'Gordon Brown speaking to the TUC's John Monks, according to the Observer
Lorry driver Perry Wacker and a Chinese interpreter are on trial for the manslaughter of 58 young Chinese immigrants. Others should be in the dock alongside them-starting with Tony Blair, Jack Straw, William Hague and the major newspaper owners. The 58 people suffocated in the lorry they had been smuggled aboard on a ferry arriving in Dover.
A global day of action hit multinational drugs giant GlaxoSmithKline on Monday to coincide with the beginning of a court case in South Africa. GSK is just one of the big companies which this week began the court case to try to stop their drugs, or copies of their drugs, being sold cheaply to desperate people in South Africa, many of who are victims of AIDS. Demonstrators protested outside the company's headquarters in Brentford on Monday morning, and around 70 people joined a protest in Manchester on Monday evening.
The government has responded to a succession of cases of police incompetence which have seen innocent people jailed and others walk free-by giving more power to the police! This comes just as yet another case-that of Peter Fell-of someone being jailed for a crime they could not possibly have committed came to light. The Law Commission wants to change the "double jeopardy" rule, to allow someone acquitted of murder to be tried again.
Tightfisted New Labour industry secretary Stephen Byers increased the minimum wage this week-but only by 40p. Byers announced the rate for over 21 year olds is to increase by nearly 11 percent. That will take £3.70 an hour to just £4.10 an hour.
A leaked report from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) confirmed this week that the drive to privatise London's tube has compromised safety. It listed 69 "significant" issues which London Underground management have not resolved.
The Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA), the body responsible for last year's exams crisis in Scotland where 17,000 pupils got the wrong results, has admitted that it could make mistakes on an even greater scale this year.
Around 1,800 Passport Office workers in the PCS civil servants' union are to be balloted for strikes over pay. The workers rejected management's pay offer by nine to one in a ballot. "It shows the underlying bitterness of people for the low pay we face and the work we have to do," one Passport Office worker told Socialist Worker.
Around 1,000 people marched through Birmingham last Saturday to demand an end to privatisation of public services. There were 36 banners on the march including the local RAGE campaign against the closure of elderly people's homes, Defend Council Housing, the regional FBU and UCATT union banners, and several from local Socialist Alliance groups.
Teachers in London and Doncaster were to begin refusing to cover for a record number of vacancies this week, following overwhelming ballots for industrial action. The action, by members of the NUT and NASUWT unions, came just as a survey published in the Times Educational Supplement (TES) found that secondary schools in England and Wales are short of about 10,000 teachers. Teachers in more and more areas are voting for action. Ballots are under way in Leicester, Middlesbrough, Nottingham, Portsmouth, Southampton, Manchester, Reading and Kent.
Two hundred of us protested outside the new Gap store in Sheffield last Saturday. A group of under 16 year olds went into Gap to demand jobs, as Gap employs children their age in other countries. We blockaded the road through the town centre before the police dragged us off the road.
Students took action on Thursday of last week as part of a week of action called by the National Union of Students against top-up fees and student hardship.
Thousands of council workers in Hackney, east London, were to strike this week against cuts, redundancies and worse conditions. The action was planned for Wednesday, the local budget day as well as Gordon Brown's.
Hundreds of sixth formers and other students greeted Tony Blair with a noisy protest against tuition fees outside the Welsh Labour Party conference in Swansea last week.
Trade Unionists at Basildon College in Essex have won a final victory over Basildon College Corporation, with the announcement of the resignation of the principal, Chris Chapman. He was responsible for creating a climate of bullying and intimidation. The resignation was the result of a determined struggle by students, trade unionists and local socialists.
Exeter, in the south west of England, is the kind of Middle England town so beloved of Tony Blair and New Labour. Labour won the seat from the Tories in 1997, with a swing of nearly 12 percent. Many cheered when Labour's Ben Bradshaw, who is openly gay, beat Tory bigot Adrian Rogers.
Carolyn Leckie is branch secretary for North Glasgow Hospitals UNISON union and the Scottish Socialist Party's health spokesperson. She is a single parent with two children and will be an SSP candidate in the general election:
Socialist Worker spoke to some of the people on last Saturday's demonstration against privatisation in Birmingham about why they're supporting the Socialist Alliance. STEVE GODWARD is the divisional secretary of the West Midlands Fire Brigades Union:
The other day I heard George Robertson, secretary general of NATO and British defence secretary during the 1999 Balkan War, say, "We didn't wage war over Kosovo in order to replace ethnic cleansing by Serbs with ethic cleansing by Albanians."
Guardian columnist Polly Toynbee spent 1,200 words last week attacking the Socialist Alliance. That she had to do so is a sign of the resonance the Socialist Alliance is getting among thousands of people. Toynbee is a staunch defender of New Labour, although she sometimes criticises aspects of its policies.