Dated: 13 Nov 1999
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GORDON BROWN handed Britain's biggest companies a huge incentive to carry on wrecking the Earth this week. Everyone sensible knows that action is needed over global warming. But, after intense pressure from the bosses, Brown has driven policy in completely the opposite direction.
WORKERS AT sock makers Pex in Leicestershire have won some of their demands after a 12 day picket at the Earl Shilton plant. Pex bosses wanted to shut the plant down leaving many workers without pay owed to them. The workers' protest saw administrators appointed by the high court to take control. The workers hope this will mean getting some of the money due to them.
INDUSTRIAL action could be hitting ITN soon, after workers voted at a mass meeting last week to be balloted. Any action could disrupt news programmes on ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5.
AROUND 300 students demonstrated at the University of Kent's Canterbury campus on Monday. College management want to cut the portering service, which would threaten safety on campus. Students had already protested on Friday of last week. On Monday students marched around campus rallying support and then rallied outside a management meeting discussing the cuts. "If they're not going to listen we're going to have to occupy," said one student.
PENSIONERS ARE planning to protest across Britain on Wednesday 24 November. A variety of events, ranging from displaying placards on buses, to sit downs in town centres, to blockading roads, are expected to take place.
UNIVERSITY lecturers who are members of NATFHE in the new universities met at a special pay conference last Saturday. They reluctantly voted to accept the vice-chancellors' 3.5 percent pay offer. There was criticism of union leaders for the lack of a proper fighting campaign. Not one day of action was called by NATFHE during the whole pay dispute. Delegates were vehemently opposed to the introduction of performance related pay and "job evaluation" schemes.
JOURNALISTS IN the NUJ union at the Observer have voted for a strike over pay. The 34 to 15 strike vote is over Observer journalists being offered a lower pay rise than those at their sister paper the Guardian. Guardian staff have been offered 3.5 percent, while Observer staff are being offered just 2.4 percent.
"PRO-enterprise, pro-competition" is how chancellor Gordon Brown summed up his policy on Tuesday. The pre-budget statement handed millions more to the rich, while ignoring the needs of the many. Brown told "entrepreneurs" that he was slashing the capital gains tax on buying and selling business assets and shares from 40 to 10 percent. Bosses at the British Venture Capital Association were delighted, and hailed "a massive step in the right direction".
BROWN'S SPEECH on Tuesday gave a glowing account of the British economy. That's not how it seems to thousands of workers across Britain who learned in the last week that they face the dole.
POOR SALES of tickets for the Millennium Dome have led the government to bung the private company running it £50 million in public subsidy to cover "cash flow difficulties". The New Millennium Experience Company, the Dome's organiser, has spent £4 million on an advertising campaign to try and boost ticket sales. Prices are set at £20 for an adult and £57 for a family. But after two months not a single date, including the prestigious 1 January, has been sold out.
THE GOVERNMENT announced last week that there is to be a three year pause in the commercial growing of genetically modified (GM) crops. This climbdown follows the public outcry at the health risks and environmental dangers GM crops pose. The three year pause is welcome, but not nearly long enough to determine the long term damage GM crops can cause.
NEW LABOUR risks a fresh epidemic of food poisoning and BSE if it goes ahead with plans to axe official inspections in abattoirs. The recommendations come from a body set up by Nick Brown's Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. It suggests slaughterhouse bosses, not independent inspectors, should have greater responsibility in checking hygiene standards.
THE government claims it won't sell arms to countries if there is a "clearly identifiable risk they might be used for internal repression". That sounds like a sick joke in the light of new figures on the 10,000 arms export licences approved in 1998.
The Ministry of Defence is planning to target young offenders aged 16 to 18 as new recruits for the army. A pilot scheme will be set up in prisons in Wetherby in West Yorkshire and Dover, Kent. The scheme could go nationwide.
TEN YEARS ago this week many thousands of people reduced the Berlin Wall to rubble. They breached the divide which rulers East and West had maintained throughout the Cold War. They were reacting against the repressive regimes across Eastern Europe which they were told were socialist.
"THE WORLD is screwed and we've got to do something about it." That is what Sam from Derby University said last weekend. He summarised the feelings of about 1,000 students who gathered for People and Planet's "Shared Planet" conference at Warwick University.
THE HABINTEG Housing Association, whose main office is in central London, has agreed in principle to recognise the MSF union as a negotiating body. This follows a recruitment drive in which 27 staff - 50 percent of the workforce - have joined the MSF over the last six months.
THE NATIONAL Union of Teachers is calling on teachers to organise a week of protests, beginning on 29 November, against the government's plan to impose a performance related pay system. Activities are to be aimed at winning arguments with other teaching unions, parents, governors and MPs, but they will not include the one day strike agreed at the last annual conference. The union's general secretary, Doug McAvoy, announced this action when he spoke to 130 union branch secretaries last week.
"LOOK AT us. I feel like I am homeless. We look so poor sitting here in all the cold weather." They are the bitter words of one of the Sky Chefs workers at Heathrow airport who have been on the picket line for nearly a year after being sacked for taking a legal one day strike.
AT MORE and more workplaces Socialist Worker sellers are regularly selling on a Thursday or Friday morning. In Peckham in south London 14 papers were sold on 3 workplace sales, with 5 sold at both Jets stationers and Bournemouth Road council offices, plus 4 at Frensham Street DLO. Elsewhere in south London 7 papers were sold at both King's College Hospital and Southwark's education department building, plus 5 at Wandsworth housing department. Central London workplace sales included 5 at both Camden Town Hall and Mount Pleasant post office, plus 4 at BBC Bush House. Meanwhile in Leeds 9 papers were sold at both the Yorkshire Evening Post and Castle House Inland Revenue office, plus 8 at
HUNDREDS OF people joined a march and rally over rail safety in central London last Saturday. The protest was called by the Safety on the Trains Action Group, which includes families of those who died in the Southall and Paddington rail crashes, and was supported by the RMT, ASLEF and TSSA rail unions. Among the speakers was Mick Rix, general secretary of ASLEF, who threatened industrial action unless the government moves to bring in the ATP safety system which could have prevented both Southall and Paddington.
"IT'S A war in there." They were the angry words of a Ford Dagenham worker this week as the giant plant in Essex was again hit by strike action.
There is a new mood of resistance in the Post Office, with the level of struggle rising. Many of the disputes are centred on the actions of bullying managers. Last week there were at least six unofficial strikes - and workers won clearly in most of them.
TYNESIDE shipyard workers won a swift victory by walking out over safety last week. The walkout began when two workers at the Cammell Laird yard in Hebburn on the south bank of the Tyne complained over procedures for dealing with asbestos. They were working on a giant refitting of the Edinburgh Castle cruise line, a job which has seen the yard's workforce swell to its biggest number for 18 years.
BUS WORKERS in Essex staged their second one day strike over pay on Friday of last week. The strikes are the first for 29 years at Eastern National, now owned by the giant First Bus outfit. The action shut depots in towns across Essex, including Colchester, Chelmsford, Bishop's Stortford, Braintree and elsewhere.
WORKERS IN the Inland Revenue took action which crashed the entire national tax computer system last Friday. The workers, members of the PCS union, staged what they dubbed a "Flexi-Protest Day". This meant all workers sticking to their core hours of 10am to 4pm with a half hour lunch break. In Leeds over 200 staff marched into the Castle House office at 10am.
RIGHT WING forces celebrated last weekend as they heard the result of the Australian referendum on whether the queen should remain the country's head of state. Australian voters narrowly rejected a proposal to establish a republic, headed by a president, by 54 to 46 percent. In Britain the vote was enough to convince many of Prince Charles's advisers that he can look forward to renewed public support in this country if he becomes king.
Doctors in Zimbabwe, southern Africa, have won big concessions from the government after a strike lasting over a month. They fought not only for better pay, but also for better patient care. Zimbabwe's health service is in crisis. The government's pro-market policies and its attempts to cut back on welfare mean the most basic equipment is in short supply.
JUST OVER a year ago the world economy found itself standing at the edge of an abyss. The Russian crash of August 1998, coming in the wake of the Asian economic crisis, sent global financial markets into panic.
PAKISTANI GEORGE "Genghis" Khan wants his children to make him proud. They should be proper Muslims and have their marriages arranged by their father. It's tradition - anything less would bring shame upon them all. His kids have other ideas. So begins East is East, a hilarious British film about the culture clash between first and second generation immigrants, set in Salford in the 1970s.
"IT'S A victory for us." Those were the first words of Sukhdev Reel on Monday after a west London inquest jury took just 50 minutes to return an "open verdict" into the death of her son Ricky.
SOCIALIST WORKER'S appeal burst through the £100,000 mark this week. Now the total has reached £114,448.51. The money we received included £365 raised from a walk by 50 people around London's East End through the sites of great working class struggles like the Match Girls' strike in 1888. A walking tour round Manchester raised £214.
CATACLYSMIC NEW evidence of the threat of global warming emerged last week. As government ministers from across the world met to discuss the issue in Germany, scientists warned that global temperatures could rise faster than at any time in Earth's history.
"WE ALL sit in row after row. You have to log in and log out, even for your 15 minute coffee break. It's exactly like clocking in at a factory." That's the reality of life on the white collar production line, according to a woman worker at Avis UK's call centre in Bracknell in Berkshire.
THERE IS no doubt about it: radical solutions are necessary to solve the problems facing the globe. The prospect of nuclear war hangs over our heads. Environmental destruction continues apace, as does the devastation of the Third World. Protests are good. Protests have succeeded, for example, in forcing the government to delay the commercial growing of GM crops in Britain. But a succession of protests, even if big and angry, are still not enough to radically alter the balance of power across the world. To do that we need to expropriate those with power.
POSTAL WORKERS face a big new threat which could hit wages and conditions and point the way towards privatisation. They will be pushed towards competing with courier firms to shift goods for supermarkets and other big stores. Some local managers have even suggested pizza deliveries and milk rounds. The attacks are a direct result of a bosses' plan called Shaping for Competitive Success (SCS) which fits perfectly with New Labour's vision for the Post Office. Stephen Byers, the trade secretary, may not dare to say the government will privatise the post. But the government stresses that the market has to be brought into the postal service, which workers will be made to pay for.
THE SCOTTISH Socialist Party's "Socialism 2000" conference took place in Glasgow last weekend against the background of growing dissatisfaction with the Scottish Parliament's failure to deliver change. That desire for change translated into a huge vote for the left at the parliament's first elections last May. Some 100,000 people across Scotland voted for socialist candidates in the elections. Scottish Socialist Party member Tommy Sheridan was elected to the Scottish Parliament.
LABOUR LEADERS are to announce next Tuesday who will be allowed to stand in the vote to decide the party's candidate for London mayor. They have still not said whether they will allow Ken Livingstone to be on the ballot paper. Party leaders could even be set to bar Livingstone from standing to become Labour's candidate, according to a report in the Observer last Sunday.
There is something slightly satisfying about reading a history of the whole world. You find yourself thinking, "While I'm waiting for the kettle to boil, I can do the 11th century." A five stop train journey can get you through the decline of the Roman Empire and a bit of the Crusades (with a bit of concentration).
Glasgow's dustcart workers went on strike in June 1975. As they fought for parity of pay with other HGV drivers 60,000 tons of rubbish built up. The new film Ratcatcher is set in the slum tenements of Glasgow during the strike. James, a young boy, ekes out a miserable existence. His home is an overcrowded slum. His family has no money. He accidentally drowns his friend and has to watch his family mourn.
All The King's Men is a fictionalised retelling of the Sandringham Brigade, which went missing at the Battle of Gallipoli in the First World War. The battalion was raised from among the servants and day labourers of the Sandringham estate of Queen Alexandra (played by Maggie Smith). The green soldiers are swept away with the enthusiasm for war under the command of the queen's upright yet naive estate manager (David Jason). Her 14 year old footboy lies about his age to enlist, while the one objector is set upon by a patriotic mob.
How Ford has caused divide The problems highlighted by the Sukhjit Parma case at Ford Dagenham began in the 1.8 Diesel Assembly area when group leaders were introduced in around 1994. In each area hourly paid workers were asked to apply for positions in their departments as group leaders who were to be paid 10 percent extra for assisting the foremen.
"TERRORIST LINK as 217 Killed In Jet Disaster" was the headline in the Sun the day after EgyptAir's plane plunged into the sea. Much of the press immediately assumed shadowy bombers were to blame for the tragedy. You had to search much further to find out some interesting facts.