Dated: 20 Nov 1999
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Rotten stitch up over London Mayor.
DISABLED WORKERS at Remploy, the government funded company which employs disabled people, are furious that the company has trashed its promise not to close nine factories. Remploy chief Tony Withey said last week that the company will cut 913 manufacturing jobs over the next two years. This is on top of reviving old plans to shut or merge nine of Remploy's 87 factories, causing "disruption and anxiety" for at least 500 workers.
ONE OF Scotland's leading trade unionists has been expelled from his union. Roddy Slorach was thrown out of the UNISON union on Tuesday by union leaders who often claim to oppose New Labour policies. UNISON leader Rodney Bickerstaffe appears on TV attacking cuts in the public sector. The hollowness of that rhetoric is shown by his appalling treatment of Roddy.
HOME secretary Jack Straw has once more caved in to the racists over immigration. He has added still more vicious measures against asylum seekers to the Immigration and Asylum Bill, which will shortly become law. Virtually all the groups that work with asylum seekers have described measures in the bill as barbaric.
MPs TAKE home more money than 96 percent of their voters, according to research by Incomes Data Services (IDS). They now get a basic salary of over £47,000 a year, or £902 a week before tax. Most people earn between £180 and £400 a week. You get £144 for a 40 hour week - less than one sixth of an MP's earnings - if you are on the minimum wage.
TWO LEADING banks announced last week that they were sacking hundreds of workers. Shares in both Barclays and Northern Rock shot up on news of the job cuts. Some 250 Northern Rock workers and 500 Barclays workers face the misery and fear of unemployment in the run up to Xmas. Shareholders will get an Xmas bonus. In the same week Britain's fifth biggest supermarket, Somerfield, said it will sell 100 to 140 of its larger shops. It has already hived off 350 Kwik Save stores.
THE NATIONAL Health Service faces crisis this winter. Finance directors say the NHS deficit for this year is already £200 million. The total NHS debt is up to £1 billion. This means that operations are likely to be cut back as hospitals try and balance the books.
"I DON'T know much about politics. But I do know that New Labour has spent the £130 million it got from introducing student fees on underwriting arms sales to Indonesia." That is one reason Oxford University student Oliver Clueit gave Socialist Worker for why he had joined a four day occupation of one of the university's central administration buildings.
"I WAS a gardener for Greenwich council for 12 years. But I had a nervous breakdown and took redundancy. My redundancy went on the mortgage until it ran out. Then I just lost everything. They repossessed my home. My girlfriend left me. Everything went down the drain. I stayed with my parents for a while but it didn't work out. I've been homeless on and off for four years now. They attack us for taking drugs. I take drugs sometimes because it blocks it all out. Everything just gets too much." TONY, Big Issue seller, Charing Cross station
SOME 50,000 people marched in Vienna in Austria on Friday of last week in protest at the Nazi Jörg Haider. It was one of the country's biggest political demonstrations since the Second World War.
AN EXCELLENT 25 copies of Socialist Worker were sold at Royal Alexandra Hospital in Paisley while 12 were sold at Glasgow Royal Infirmary. Elsewhere 11 papers were sold at Royal Liverpool Hospital with £11 collected for the Socialist Worker Appeal. In the last week 5 people have joined the Socialist Workers Party in Birmingham; 4 at a public meeting in Hackney; 2 in Camberwell and at the University of Central England; 1 in Neath, Romford, Kent University, Toxteth, Wirral Metropolitan College and in Newcastle.
HEALTH WORKERS in UNISON, the biggest union in the NHS, have been dismayed by the decision of union leaders to call off a ballot for industrial action. The union called the ballot in protest at the lousy 3 percent pay deal offered to cleaners, porters, and admin and clerical, and ambulance workers. Yet within days union leaders called off the vote - even though not a penny extra pay had been offered to some of the most poorly paid workers in the NHS.
THOUSANDS of BT call centre workers are set to strike on Monday. If the action goes ahead it will be the first national action in BT for 13 years. It comes after BT announced record profits last week, up by 9 percent in the last three months to a staggering £137 a second.
THE NEW readiness of management to attack workers in the Post Office and the new mood of resistance continue. Among the unofficial walkouts last week were:
ENVIRONMENTAL protesters have scored a success against a huge multinational company. The ex-mining village of Killamarsh, on the edge of Sheffield, has been plagued by chemical leaks from a SARP chemical plant since last May. A 150 foot high incinerator chimney has been belching out gas over nearby houses, schools and a nature reserve. Residents set up an opposition group, RASP (Residents Against SARP Pollution), which has campaigned 24 hours a day. They have picketed the plant and demonstrated in Paris, Brussels, and in Derbyshire County Council meetings.
SECRETARIAL and clerical workers at Manchester University were due to be out on strike on Tuesday in a dispute over pay. Staff have demanded an improvement on the 3.5 percent which was foisted on them in their September pay packets. The university has one of the highest proportions of low paid clerical staff in the country.
BOB CROW narrowly won re-election as RMT assistant general secretary last week. The RMT is Britain's biggest rail union. Crow polled 7,137 votes, against 6,795 for Watford based signal technician Mick Cash. Cash is a Labour councillor and was backed by the right wing in the union.
THE NATIONAL executive of the MSF union suspended three leading lay officers of the London Regional Council of the union last Saturday. MSF members in London have been excluded from voting for the Labour candidate for mayor of London. Instead of denouncing the Labour Party leadership for ignoring democracy, the union leadership is trying to place the blame on the left wing London MSF leadership.
RESISTANCE TO the ravages of the global market hit Warwick University on Tuesday of last week. The university had invited Nestlé executives to a graduate recruitment fair. Socialist Worker Student Society, People and Planet and others united to demonstrate against the multinational. Nestlé has been exposed by The Mark Thomas Product for its mislabelling of baby milk to African mothers. The United Nations believes this has resulted in over a million unnecessary deaths.
FOLLOWING A successful campaign against the Education Action Zone in Hackney, east London, eleven schools have pulled out of the scheme. After an indicative vote among the remaining schools in the EAZ, the National Union of Teachers is now looking to ballot two schools - Kingsland and William Patten - for industrial action.
BOSSES AT Ford motors have been forced to improve their pay and conditions offer to 28,000 workers across Britain. Union leaders hailed the agreement as "inflation busting" and are reccommending that workers accept the package. But Ford workers should reject the new offer.
"WE SUPPORT the sick and lonely. Sefton think of money only!" chanted over 100 home carers as they paraded through the main shopping streets of Southport, Merseyside, last Saturday. The march was in protest at Sefton council's decision to privatise the home care service and close four residential homes. This will put 408 jobs at risk.
MEETINGS ARE beginning to take place around the country to organise support for Roger Bannister's campaign in the election for general secretary of the UNISON public sector workers' union. Bannister is mounting a socialist challenge to Dave Prentis, the candidate backed by the union's existing leaders.
A GROUP of building workers have been picketing the Laing site off Trafalgar Square in central London. The workers, five bricklayers, had raised questions about conditions on the site. Soon afterwards their employer, Avondale, told the bricklayers there was no further work for them.
AN ANTI-racist demonstration has been called in Plymouth in support of black rugby player Carl Egonu. Carl faces jail for defending himself against violence during a rugby game.
GAS WORKERS at key North Sea underwater storage facilities are planning industrial action over pay. Technicians in the MSF union working at BG offshore storage facilities voted by 96 percent to take action.
AROUND 30 people met last week in Cambridge to organise a campaign against the opening of an internment camp for asylum seekers in nearby Oakington.
UP TO 100 members of the PCS civil service union attended a lunchtime rally over pay on Friday of last week. They gathered outside deputy prime minister John Prescott's office at the Department of the Environment, Transport and Regions (DETR). PCS members in the DETR have had a pay deal imposed on them after rejecting it in a ballot. The dispute is not just about the small amount of money on offer, but also over Performance Related Pay, which has been shown to discriminate against black staff and people with disabilities.
THE TROUBLES at British Airways have drawn attention away from the problems faced by BAA - the airport operator. A profits fall has led to cost cutting. The company says it may be looking for compulsory redundancies. There is no need for this immensely profitable company to make people redundant. BAA is still looking at projected profits of £306 million. The unions need to be challenging the company.
A WORKER at a non-union west London call centre has been suspended following a 45 minute stoppage by some 70 workers. Clarence Jackman works at the British Market Research Bureau (BMRB) in Ealing, west London. Last Friday dozens of workers stopped work in protest at bad working conditions. The next day Clarence, an MSF member, was summoned to a meeting by management but was refused union representation by the firm, which does not recognise the union. He has now been suspended and is looking to the union to take up his case.
A MASS picket caused a three mile traffic tailback outside a Scottish Highlands oil rig fabrication yard last week. Some 150 workers employed by subcontractor Palmers downed tools and blockaded the entrance of the Barmac yard at Nigg in Easter Ross. The walkout was sparked by the death in a road accident of a 63 year old scaffolder, James Maclennan, while travelling from work late at night. Workers want shift times changed so that they do not have to set off for long journeys home in the dark.
The threat of mass demonstrations forced US president Bill Clinton to postpone his planned visit to Greece last week. That Clinton did not dare spend two days in Athens is an inspiration to everyone who opposes the US military bullying its way around the world. In a humiliating address to people in Greece, Clinton conceded that the threat of protests had kept him away.
Some 6,000 nurses, two thirds of the national total, began a strike in Zimbabwe last week. This came a few days after striking doctors went back to work, victorious after a long strike. The striking nurses are demanding better pay after doctors won their fight for better pay and conditions for staff and patients.
RUSSIA IS pursuing a brutal and relentless war in Chechnya, deliberately copying the tactics used by NATO to devastate the Balkans. Last weekend Russian leaders ordered the entire population of Grozny, the Chechen capital, to leave the city. The military is ready to destroy the entire city. The evacuation of the city will add tens of thousands of refugees to the 300,000 already fleeing the fighting.
PARENTS ARE deluged with advice and demands. They are supposed to read with their child, make sure they are not on the streets, surround them with a "stimulating environment", and lavish them with time, energy and smiles. Yet at the same time the government and the "experts" bombard parents with demands for "flexibility" and "making yourself available for employment".
THE MONEY collected for the Socialist Worker appeal has now reached £136,380.62. In the last week we received donations from many workplace collections, including: £4 from Jaguar in Solihull, £10 from Blackburn College, £14.98 from De la Rue Printers in High Wycombe, £17 from UCLH hospitals, £18 from Frenchay Hospital in Bristol, £23.50 from Oxford City Council workers, £25 from Kirklees housing workers, £27 from Newcastle General Hospital, £40 amongst Huddersfield postal workers, £80 from BT workers in Bristol St Pauls, £5 from Rolls Royce workers in Bristol, £6 from Sheffield Southey Green housing association, £10 outside Manchester Royal Infirmary and £16 at a Sheffield Trades Council
THOUSANDS OF people are set to demonstrate over the next two weeks against student poverty and the World Trade Organisation's plans to squeeze the world's poorest people. Socialist Worker reports on a demonstration against Third World Debt and looks forward to the other protests.
PROTESTS ARE to take place across Britain on Tuesday 30 November as part of a show of worldwide opposition to the World Trade Organisation (WTO). The WTO is made up of trade ministers from 134 countries who are due to meet in Seattle in the US.
THERE IS only a week to go to the national demonstration against student hardship, on Thursday 25 November. It is set to be a brilliant show of opposition to New Labour's tuition fees and for the return of student grants. There is stacks of enthusiasm for the demonstration, but not much time left to ensure there is the biggest turnout possible.
"WE HAD no other option but to strike. We just couldn't go on being ground into the dirt." That was how Essex bus driver Roger Martin explained why workers at Eastern National went on strike over pay. The company is owned by FirstGroup, Britain's biggest bus operator.
DOES FREE trade benefit rich and poor alike? A few thousand rich and powerful individuals will be pumping out the message that it does as they meet in Seattle for the World Trade Organisation talks this month.
SOCIALIST Worker editor Chris Harman opened the conference with a session on the "New World Disorder". He argued that the starting point for socialists is the huge political and economic instability across the globe. "People should cast their minds back ten years to the euphoria of the ruling class at the time of the fall of the Berlin Wall," Chris said.
CHRIS BAMBERY talked about how a series of political issues have exploded over the past few months in Britain. This has exposed the bitterness against New Labour amongst two groups of people. "The first group would describe themselves as 'Old Labour' or centre left, but are now hostile to Tony Blair," he said. "The second group see themselves as anti-capitalist."
"TELL HER to come down here and spend just one night. That's all I can say. And let me have her house for a night." Those are the words of Ian, who is 18 and homeless, in response to the government's so called "homelessness tsar", Louise Casey. New Labour is not content with attacking disabled people, those on benefits, asylum seekers and "squeegee merchants".
THE "Global Climate Coalition" and the "Global Climate Council" sound like environmental lobby groups. They were launched in the late 1980s as the threat posed by global warming became clear. A new book by former oil industry consultant Jeremy Leggett exposes how these bodies were fronts for the world's biggest polluters. Their horrifying aim was to fight to prevent serious action on climate change.
THE NEW Ang Lee film Ride With the Devil is about the American Civil War. It brings the issues alive. William Sherman, a leading general in the war, once said it was not simply a war between armies, but also between hostile peoples. He was right. The American Civil War split the country apart.
"THE CORPORATE giants are tuning into Britain's thriving dance market." That is what the Sunday Business newspaper declared last month. This will come as no surprise to hundreds of thousands of young people. I once queued for hours in the rain at a Tribal Gathering rave in 1996. When I got to the entrance I handed over my £25 ticket. All my food and water was taken off me to ensure I entered the rave arena ready to spend money.
MANY PEOPLE might have expected politics to be winding down in the run up to Xmas and the millennium celebrations. But the opposite is true. New Labour's pro-business and anti working class policies have led to an outburst of anger. It was set to announce more reactionary measures in the Queen's Speech on Wednesday.
ORDINARY PEOPLE in Northern Ireland will be hoping for an end to the war which has blighted their lives as politicians continued to haggle over a peace deal this week. We did not know the final outcome of the talks as Socialist Worker went to press. But even if a deal is struck, the struggle for a better future for working class people is far from over.
FRANK YARDLEY, a longstanding socialist and trade union activist, died aged 80 on 4 November after a long illness. He was a member of the MSF union and a delegate to Middlesbrough Trades Council. Frank remained a committed Christian, but became a Marxist, joining the Independent Labour Party in the 1930s. He joined the International Socialists, the forerunner of the Socialist Workers party, in 1972. He remained a member of the party until it became impossible for him to do any further activity.
Socialist Worker is a superb paper. It is so strong on foreign affairs and feedback from workers. I work as a hotel porter and sell all the mainstream papers. The Daily Telegraph is handed out free there. I like some of their obituaries, and some of yours too – particularly Lord Denning's.
NATO HAS admitted that the murder rate in Kosovo now is exactly the same as it was in the run up to it launching war earlier this year. NATO leaders justified their war by pointing to the murder of ethnic Albanians in the months before air strikes began in March. Some 15 to 20 people a week were being killed then, according to NATO. It now admits that the same number are still being killed each week in Kosovo, many of them ethnic Serbs and Roma Gypsies.