Dated: 15 Sep 2001
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The full horror of the attacks in the US was breaking as Socialist Worker went to press. Very many innocent people had been killed or injured.
NEW LABOUR trade and industry secretary Patricia Hewitt went down like a lead balloon on the first day of the TUC conference in Brighton. Her whole speech was listened to in complete silence, even when she went out of her way to try to persuade delegates that she was "on their side". She got just a few seconds of polite applause at the end. There were sniggers from some delegates when she referred to "minor differences" with the trade unions.
TONY BLAIR claims the government will protect the jobs and conditions of workers in PFI privatisation schemes. He should tell that to the health workers at the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary. They are to be axed even before the flagship PFI hospital opens.
WOODFORD Green postal workers in east London came out from work last week to show their support for the demonstration in two week's time at Labour's conference.
"WE STRUCK without a ballot. And we won in five hours-not the five weeks it would have taken if we'd stuck with the anti-union laws." That is how one firefighter on Merseyside sums up the lessons of a magnificent walkout on Monday.
ENGINEERS AT Daimler Chrysler, the major Mercedes Benz garage in Edgware Road, west London, struck on two days last week against a new shift working system. After six months of negotiations the company has announced it will make the entire technician workforce redundant at the end of October in order to impose new contracts.
THOUSANDS OF lecturers in the NATFHE union could strike for two days in October in a dispute over pay. Around 42,000 lecturers are to be balloted on whether to accept a 3.7 percent offer from management.
SOME 30 people attended an excellent meeting of the Colombia Solidarity Campaign in London last Saturday. The focus of the campaign is opposition to the US-backed Plan Colombia, a military intervention in the South American country.
HUNDREDS OF Benefits Agency and Employment Service civil servants in the PCS union in south west London and Brent in west London are continuing their indefinite strike action. It is against management proposals to remove screens. The strikers all work in the government's new Pathfinder scheme.
ROSSINGTON miners, near Doncaster, are continuing their struggle over bonuses. The official strike is now starting its fifth week. The miners want the bonus to kick in when the pit has produced 17,500 tonnes a week. UK Coal has offered to pay it at 21,500 tonnes a week.
DEREK DOBBINS, Socialist Alliance candidate, gained 2.5 percent of the vote in a council by-election in Gloucester last week. The Scottish Socialist Party's Mary Ward won 5.3 percent of the vote in a council by-election in Dundee.
SOME 230 people demonstrated in Hereford on Saturday against the impact of a PFI scheme on the Hereford Hospitals Trust. Over half the protesters were health workers. "This is supposed to be Middle England," one told Socialist Worker. "But we are protesting because jobs and services are under threat due to privatisation.
STAFF AT the University of Birmingham surprised their bosses on Friday of last week by driving in convoy into Chancellor's Court, which is reserved for senior management. Once there they covered their cars with union banners and posters protesting against proposed car parking charges.
THE CRUNCH is coming over privatisation in the Post Office. This week the postal regulator, PostComm, was expected to announce that it was awarding licences to private company Hays DX for mail collection and delivery. Hays wants to operate in the business districts of London, Edinburgh and Manchester, cherry-picking mail that is easy to move.
GLASGOW Campaign to Defend Council Housing held a lobby of the Glasgow City Council meeting on Thursday of last week. Around 40 people attended the meeting.
BOTH the RMT and ASLEF rail unions are to ballot members on London Underground in a dispute over pay. London Underground Limited (LUL) has already rejected the report of an independent mediator. This recommended a miserly pay increase of 4 percent and talks on the other aspects of the unions' claim.
PLANS FOR major strikes against privatisation were given a boost on Monday, when over 500 UNISON members in Newcastle City Council voted for action. This will now trigger a one-day strike, probably on Friday 28 September, which could see up to 9,000 workers out across the city. The workers balloted are mainly staff in information technology and street lighting departments of the Labour-run council.
PRODUCTION workers at the Royal Shakespeare Company are to strike this weekend over redundancies. The dispute will threaten disruption to performances in Stratford-upon-Avon, says the BECTU union.
Hundreds of pupils as young as five struck for the whole day on Wednesday of last week at Hornchurch School in Essex against the siting of a mobile phone mast yards from the school
BAYING LOYALIST mobs on the one side. Catholic parents escorting girls as young as four to primary school on the other. The images from Holy Cross School in north Belfast should convince anyone that the sectarian divide in Northern Ireland is not about an even split between two antagonistic "communities".
JACK STRAW, as home secretary in the last government, personally stepped in to ensure that Satpal Ram, an innocent man, remained behind bars. Satpal was racially attacked in an Indian restaurant in 1986. Satpal defended himself, and his attacker later died.
TGWU UNION leader Bill Morris has added his voice to calls by anti-Nazis for the BBC and media to stop giving airtime to the BNP. Morris plans to write to the BBC slamming it for "becoming the house journal for the BNP. BNP leader Nick Griffin is on Radio 4 more than the prime minister. "The BBC is lending a hand in legitimising racism."
TRADE UNION leaders this week expressed what millions of workers in Britain feel-anger at Tony Blair's drive to privatise public services. New Labour ministers were making noises designed to head off this growing opposition. But Blair has made clear he still plans to press ahead. The only thing that will stop him is action.
TENS OF thousands of Italian activists are heading to Naples in the south of Italy two days before the Washington events to protest against a NATO summit. The authorities' fear of the protests means that the summit has been moved to an air force base six miles outside the city. Despite the police repression in Genoa, activists are determined to keep up the pressure on Italy's right wing government.
"TENS OF thousands of people plan to turn the nation's capital into a melting pot of dissent." That is how the Washington Post describes the anti-capitalist mobilisation set for Washington DC in the US in two weeks time. "We are planning large scale, well organised, high visibility actions to protest at the IMF/World Bank meetings on 29-30 September," says the Movement for Global Justice, one of the leading groups behind the protest.
SURPRISE AND, at least initially, euphoria greeted the agreement on Zimbabwe's future that was struck last week in Abuja, Nigeria. President Robert Mugabe's government quite unexpectedly agreed that it would stop illegal seizures of white-owned land.
HUNDREDS OF Albanian football supporters travelling to watch their team play England in a World Cup qualifier were banned from entering the UK last week. Were these football hooligans intent on causing trouble? No.
THE NEED for a socialist paper has rarely been greater. That's why we are asking our readers to help raise £200,000. The growing anti-capitalist movement is worrying apologists for the system. Bitterness at Labour's second term is boiling over. There is sudden panic about a possible economic slowdown.
"ONE BY one, economies around the world are stumbling," warned the normally enthusiastically pro-market Economist magazine this week. Most serious commentators now fear that the world is heading for a major slump.
Britain has one of the highest levels of mixed race relationships in the Western world. The number of mixed race people is growing. Half of "Caribbean" children have one white parent. According to the 1991 census, mixed race people formed 10 percent of the black population.
UNREPORTED World is an interesting new TV documentary series starting this week. Unreported World's aim is to "highlight the effects of globalisation on the world". It shows footage that you don't normally get to see.
THE SPEECHES by union leaders at and around the TUC this week were among the angriest and most confrontational ever under a Labour government. It was not an industrial issue like wages or a single piece of legislation like a proposed anti-union law which was in the spotlight. It was the whole relationship between trade unions and New Labour.
THE DEVASTATING attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon in the US have seen politicians and press unite to denounce those responsible as "evil terrorists" with no regard for "the sanctity of human life".
Workers fight the BNP in Oldham WE MET last week to launch Oldham Trade Unionists Against Racism and Fascism. Around 20 people, mostly local union reps and shop stewards from a range of unions including MSF, AEEU, UNISON, NUT, PCS and others, attended our inaugural meeting.
ALMOST ALL media commentators now agree that the world, including Britain, is heading for a sharp recession. Only the most barmy of pro-capitalist pundits dare deny that the recession Socialist Worker has warned of over recent months is gathering pace. "Hi-Tech Industries In Meltdown", "Output Falls At Its Fastest Rate For A Decade", "Fear Grips Investors" were just some of the headlines last week. All New Labour's talk of "no more boom and bust" has evaporated as quickly as Marconi's share price.
SOME PRIVATE companies working most closely with New Labour to privatise public services have found themselves in the dock recently. Carillion (formerly called Tarmac) is a leading business backer of New Labour. It gives money to the New Local Government Network. Carillion's staff have been seconded to government departments to "advise" on privatisation.