Dated: 27 Nov 1999
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THE GOVERNMENT set out major attacks on people's liberties in last week's Queen's Speech. They include abolishing, for some people, the centuries-old right to a jury trial, and extending catch-all "anti-terrorist" laws.
THOUSANDS OF students planned to hit the streets on Thursday for the National Union of Students (NUS) demonstration against tuition fees. Students at Sussex University had already scored a victory in their protest over fees on Wednesday of last week. Around 40 of them halted a society dinner hosted by Lord Attenborough by occupying the venue.
DEPUTY PRIME minister John Prescott unveiled plans in parliament last week to impose "congestion charges" on cars driving into Britain's cities. Under one plan up for consideration, for example, car drivers would be charged £5 a time to drive into London and then have to pay £2,000 a year to park in the city.
MANY OF Britain's major banks met in Harrogate on Tuesday to discuss plans to fleece people even more than they already do. Barclays was pushing for the banks in the Link network to charge people to withdraw cash from hole in the wall cash machines. People could have to pay a flat rate charge of between £1 and £2.50 simply for taking their own money out.
A NEW study has shown that global warming has had an even greater impact on the polar ice caps than was previously reckoned. A study of sonar data gathered by naval submarines showed that the Arctic ice cap has shrunk by almost 40 percent in the last few decades. Up to now satellite pictures have been used to measure the shrinkage. But the sonar soundings show that melting UNDER the ice caps is happening. The melting ice caps mean that sea levels will rise.
CHIEF EXECUTIVES of Britain's top companies have pay and bonus packages that on average are 94 times higher than their workforces', according to research by the Trades Union Congress. Another report found that some bosses think they are worth even more.
AN ASIAN teenager was badly injured when an axe was thrown through his car window in a racist attack in Oldham, Greater Manchester, last week. Eighteen year old Liaqet Ali suffered a broken jaw and lost several teeth after the car he was travelling in was cornered by a white gang in a Ford Escort.
PENSIONERS WERE due to hold protests across Britain on Wednesday this week. Last week pensioner activists held a mock Queen's Speech outside parliament to show their anger at government policies.
ON WEDNESDAY of last week 24 copies of Socialist Worker were sold on the picket line at Westbourne Park bus garage in west London. On Monday morning this week 9 papers were sold to striking BT call centre workers in Manchester, 8 in Cardiff, 6 in Glasgow and Sheffield, 5 in Liverpool and 3 in Brighton. 25 papers were sold at the PTA plant at Ford Dagenham with 9 more sold at the engine plant. And 62 were sold on workplace sales across Hackney in east London last week. They included 7 papers sold at Homerton Hospital, 4 at Upper Clapton post office, 3 at Shoreditch fire station, 3 at Paragon Road post office, 2 at Andrews Road council depot and 8 at Homerton School. Thanet's first industr
THOUSANDS OF postal workers across London are to vote on official strikes as management tries to cut costs over Christmas. The ballots will include almost all delivery workers and some drivers in the big distribution centres. The issues vary in different areas. They include:
THE BATTLE for the future of Glasgow's 80,000 council homes is hotting up. The city's Labour controlled council and the Scottish Parliament are split over how to transfer all the homes to private landlords. The council wants to sell all the stock to one company or a newly formed private housing association. It plans a ballot in November 2000 at the latest, with the transfer taking place in April 2001. However, the Scottish Executive is pressing for smaller transfers now.
RODDY Slorach, one of Scotland's leading trade unionists, has been expelled from his UNISON public sector workers' union. UNISON leaders have thrown Roddy out of the union for daring to stand up to New Labour. The move has caused outrage. A major campaign is under way to win Roddy's reinstatement. Roddy explained to Socialist Worker what happened:
OVER 400 people attended a one year anniversary rally for the Sky Chefs workers in west London last Saturday. Lufthansa Sky Chefs at Heathrow sacked the 270 workers last year for taking part in a legal one day strike. They have been fighting for reinstatement ever since.
WORKERS IN Hackney, east London, have scored a victory for equal pay. Two years ago 27 mainly young black workers were forced off the dole and into low paid jobs in the council under the government's New Deal scheme. They got jobs in refuse and street cleaning at £156 a week. This figure was well below that for other staff doing the same job.
SECRETARIES AND clerical workers at Manchester University struck on Tuesday of last week in a dispute over pay. Management had offered 3.5 percent but had set aside over 6.5 percent for a rise in the university's pay bill. The strike was solid, with over 40 people joining the UNISON union in the run up to the action.
OVER 700 workers from Birmingham City Council's housing department met on Tuesday of last week to discuss what to do about the imminent giveaway of council homes. Birmingham City Council is the biggest municipal landlord in Britain. The proposed transfer of all its 93,000 homes will "change the face of social housing in this country", according to Housing Today magazine.
OVER 150 electricians walked off the £214 million flagship Norfolk and Norwich PFI hospital for 36 hours on Thursday of last week. The unofficial action was supported by 50 labourers who refused to cross the picket line. The electricians are unhappy about the productivity bonus agreed by the bosses and the leadership of the electricians' union, the AEEU. More unofficial strikes are planned and an overtime ban has begun.
SOME 500 British Airways computer workers were shell shocked last week when management announced that their section is to be sold off to another firm. A mass meeting on Wednesday of this week was to discuss how to fight back.
"IT'S LIKE working in a slave galley." That was how one striker in Lancaster summed up the feelings of the 4,000 workers on strike at 37 BT call centres around Britain on Monday.
NEARLY 2,000 bus workers across west London struck for the day over pay on Monday this week. The action hit services in Greenford, Acton, Uxbridge, Orpington, Alperton and Westbourne Park. It was the workers' second official one day strike. Members of the TGWU also struck for the day on Wednesday of last week. The drivers and conductors work for a company called Centre West which is owned by First Group, Britain's largest bus operator.
FORD WORKERS are not happy with management's pay and hours offer. Mass meetings were to take place at many Ford plants across the country this week where consultatative ballots were to be held. Results were expected after Socialist Worker went to press.
MEMBERS OF the white collar MSF union in London are taking on New Labour, and their own union leadership, over the right to vote for Labour's candidate for mayor. At the union's London regional council meeting last Saturday nearly 50 delegates and over 30 visitors packed into a room to debate the Labour Party's refusal to allow MSF members to vote in the election.
ANGER EXPLODED last week at the news that energy company Scottish Power plans to axe 450 jobs, 250 of them in Scotland. At the same time the company announced profits of £1.3 million a day. Company boss Ian Robinson was paid £1.1 million last year. Even AEEU union leader Sir Ken Jackson, who talks of "partnership" between bosses and workers, was forced to slam the company. Scottish Power has tried to blame the job cuts on the power regulator demanding customer savings. In reality the cuts are part of a massive shake up in the industry.
CAPITALISM'S ELITE will meet in Seattle in the US next week. They will gather for the World Trade Organisation summit. Representatives of 134 countries are expected to hammer out even more favourable conditions for the multinationals. They say they just want "free trade". But on the agenda are proposals to:
POLICE DRENCHED the centre of the Greek capital, Athens, with teargas to disperse mass demonstrations against US president Bill Clinton on Friday of last week. Over 30,000 people battled to get near government buildings and the US embassy. They chanted anti-NATO slogans and denounced Clinton as the "Butcher of the Balkans" for ordering the bombing of Yugoslavia earlier this year.
SOME 9,000 protesters demonstrated outside the US Army School of the Americas at Fort Benning, Georgia, last Saturday. The school has been used by the US military to train brutal right wing death squads.
A RASH of strikes swept France last week, hitting national TV and radio stations as well as public transport in the country's three biggest cities. Car workers and postal workers also took action. The strikes come against the background of a continuing political radicalisation in France.
"The financial crisis in December 1998 led to the intervention of the International Monetary Fund. They insisted on more privatisation and on letting ailing businesses close. That led to soaring unemployment in a country which, although fully industrialised, has scarcely any welfare provision."
BORIS YELTSIN was hailed in the West as the slayer of the Stalinist regime that ruled Russia till 1991. But in Chechnya he has been acting as Stalin's heir, trying through indiscriminate bombardment to crush a people whom Stalin himself deported to Central Asia at the end of the Second World War.
LEST WE forget. Until Saturday it had not been a bad week as a postscript to the sleaze of the last Tory government. Corrupt right wing loony Neil Hamilton was trading abuse with Mohamed Al Fayed in court. The disgraced former Tory MP for Tatton was desperately trying to salvage a few bob and the remaining tatters of his reputation. Come Saturday, however, and the postscript was truly written. Jeffrey Archer had been found out. Or rather, Jeffrey Archer had been found out again.
THE MONEY collected for the Socialist Worker appeal has now reached £143,075.71. Workplace collections continue to come in. Workers at the London Fire Authority have now contributed £124. Other workplace collections include: Glasgow Council social work £47, TNT News Fast £15, Islington Green School £20, Wiltshire Mental Health £7, Holborn Housing £5, Greenwich council £4.50.
PRESSURE from trade unionists, Labour Party activists and Londoners has forced Blair to put Ken Livingstone's name onto the ballot paper for Labour's candidate for mayor of London. Blair knew that the London party would have split in two if he blocked Livingstone.
Used to replace others RAY IS 19 years old. He was homeless for a year but now has his own flat in Sheffield. He was offered a placement on the New Deal. Ray signed onto a computing skills course. He hoped that would enable him to get a job. But the reality did not match the hype:
"YOU Marxists believe in violent revolution," is a charge put by establishment politicians and mainstream newspapers. These people claim that, unlike Marxists, they stand for peace and non-violence. This is the utmost hypocrisy. Such people organise and cheer on the most barbaric violence when it is in their interests.
GEORGE MONBIOT is one of Britain's best known environmental campaigners. He writes a regular column in the Guardian and is writing a book due out next year on "the corporate takeover of Britain". Socialist Worker spoke to him in the run up to next week's protests against the World Trade Organisation.
"IF YOU defend yourself against a racist attacker, you get a life sentence like Satpal Ram. If you don't defend yourself, you end up six feet under like Stephen Lawrence." So said Lawrence family solicitor Imran Khan to a packed public meeting last week at the House of Commons called by the Free Satpal Ram Campaign.
IF YOU were born into a Catholic family, attended a Catholic school, were sent to mass every Sunday and lived in fear of the local priest then Eamonn McCann's new book on religion is the one for you. Conversely, if you were lucky enough to escape the Catholic church, then you'll also find Dear God a fascinating and funny read. Not being one of the lucky ones, I devoured McCann's book and by the end thought that he had penned it especially for me.
THIS WORKERS' banner (above) is from the period of the Russian Revolution of 1917. It is one of many fascinating items on show in the "Banners at Large" exhibition at The Pumphouse People's History Museum in Manchester until 30 January next year. The banner was sent from the textile workers of Moscow to the textile workers of Yorkshire in about 1920. It was brought to Britain by Maggie Jordan, a mill worker from Shipley.
THE FILM Fight Club has provoked much debate. It started even before it was released, when the British film censors decided two of the fight scenes had to be cut for being too graphic. The day I went along to see it an article appeared the Guardian praising the film as radical: "Thank god for Fight Club. It begins to challenge how we are manipulated, seduced, frightened and co-opted by politicians, advertisers and employers."
"IT'S LIKE George Orwell's 1984 in there. You can't even go to the toilet without someone in Coventry or London knowing where you're going and for how long." Those were the words of a BT call centre worker in Bristol who was out on strike on Monday along with over 4,000 call centre staff. Their fight is against bullying managers, understaffing and impossible work targets.
I want more than justice for Harry Stanley I WAS a friend of Harry Stanley. From time to time we did the things friends and neighbours do - chat in the street, have a drink together. Harry's murder by the police shook everyone. Harry wasn't an angel, but he wasn't a gangster either. He was a character, a family man, a grandad.
DON'T EXPECT your Xmas stocking to be filled up with goodies this year. Santa has been sacked and his elves are picketing in solidarity. The dispute started when Santa Robert Nisbert complained that his grotto in Bromley in Kent was too hot to work in. At first Santa's boss did put in air conditioning and provide some glasses of water. But when Robert again complained that it was too hot, they gave him the boot. They then sacked two of his elves on the pretext that they were just three minutes late.