Dated: 01 May 2004
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A SCROUNGER and a criminal sneaks into another country to escape justice. Doesn't that sound like the sort of case the anti-refugee press love to splash on the front page? Except it is the Tory Dame Shirley Porter, heiress to the Tesco empire. Porter was the leader of the Tories' flagship Westminster council in the 1980s. Porter, along with nine other councillors, was found guilty of selling off council houses in marginal wards to potential Tory voters. The scheme cost £42 million. She was supposed to pay every penny of that back.
THE BRITISH National Party's attempt to hold a fundraising event with the French Nazi leader Jean-Marie Le Pen spectacularly backfired last Sunday. A campaign organised by Unite Against Fascism trashed any hope the BNP had of favourable press coverage for their \"respectable\" black-tie dinner with Le Pen.
RESPECT CAMPAIGNERS in the West Midlands are having a big impact in the local media. They have shown Respect supporters everywhere how to get the message across. The Birmingham Post is the city's daily morning newspaper. The paper was forced to publish a letter by two leading Respect candidates in the West Midlands, John Rees and Salma Yaqoob, on Thursday of last week.
SCHOOLS, LIBRARIES and offices in Newham, east London, were closed on Thursday of last week as members of Unison struck to defend their union. The one-day strike is the first blow in a campaign to force the council to recognise our democratic right to be represented by the union officers we elect, to decide what we put in our newsletters and to defend facility time.
AS OPPOSITION mounts to the presence of troops in Iraq last Saturday's national council of the Stop the War Coalition decided to focus campaigning energies on opposing the continuing occupation. Some 65 representatives from local groups, who met in Birmingham, decided the following:
WHAT A caring employer! Managers pushed the single delivery through in my office in three weeks using staff taking early voluntary redundancy to help train people. After two weeks these staff were told that they could go. There was no send off, no invitation to meet up in a pub or anything for people with up to 40 years service.
GLOBALISE Resistance, the anti-capitalist network, held its annual conference in London last Saturday. The discussion was dominated by preparations for two important mobilisations. In October the European Social Forum (ESF)-a gathering of tens of thousands of anti-capitalists, trade unionists and campaigners-will be hosted in London.
FIREFIGHTERS in Tower Hamlets, east London, have voted 122 to 21 on a 55 percent turnout for action to stop them being used as a replacement ambulance service. They voted to boycott training on the use of defibrillator machines, which management want to impose not to help the public, but to get firefighters doing paramedics' jobs. Local GP and Respect supporter Kambiz Boomla explained to an 80-strong FBU meeting last week how international studies have shown no benefit for heart attack victims from such \"co-responder\" schemes.
AVIANCE, THE airport handling company, suspended the TGWU union convenor and sacked four workers at Gatwick airport in March in response to unofficial action. The TGWU union got an agreement at an employment appeal tribunal to lift the suspension on the convenor and reinstate the sacked workers.
OVER 30 representatives of trade unions, political parties and campaign groups met on Thursday of last week in Swansea to plan the local launch of Unite Against Fascism.
SOME 750 RMT members on South Central trains started a ballot on Tuesday of this week for action over casualisation. The workers are angry at the company's attempt to introduce agency staff at £2,000 a year less than full time revenue protection officers.
HEALTH WORKERS in the Unison union assembled in Glasgow on Monday for the union's health sector conference. It discussed issues that could lead to a major confrontation with the government in the autumn.
OVER 1,000 workers in Scotland and Lancashire walked out unofficially last week in response to management's suspension of PCS civil servants' union activists. Management also suspended four PCS members in Leeds on Monday of this week. Some 500 workers in two offices, Hume House and Park place, walked out. Eight offices in East London walked out unofficially on Tuesday of this week after managment suspended Nigel Prendergast, a union activist in Hackney. These activists refused to carry out staff appraisals under the Performance Development Scheme.
AROUND 2,000 protesters marched through Glasgow last Saturday calling for an end to the council tax. The demonstration marked the launch of a national \"Axe the Tax\" campaign and was led by Scottish Socialist Party MSP Tommy Sheridan. He told the rally at the Barrowland Ballroom, \"The council tax has a death warrant issued. Let's establish 'Axe the Tax' committees in every part of the country in trade unions, communities and pensioner groups to establish a campaign that puts the interests of ordinary workers and pensioners before the wealthy and big business. Let's stop taxing the pensioners and start taxing the rich.\"
HUNDREDS OF Hoover workers at the electrical goods factory in Merthyr Tydfil, South Wales, struck on Wednesday of last week over pay. The 24-hour stoppage by members of the Amicus union hit production of washing machines and tumble driers.
THOUSANDS of nursery nurses across 17 councils in Scotland were still on all-out strike as Socialist Worker went to press. They were battling on even though officials of their union, Unison, had abandoned the key plank of their fight.
TONY BLAIR'S shambolic surrender to the demands for a referendum on the draft European Constitution is the clearest sign yet that his premiership is close to collapse. When Blair came to office, he was distinguished from most of his predecessors by his enthusiasm for the European Union (EU).
THE MAY Day greetings in Socialist Worker had to expand from their planned pages to pages 16 and 19 this week. One of those involved in putting together the pages says, \"It is the first time we have ever had a greeting from a national union. There are more messages from regional bodies than before and more that have been passed officially through union meetings rather than paid for by a group of readers. It's very impressive when you look at how many have come from unions like the CWU postal and telecom workers' union. Our only problem over the last week has been trying to cram in all the messages we received!\"
What we need in London is a voice for all the people who feel that we need fundamental change in the way the city operates. These people feel there is something wrong with a society which sees its priorities as spending money on war and privatisation rather than helping the poorest people and public services.
"As the police rushed past him, one of them hit him on the head with the stick. I was in my garden and saw this quite clearly. He was left sitting against the wall. He tried to get up, but he was shivering and looked very strange. He couldn't stand. Then the police came back and told him, 'Move! Come on, move!' They were very rough with him and I was shocked because it was clear he was seriously hurt."
MY PARENTS worshipped the 1960s Labour leader Harold Wilson. He talked the language of the \"white-hot heat of the technological revolution\". He spoke of an end to deference and elitism. It was exciting to hear that as a youngster. Wilson unexpectedly lost in June 1970. I became a part of the great working class upsurge against Ted Heath's Tory government.
ASHER D from the UK Garage collective So Solid Crew is appearing in the play Sing Yer Heart Out for the Lads at the National Theatre in London. He hit the headlines when he spent nine months in prison for possession of a gun, which he got after a series of attacks left him in fear for his life. Asher is now developing his acting and music career. He spoke to Kevin Ovenden.
'DOOMED TO failure.\" That was the conclusion of 52 ambassadors and top officials in a letter to Tony Blair slamming his relationship with Bush and his policies on Iraq and Palestine. These officials come from one of the most privileged and loyal layers of the British establishment.
DES WARREN, who died last Saturday after suffering from pneumonia and complications, will always be remembered as a great fighter, a true hero of the working class movement. He and Ricky Tomlinson were the Shrewsbury Two, jailed for picketing in 1972. I was also a builder on strike at the time. I remember Des Warren as a giant of a man in every respect.
MORE THAN 40 delegates and guests attending the annual RMT union station grades conference in Manchester last week were treated to a first hand introduction to the politics of Respect. A fringe meeting was held at a nearby hotel at the conclusion of the first day's business.
DEFENCE secretary Geoff Hoon has launched a staggering attack on press freedom. He says that \"embedded\" journalists, who report from within army units in Iraq and other war zones, will only be protected if they say what the government wants them to say.