Dated: 11 Dec 1999
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So why won't Labour take action? TONY BLAIR this week claimed it was wrong to talk of a north-south divide in Britain. There are "haves" and "have nots" in all parts of Britain, he said. That is true. Class, the reality New Labour denies, is the biggest divide in every area, not geography.
THE REALITY of inequality in Blair's Britain was revealed in research last week from Bristol University, the biggest study of health inequalities since the 1980s. The stark truth is that in Britain today, the poorer you are, the earlier you die. The study found:
A SCOTTISH bigot who leads a Catholic based anti-abortion group was exposed last week as formerly on the extreme right wing of the Protestant Orange Order. Jim Dawson is leader of the anti-abortion group Precious Life. The group models itself on violent US organisations that have firebombed abortion clinics, killing workers inside. Precious Life is threatening to picket the homes of clinic workers in Scotland. He used to play in a band that produced tributes to Michael Stone, the Loyalist terrorist who murdered three Catholics at a Republican funeral in 1988.
A US government department was exposed last week for trying to cover up scientists' concerns over genetically modified (GM) food. An environmental group, Alliance for Bio-Integrity, used a public hearing to accuse the Food and Drug Administration of suppressing warnings by its own scientists over the dangers of GM food.
MISERY AND persecution. That is what home secretary Jack Straw has in store for asylum seekers this Christmas. This week Straw set in motion plans to forcibly "disperse" asylum seekers around the country. His scapegoating of asylum seekers is an attempt to divert people's attention from the real problems of poverty in Britain, which Tony Blair was forced to pay lip service to this week.
Workplace sales of Socialist Worker continue to grow apace, with 23 sold at Glasgow Royal Infirmary, 17 at Liverpool Royal Infirmary, 16 at the BT call centre in Sunderland, 11 at Glacier Metals, 10 at Wandsworth council housing office, 7 at St George's Hospital in south London, and 4 at Severn-Trent Water in Nottingham. Central London workplace sales last week included 6 sold at Mount Pleasant post office, 5 at both the British Library and Camden council's Crowndale Centre, plus 4 at St Mary's Hospital.
OVER 500 train drivers on North Western Trains, members of the ASLEF and RMT unions, have voted by 90 percent and 100 percent respectively to take strike action over this year's pay award, which is still outstanding from April. The company has offered 3.6 percent with strings. The national executive of ASLEF was to meet on Wednesday to decide what form of strike action to call. The RMT will then respond with the same action.
TONY BLAIR is continuing his campaign against Ken Livingstone. Blair and former Labour leader Neil Kinnock launched a tirade against Livingstone at a meeting of over 600 Labour Party members in Brixton, south London, on Friday of last week. Blair declared, "We can't go back to gesture politics," and that Ken Livingstone as mayor would risk being "disastrous for the Labour Party and disastrous for London".
"IT IS fantastic to attend such an event. It shows that socialist ideas and action are more relevant than ever as we approach the next century." That is what an electrician from Glasgow said about last weekend's Socialism in Scotland conference in the city.
WORKERS AT British Airways at Heathrow Airport are still up in arms over management's plans to sell off three sections of the Information Management Department. Union shop stewards voted unanimously last week to call for a ballot for strike action. Stewards were planning this week to hold union meetings of the workforce to build the mood and a demonstration is also planned.
ALL OF the cases below are miscarriages of justice. Socialist Worker urges all our readers to send cards and messages of support to them for Christmas. Why not take a card round your workmates to sign? Make sure you send it off in good time.
THE REVIVAL of strikes in the Post Office continues. Management bullying and the arrangements for Xmas working are sparking fury.
YORKSHIRE Traction bus workers were boosted on Friday of last week as they staged their second one day strike for a decent pay rise. Their boss, Frank Carter, did not dare to run scab buses, driven by managers from outside the area, as he had done on the previous strike day on Saturday 27 November. The 35 pickets at the Barnsley depot talked about how the managers had received so much abuse from passengers they refused to work again.
Ford UNION OFFICIALS at Ford have been forced to hold another meeting over the pay deal because of the level of complaints about the recent ballot. Workers voted by a majority of just 1,320 to accept the deal. But all the Dagenham plant rejected the deal, and other plants are not happy with how the ballot was conducted. Over 3,000 workers did not vote.
ASHFIELD COUNCIL tenants were shocked last week when they heard that Nottinghamshire council may transfer housing stock to the private sector. The Labour council is to employ private consultants to carry out a study into the transfer of the 8,500 properties, at a huge cost.
MEMBERS OF the National Union of Teachers, the largest teachers' union in England and Wales, took part in a week of action against performance related pay last week. The government's plans to link pay to pupils' results are another way of pushing market forces into schools.
LOW PAID workers at Pricecheck supermarkets may be on the verge of winning union recognition this week. Pricecheck's millionaire bosses were set to meet the workers' TGWU union to discuss recognition after Socialist Worker went to press.
SOME 4,000 BT call centre workers at 37 workplaces were due to stage the second of a series of one day strikes on Friday of this week. The fight is over bullying managers, understaffing and work targets. There were picket lines on most of the affected offices on the last strike day. Talks between the workers' CWU union and BT were still taking place as Socialist Worker went to press.
TRADE UNIONISTS in west London are organising to raise solidarity with the Sky Chefs workers in the run up to Xmas. They are calling on everyone-trade unionists, campaign groups, etc-to collect money to take to the picket line on Sunday 19 December. The 270 workers were sacked by Lufthansa just over one year ago for taking part in a legal one day strike.
Sheffield A SHEFFIELD council worker has won his industrial tribunal case over disciplinary measures taken against him for his trade union activities. Paul Page works for private company CSL in Sheffield council's financial services section. The workers had been privatised by the Labour council, which lost office to the Liberals in last May's elections.
TONY BLAIR constantly talks about "modernising". But the reality for many workers is of employers threatening to turn the clock back to the days when workers had no sick leave, no maternity leave and few holidays. Workers in two London councils hit back against these Victorian-style employers this week.
POSTAL workers across Britain are angry at Royal Mail's plans to make them work harder and for less money this Christmas. Management has tried to push through Christmas arrangements that claw back on overtime, concentrate the mail on fewer deliveries and squeeze staffing numbers and conditions. The result is that a remarkable 130 areas across Britain have demanded strike ballots.
STRIKES AND protests are erupting across France in the run up to Christmas. The implementation of the new 35 hour week law lies behind many of the disputes. Workers are demanding that bosses pay for the hours cut.
THE GREAT demonstration in Seattle will make its reverberations felt for years to come. One of its more minor side effects was that on Wednesday last week, much to my surprise, I found myself in the Newsnight studio defending the protesters against the World Trade Organisation from European commissioner Leon Brittan's criticisms.
RIGHT WING commentators love nothing so much as to pour derision on John Prescott's inability to speak in coherent sentences. The snob Tory historian David Starkey summed up their attitude on Question Time last week. Prescott, he claimed, showed what horrors followed if any working class person was allowed to escape from the fate decreed for them in the old selective school system. Starkey destroyed his own argument by sinking into incoherence in the face of a hostile audience reaction. But he had already showed that for an alleged historian he has a very short memory.
SO FAR £157,271.78 has reached the appeal office. One last push would reach our target. Readers in many areas are continuing workplace collections and also organising fundraising social events in the run up to the Christmas holiday. Thanks to everyone who gave to the appeal last week and please keep the money coming in. Post early to avoid the Christmas rush.
"GET OUT or die." That was the barbaric message from Russian forces to people in the Chechen capital, Grozny, this week. Russia is waging a savage war to crush people in the tiny republic in the mountainous Caucasus who are fighting for independence from Russian rule.
DEPUTY PRIME minister John Prescott is under intense pressure. The attacks come from the Tory press, but also from sections of the Labour leadership and from papers that usually support Labour. The focus of the row is transport. The government's transport policy is in chaos on the roads, the rail and in the air. Last week John Prescott unveiled Labour's long-awaited transport bill. It represents surrender to big business, the pro-roads lobby and those who want more privatisation.
THE MEDIA AND POLITICIANS ARE SAYING THAT THOSE WHO TOOK PART IN THE SEATTLE PROTEST HAD NOTHING IN COMMON. IS THAT TRUE?
"THOSE WHO were arguing they were going to shut the WTO down were in fact successful today." That was the frank admission of Seattle police chief Norm Stamper on Tuesday of last week.
"THE DAYS of Miss World are numbered. Miss World is a reactionary, backward looking contest. Women should not be forced to look a certain way or be a certain shape. We're not animals in the marketplace." That was how Sue, a student from east London, described why she had joined the angry demonstration outside the Olympia exhibition centre in London last Saturday.
CHARLES SHAAR MURRAY is a respected journalist whose new book about John Lee Hooker and the blues has just been published. He writes for Socialist Worker about the blues.
"UNCONVENTION" is an exhibition with a difference. It has been assembled by rock group the Manic Street Preachers on the theme of love and revolution. The show brings together paintings by Picasso and Jackson Pollock with posters from the Spanish Civil War and photographs of the work ers in the south Wales valleys.
THE NEW film Onegin is set in the world of the Russian aristocracy in the 19th century. It is based on a novel by Alexander Pushkin-himself a member of the Russian aristocracy-written in the 1830s. Russia was then a backward, rural society where individuals' lives were controlled by patronage and "fate". But it was also a world in transition.
ALONG WITH thousands of other people demonstrating against the World Trade Organisation at Euston station last week I was outraged by the behaviour of both the press and the police. Before the event the press massively hyped up expectations of violence.
REMEMBER LAST spring when the police repeatedly claimed that a "lone bomber" planted the Brixton, Brick Lane and Soho bombs? Two cases last week have revealed how propaganda from Nazi groups such as the British National Party and the National Front leads directly to such atrocities. Stuart Kerr, aged 20, from Hunston near Chichester was sent down for 12 years for firebombing an Asian-owned shop. His bedsit was stuffed with Nazi material from racist groups. There was also a copy of Hitler's Mein Kampf.