Dated: 18 Dec 1999
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Seattle shows new mood
THE 20th century is ending with the horror of Russia's barbaric war against Chechen civilians. As Socialist Worker went to press 40,000 people were still trapped in Grozny after Russian generals threatened last week to annihilate the Chechen capital. Most of those sheltering from the onslaught were too old, sick and frail to leave the city.
THE TABLOID press has launched a frenzy of French bashing after the French government refused to lift its ban on British beef. Tory politicians and papers such as the Daily Mail have led the pack. Now others are joining in. The Mirror has launched a "Say Non To French Golden Delicious" campaign. The Scottish Daily Record ran a page article on how France has always "betrayed" Scotland.
New Labour's "homelessness tsar" has insulted people living on the streets yet again.
THE WORLD Bank has admitted that it will not meet international targets for halving world poverty by the year 2015. This is despite its predictions of faster economic growth rates.
THOUSANDS of workers have learned this week that they will start the new century on the dole, as bosses sack them to boost profits and dividends. Workers in the privatised water industry are reeling after a string of job cut announcements in the last week.
THE FIRM that runs the Aldermaston nuclear weapons research plant was fined £17,500 last week for dumping radioactive waste into a nearby stream. Hunting Brae admitted in court that it had illegally started dumping water contaminated with tritium into the Aldermaston stream in April 1997.
Altogether 62 copies of Socialist Worker were sold on the Haringey council picket lines in north London on Tuesday last week while on Saturday 108 papers were sold in Wood Green campaigning in support of the strikers. Elsewhere on Saturday 196 papers were sold at the Monument in Newcastle, 140 in Birmingham High Street, 100 in Sheffield, 36 in Sunderland and 26 in Port Talbot. In Manchester 205 papers were sold in Market Street, 44 in Gorton and 31 in Cheetham Hill.
<h4Liverpool SOME 300 workers at Liverpool Community College held a one day strike on Tuesday of this week over pay. The strikers, members of the UNISON union, held picket lines on all the college sites.
HARINGEY council again faced strike action this week by thousands of workers. This was despite the Labour council's attempt to head off action by a crude repackaging of its attack on workers. Workers in the UNISON and TGWU unions struck again on Tuesday, and planned a march on the town hall when the action continued on Wednesday.
ONE OF those arrested at the protest against the World Trade Organisation outside Euston station on Tuesday 30 November is asking for support for her defence campaign. Clare, a final year law student, was arrested at about 10.45pm after the police viciously attacked the 1,000 strong protest. She has been charged with assaulting a police officer. Any witnesses can contact her via Socialist Worker, PO Box 82, London E3 3LH, and we will forward the letters.
MEMBERS OF the Scottish lecturers' EIS-ULA union have beaten back an attempt by their employers to impose a new contract in all new university staff from 1 January. The contract involved a 20 day cut in annual leave, an unlimited working week including evenings and weekends, performance related pay and an end to automatic annual increments.
Manchester Activists campaigning to abolish the 11-plus exam in Trafford got a boost last week when Roy Hattersley, the former Labour Party shadow cabinet member, addressed a meeting of over 50 people. In Trafford, near Manchester, all primary school pupils still have to sit the 11-plus test. The few who "pass" go to grammar schools while most who "fail" go to separate high schools. Parents opposed to the divisive test can trigger a local referendum. But New Labour's legislation means they need to collect 8,000 signatures in support of a ballot.
WINSTON SILCOTT hit back at the weekend at the Metropolitan Police and the right wing press campaign against him. Winston spoke out in Observer and Guardian newspaper interviews. He has been in jail for 14 years after he was wrongly convicted of killing PC Blakelock during the 1985 Broadwater Farm riot in north London. He was cleared of the killing in 1991. In November he was awarded £50,000 compensation for malicious prosecution in the Blakelock case.
"PEOPLE ARE up for striking. Everyone is pissed off with everything. We're sick of being treated like skivvies and dumped on." So said an angry driver on North Western Trains in the run up to the first of a series of 24 hour strikes, due to take place on Christmas Eve. The second strike day is set for 4 January, with others set to follow.
ACTION GETS results. That's the conclusion after the first national strike action in BT for 13 years looks to have forced the company to retreat. Britain's most profitable company had been ignoring complaints from workers in its call centres over their conditions. So 4,000 call centre workers staged a one day strike last month. A second strike was called off by the CWU union after a deal was struck.
"SCROOGE" AND "despot" was how bus workers on strike at Yorkshire Traction buses described their boss, Frank Carter, last week. Around 700 bus drivers, engineers and clerical workers, members of the TGWU union, were holding their third one day strike in three weeks to demand a decent pay rise from Carter. The solid strike is already costing Carter £120,000 for each strike day as services across west and south Yorkshire are hit. Pickets were out at the Sheffield Road depot in a lively show of force last week.
COMPUTER workers at Heathrow Airport have succeeded in forcing British Airways management to back off from some of its attacks. BA is still looking to sell off sections of the Information Management department. But a campaign, including the threat of strike action, has forced the company to promise that it will not take any worker off their BA contract.
UP TO 4,000 steel erectors, electricians and welders are planning a number of one day unofficial strikes over pay. The strikes are due to take place in the run up to Christmas. They will hit five big engineering construction sites, including Grangemouth in Scotland, Sellafield in Cumbria, and Saltend near Hull.
FORD: Workers at Ford will not be reballoted over the company's pay offer. There were hopes of a re-ballot after reports that union officials had been flooded with complaints about the original ballot that produced a narrow vote to accept the deal. But national officials denied last week that there were any problems with the ballot and signed the deal.
POSTAL WORKERS in many parts of Britain have won significant concessions over Christmas working arrangements. The moves follow an avalanche of requests for strike ballots. The biggest gains are in London where, according to one union member, "we have rewritten the national agreement between Royal Mail and the union, a deal which we did not like and should never have been accepted."
AROUND 70 people marched from Selly Oak Hospital, Birmingham, to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital last Saturday, shouting, "Hospital closures, no way-tax the rich and make them pay!" They were protesting at the building of a "super-hospital" under the Private Finance Initiative approved by the Birmingham Health Authority.
POLICE CIVILIAN staff in Manchester continued their campaign of strike action on Monday. Over 100 people attended the picket line outside Greater Manchester Police HQ. The campaign follows a "job evaluation report" which recommended pay cuts of up to £5,500 a year. This is in stark contrast to the chief constable, who received a £20,000 pay rise and spent £80,000 on a new toilet for his office. Following the first strike last week, management offered to delay the pay cuts by a year. The UNISON union has rejected this and has pledged to continue the action next week and into the new year.
THE CAMPAIGN is under way inside the London MSF union to fight the victimisation of three branch officers. The three were suspended by the MSF's national executive for protesting after the Labour Party took away the union's right to vote in the party's elections for London mayor. Activists argue that the decision was a political one after the London executive had voted to back Ken Livingstone. An action committee has now produced a broadsheet.
CIVIL SERVANTS at the Manchester based Equal Opportunities Commission have accepted a pay offer for 1999 which will mean pay rises of up to 22 percent for the lowest paid. EOC rates began to lag behind those of other civil servants after national bargaining was ended. But an overwhelming vote to strike last year forced a much improved offer. The 4.1 percent offer will mean members near the bottom of each grade receiving the highest raise, without any reference to pay being performance related.
ANYONE WHO watched Panorama on BBC1 on Monday night could not fail to realise that Blair's entire election machine is being deployed to stitch up Ken Livingstone. Every dirty trick in the book is being used to ensure Blair's man, Frank Dobson, becomes Labour's candidate for mayor of London.
THE APPEAL total stood at £170,490.34 at the beginning of this week. That puts us within striking distance of our target. Fundraising social events were due to take place in many areas of the country this week and money is still arriving at the office which was collected two weeks ago.
Workers at Pricecheck, central London, have won their battle for union recognition. One Pricecheck worker describes how workers greeted the news: "When our boss, Manzoor Choudhary, walked into the shop and said, 'I believe we have to accept the union,' everyone nodded and smiled politely. Ten minutes later he left. We all started cheering and hugging each other. After years of bullying, things are going to be different. We are going to be treated like human beings."
THE BRAVE sacked Sky Chefs workers at Heathrow Airport need the support and solidarity of trade unionists now more than ever. The 270 workers-kitchen staff, chefs and drivers-are preparing to spend their second Christmas on the picket line.
THE IMPACT of the Battle in Seattle is being felt across the US. In meetings around the country organised by the International Socialist Organisation, students, young people and workers have turned out to discuss the meaning of the protests against the World Trade Organisation. In San Francisco more than 500 people turned out on short notice to picket a WTO official who came to town from Seattle.
1) WHO SAID, "My vision is to become as the Liberal Party was in the 19th century"? (a) Paddy Ashdown (b) Charles Kennedy (c) Tony Blair.
1c 2b 3c 4b 5a 6b 7b 8a 9c 10a 11c 12c 13c 14c 15a 16a 17b 18c 19c 20b 21b 22a 23b 24b 25c 26b 27b 28b 29c 30c
NEW Labour's crazy transport policy sums up everything that is wrong with this government. It is a government which helps the smugly well off and spurns the homeless. It showers handouts on "entrepreneurs" but grabs back benefits from the poorest.
SOUTHAMPTON SOCIALISTS are saddened by the death of Ginger Pearce, for some years a member of the SWP. Ginger became a leading militant in the 1950s, working as an electrical contractor and later EETPU senior steward at Vosper Thorneycroft.
THE GREAT Santa industrial dispute appears to be spreading. Two weeks ago Socialist Worker reported on the sacking of one Santa in Bromley, Kent, that provoked a solidarity picket by elves.