Dated: 29 Nov 2003
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TONY BLAIR PRIME MINISTER Private school, then Oxford University for free
"LEAVE THE country or I'll snatch your children." That was the threat this week from home secretary David Blunkett to refugees in Britain. He wants to rob parents of their children and their meagre benefits to force refugees out of the country.
OVER FIVE million people in Britain are working unpaid overtime, according to a TUC survey released this week. As a result bosses save £23 billion a year. The average amount done by the workers was an extra day-7 hours 24 minutes-a week. They should get £4,500 a year in extra earnings.
THE TORY candidate for London mayor, Steven Norris, is taking over as chairman of Jarvis, one of the top firms to benefit from privatisation. Jarvis faces an investigation into its maintenance of the rails at Potters Bar, scene of a fatal crash last year.
THE WAR in Iraq has reached new heights over the last week, six months after George Bush claimed it was over. US planes and helicopters pounded several cities including parts of the capital, Baghdad, with 500 pound bombs. All civilian flights into Baghdad airport were suspended after a surface to air missile hit a German Airbus cargo plane on Saturday.
AN UNOFFICIAL walkout by over 200 postal workers in Oldham, Greater Manchester, won a victory last week. Members of the CWU union walked out at 7am on Tuesday of last week in a dispute over the handling of a backlog of mail that built up during other recent industrial action.
STRIKERS FROM a number of Unison union branches packed out a rally organised in Newham, east London, last week. It was to mark the second week of the latest phase of selective action to win improved London weighting for council workers. The Newham branch has come under attack from the New Labour council.
HUNDREDS OF workers at Lloyds TSB are balloting for industrial action in its central Newcastle call centre in a bid to stop the company shifting its 960 jobs to India. The ballot is scheduled to run from Monday of next week for seven days. It is part of the Unifi union's Stop the Closure campaign. It will also see a petition launched at six other sites.
THE TREASURY has given the clearest signal yet that it wants to introduce regional pay bargaining as a way of depressing workers' earnings. A "guidance note" issued this week from Gordon Brown's department says the policy could produce a few cases of higher pay in a small number of areas in London and the south east to overcome recruitment and retention difficulties. But it could also produce pay reductions "where there is currently too high a premium relative to the rest of the labour market".
VOTING PAPERS for the elections to the new national executive council for the Amicus union are now out. Amicus was created by the merger of the AEEU and MSF unions. The left is standing on a slate for the Amicus Unity Gazette. Election campaigning is well under way. The ballot closes on Friday of next week.
A DETERMINED campaign and the threat of industrial action has defeated an attempted partial privatisation of services at Greater Manchester Passenger Transport Executive. Unison branch chair Tony Wilson told Socialist Worker that the important campaign had lasted two and a half years.
HUNDREDS OF workers at Sunderland University held a one-day strike last week against compulsory redundancies. Nine lecturers' jobs are under threat. "Lecturers have worked against the odds to keep standards high and deliver good results for students," said one Natfhe union member. "But university management seems to regard cost-cutting as more important that the quality of education provision."
THE FERRY company P&O announced last week that it wants to sack more than 600 workers on its Dover to Calais route. The news has sent waves of shock and anger through the workforce. Many only knew of the plan through reports in the media.
SOLIDARITY WITH workers in Colombia will be the focus of a series of meetings and conferences across Britain. On Saturday the TUC hosts a conference on "Conflict in Colombia: Britain's secret war", jointly sponsored with the Justice for Colombia organisation and the War on Want charity.
TUBE WORKERS across all grades are to begin taking industrial action in a battle to restore safety standards following the imposition of the PPP privatisation scheme. The RMT union last week announced that 81 percent of its members had voted for industrial action and 55 percent for strikes over safety.
THE RELATIONSHIP between Unison and the Labour Party will be a key theme at the conference of the union's United Left in London on Saturday 6 December. The United Left is the grouping which pulls together a broad spectrum of socialists and left wingers within Unison. A measure of the feelings over government policy within Unison came at a meeting of the union's official national Health Service Group Executive last week.
It was good to read the article in last week's Socialist Worker on the sudden resignation of Lord Conrad Black.
IT IS good news that Nissan workers in Sunderland began a strike ballot this week. It is over management's refusal to talk to the Amicus union about compulsory relocation of the company's purchasing department. It could be the first strike in the plant's history and would shatter the myth of the great "partnership" employer.
HUNDREDS OF Tyneside shipyard workers staged an unofficial "wildcat" strike last week over allegations of bullying in the workplace. The one-day walkout was by around 600 platers, welders and riggers in the Amicus and GMB unions at the giant Amec shipyard in Wallsend on Tyneside.
IN A vindictive move worthy of Margaret Thatcher, the government passed the Fire Service Bill into law last week. It gives government ministers the power to impose pay and conditions on firefighters and emergency control staff.
WORKERS WHO were unfairly dismissed from the Friction Dynamics car parts plant in Caernarfon have voted at a meeting to end the picket on 19 December. But they have vowed their fight to get compensation from American-born owner Craig Smith will continue. The workers have been continuing heroic defiance of the management for over two years.
WORKERS AT the Sellafield nuclear plant in Cumbria escalated their dispute over pay on Friday of last week to two shifts out on strike. This follows an earlier well supported strike. The BNFL company has been dragging its feet over ending the pay gap between white collar and manual workers. The firm made an agreement four years ago to end the £2,000 difference between the workers.
CLEANING workers at Barnsley District Hospital are to hold a ballot for industrial action over pay. The workers are employed by the private firm Initial Hospital Services, which made £2.3 million last year. It is owned by one of the main corporations that run hospital cleaning services in the NHS, Rentokil-Initial.
THE BRITISH National Party has again been beaten back in its attempts to get more councillors elected. The first council by-election was in Oldham, where BNP leader Nick Griffin has long hoped to achieve a breakthrough. But ordinary people in Failsworth East rejected the BNP's lies.
HUNDREDS OF workers in job centres and social security offices in Glasgow and Basildon in Essex held an unofficial walk out on Friday of last week. They responded magnificently to their bosses imposing a terrible pay deal on 85,000 workers in the government's new Department for Work and Pensions. This is the first serious unofficial action in the civil service in over 15 years. The mood is so angry that wildcat strikes could break out again.
ASTONISHING TV pictures from the Georgian capital, Tbilisi, showed protesters storming the parliament building as popular anger with the regime exploded last week. The president, Edward Shevardnadze, was forced to scuttle away. The slogans of the uprising were directed against government corruption and ballot rigging.
GEORGIA IS a poor country with only four million inhabitants. But facing the Black Sea between Russia, Turkey, Armenia and Azerbaijan, it is of key strategic importance for any outside power trying to exercise influence over the whole region from the Middle East through to the Chinese border. Britain occupied the country briefly as part of its efforts to destroy the Russian Revolution in the aftermath of the First World War.
TRADE UNIONISTS and protesters against corporate globalisation were united on a demonstration through Miami in Florida last week. The march took place on the same day as 300,000 protested against George Bush in London.
THE OCCUPATIONS of Iraq and Palestine are provoking bitterness and unrest in the Middle East. This anger is directed against the US and local rulers who refuse to challenge Bush's imperialist project. That is the backdrop to the second Cairo conference against the war in Iraq and the occupation of Palestine, which will take place in Egypt on 13 and 14 December.
LAST WEEK was a pretty bad one for George W Bush and his neo-conservative administration-and not just because of events in London, Istanbul and Baghdad. Bush suffered a bad setback back home in Florida, the state where he secured his dubious victory in the 2000 presidential race.Miami last week hosted a ministerial meeting whose aim was to create the Free Trade Area of the Americas, better known in Latin America by its Spanish acronym ALCA.
NEW LABOUR ministers jumped to the defence of children's minister Margaret Hodge last week after her dismissal of a child abuse victim in an Islington care home as "extremely disturbed". The whole affair has typified the double standards that are a hallmark of New Labour.
SOCIALIST WORKER went down a storm on the demonstration against the Bush visit. Over 5,000 protesters bought copies at the main demonstration on Thursday of last week.
THE LARGEST weekday demonstration anyone can remember showed the scale of the opposition to Tony Blair's love-in with George Bush last week. About 300,000 people marched through central London, totally eclipsing Bush's attempt to use his visit to Britain as a gigantic photo opportunity. They came from schools and colleges or got out of work for the day to descend on the capital from all areas of Britain.
GEORGE BUSH'S visit to Tony Blair's Sedgefield constituency in the north east of England last Friday went as badly for the warmonger as the rest of his visit. Around 1,000 people from across the north east protested against Bush and Blair. They gathered just 200 yards up the road from the Dun Cow pub where Bush met a few hand-picked residents.
THEY SAID it would be a showcase for the whole business of letting companies run schools." Pam, a parent in Bradford, sums up what people across Britain were told as New Labour pushed for private companies to move into our schools. The government's big idea was that the private sector would transform education and bring us "schools for the 21st century".
BLAIR HAD to scramble desperately to succeed in forcing legislation for foundation hospitals through parliament last week. This was despite the vote at Labour's conference last month against the scheme. It shows how hollow the idea of the left "reclaiming Labour" really is. Trade unions, Labour members and many ordinary people hate the foundation hospitals plan.
A Soldier's Sad Story Various Artists
ONE OF the first points the anti-war movement made was that this country's participation in the invasion of Iraq would make attacks on British targets more likely. The bomb attacks on British targets in Turkey tragically proved those arguments right. The response of Blair and his government is to carry on regardless, stoking the hatred higher.
LIFELONG socialist Jimmy Kerr sadly passed away on Wednesday of last week. Jimmy was an early member of the International Socialists, the forerunner of the Socialist Workers Party.
THE CONSULTATION on one of the most cynical government Green Papers ever closes on 1 December. Yet there has been virtually no public debate about its contents. "Every Child Matters" is meant to be a response to the killing of Victoria Climbie, and the subsequent Laming Report.
WHAT A tremendous year for the movements against war and corporate globalisation. The European Social Forum in Paris, which drew over 50,000 activists from those movements together two weeks ago, was proof of that. It reflected the vibrancy of the movement and also the increasingly intense debates about how to go forward.
AS GEORGE Bush arrived in London last week, the Guardian ran a front page story "Protests Begin But Majority Backs Bush Visit As Support For War Surges." But a close look at the details of the ICM poll, which the article did not mention, shows a rather different story.