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Socialist Worker

Issue: 1834

Dated: 18 Jan 2003

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Cairo motion is great opportunity

AN IMPORTANT conference held in Cairo, Egypt, last December attracted 400 delegates and launched the International Campaign Against US Aggression on Iraq. The conference issued a declaration against war and globalisation. The key points of the declaration include:

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Drivers in Scotland refuse to move weapons train: Mass action can stop this war

"It was a political protest over the threat to attack Iraq. It was a sign that as individuals and workers we were not prepared to be part of a murderous war, a conscientious objection to helping kill Iraqi civilians."

Government split on its top-up fees plan

THE GOVERNMENT is racked by divisions over university tuition fees. Top universities and Downing Street advisers want colleges to be able to charge students thousands of pounds to study. They want to hit students with a triple whammy-over £1,000 upfront to take up a college place, three years surviving with no grant, and then up to £3,000 in "top-up" fees when they have finished at college.

Innocent until proven guilty?

HYSTERIA GREETED the arrest of seven people after the toxin ricin was found in a north London flat. Newspapers howled about "poison factories" run by asylum seekers bent on mass destruction.

Hammer blow for 500 in Scotland

Is this the future for thousands more? "MANAGEMENT'S message was 'Happy New Year and you're sacked', 'Season's greetings, you're stuffed'." Harry McCarthy is a bitter man. He's one of 500 people thrown on the dole by Fullarton Computer Industries in Gourock, 20 miles from Glasgow. Without warning, the company locked the workforce out and told them not to come back after the Christmas holidays.

Action to back sacked worker

TEACHERS at Kingsland School in Hackney, east London, were set to strike on Thursday of this week in defence of our sacked National Union of Teachers (NUT) rep, Indro Sen. This follows an overwhelming vote by NUT members at the school. Union members in four other secondary schools in Hackney are to hold an indicative vote over whether to ballot over the sacking too.

Roger Sylvester

TWO HUNDRED people gathered in noisy protest at Tottenham police station in north London last Saturday to remember Roger Sylvester. His father said, "On 11 January 1999 Roger Sylvester, a 30 year old black man, was restrained on his doorstep by eight officers from Tottenham. He sustained numerous injuries and died a week later.


THE SACKING of Hampshire Fire Brigades Union (FBU) activist Simon Green the week before Christmas is another sign that some chief officers and fire authorities are already going on the offensive. He was sacked under capability procedures that are not nationally agreed. "The case has national significance," says Lud Ramsey of Hampshire FBU.

Hackney libraries picket

Library workers and their supporters in Hackney, east London, picketed last Saturday against the New Labour council's strike-busting manoeuvres. Library strikes have happened every Saturday for a year, since the council withdrew extra payments for working at the weekend. It is trying to reopen three libraries on Saturdays using specially employed staff.


SOME 600 workers at the Scottish Agricultural College (SAC) held a three-hour strike on Thursday of last week over pay. Alan Denny, national officer in Scotland for the workers' Prospect union, said, "The membership is rock solid. Over 300 people attended meetings across the country."


ANTI-NAZIS were out campaigning around the Mixenden ward in Halifax last Sunday against the British National Party's plans to stand a candidate in a council by-election on Thursday of next week.


WORKERS AT Jaguar Halewood on Merseyside, members of the Amicus union, narrowly voted against a strike over pay last week. It now looks likely that union members will take action short of a strike.


JOURNALISTS AT Newsquest Bradford are balloting for strike action after rejecting a 2 percent pay offer. The National Union of Journalists' chapel (workplace branch) has demanded a rise of at least £2,000 per year after the company had a 17 percent increase in profits.


CARLISLE HAD the biggest meeting for years last Thursday when 180 people gathered at a Stop the War Coalition rally. Maxim Ford said, "There were councillors, a group of three ex-soldiers who were suffering from post-traumatic stress, people from the churches and local trade unionists."

Driven to ballot for a strike

SOME 4,500 workers at Peugeot have been balloting for industrial action over pay. A ballot in December rejected the company's offer (worth 7.2 percent over two years) by 90 percent. The company said it will pay the increase if the shop floor gave up the profit-related bonus worth £660 this year.

Work till you drop? - No way, say strikers

SOME 350 bus drivers working for the First Group multinational in Norwich went on strike from Monday of last week in protest at working long hours. "Our work is so tiring and stressful. When I get home I just sit there, crashed out in an armchair. That's not good for my family-or for the public, if I'm driving when I feel like that," said driver Sam Stelling.


AFTER YEARS of negotiation NHS staff have been offered a package-Agenda for Change-that promises to address past grievances about low pay, gradings and equal pay. But will it? New Labour is keen to see Agenda for Change accepted by NHS staff. Doctors recently rejected a parallel national offer.

Defending refugees

PROTESTERS AGAINST the government's brutal new laws on refugees took to the streets of London, Glasgow and Manchester last week.

Civil servants

ACTIVISTS IN the PCS civil servants' union are preparing for a key battle in their union. The union is set to ballot all its members in February about introducing annual national executive elections and conferences. If this is voted through it will massively increase democracy in the union. Socialist Mark Serwotka won the election for general secretary of the PCS in December 2000.

The case for the firefighters

FOUR AND a half thousand job losses. Over 150 fire stations to close. Less fire cover at the times people are most likely to be killed by fires. Intolerable working hours and a broken trade union. That is what the government is demanding firefighters accept after their union has bent over backwards to seek compromise over their pay claim. The responsibility for renewed strikes by 52,000 firefighters and control room staff lies squarely with New Labour.



Inspiration in Hyderabad

THE ASIAN Social Forum (ASF) held in Hyderabad in India ended last week with a closing rally of over 10,000 people. It was followed by a demonstration that drew in thousands more. Trucks and coaches from across the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh arrived with people who had made the trip to demonstrate their opposition to imperialism and war.

The gang who rule over us

I REMEMBER it like it was just yesterday-the day 14 years ago when four men carrying hammers walked into the nightclub I was DJing in and proceeded to smash up the record decks. Apparently these hammer-wielding psychopaths came from a rival sound system which wanted to put us out of business. It was my first and hopefully my last brush with the activities of the criminal underworld.


'Now the anti-war majority is on the march. Build the 15 Feb protest'

The Stop the War Coalition conference in London last Saturday was a huge success. It was a historic gathering, reflecting the mushrooming anti-war movement right across Britain. "The anti-war majority is on the march and determined to win," said Labour MP George Galloway, giving one of the day's keynote speeches.

'We are out to win our fight'

RENEWED determination swept through fire stations and control rooms as members of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) heard that their union has called a snap strike on Tuesday. Some 100 FBU brigade secretaries and other officials met at the TUC headquarters on Friday of last week.

Does a mortgage make you part of the system?

HOME-OWNERS are all middle class. If you've bought your house or got a mortgage you're a property owner, got a stake in the system, been bought off. Any activist must have come across such comments. It was an argument popularised in Britain during the years of Margaret Thatcher's Tory governments in the 1980s. She pushed the notion of a "property-owning democracy".

Historian flies flag for bloody British Empire

IT IS no coincidence that at a time when British troops are getting ready to invade and occupy Iraq, Channel 4 should televise an expensive celebratory history of the British Empire. The series is presented by one of the country's leading Thatcherite historians, the appalling Oxford professor Niall Ferguson.


City of violence, despair and hope

CITY OF God is a powerful film that every reader of Socialist Worker should make an effort to see. It is a Brazilian film with subtitles, but don't let that put you off. The "City of God" is the name of a run-down slum, called a favela, on the edges of the giant Brazilian city of Rio de Janeiro.

A tragic satire

THE BITTER and bloody Israeli-Palestinian conflict is, you would imagine, hardly the subject for satire. Palestinian film-maker Elia Suleiman has achieved the impossible with his latest film Divine Interventions. It presents a funny and profound look at the situation.

Thrilling tale of anti-capitalism

THE NEW book Small Acts of Treachery by Kitty Fitzgerald begins in a secret military barracks, where Eileen Mahoney is being detained by the state as a suspected terrorist. Brought up by her socialist father, Mahoney has been involved in the major movements of the last three decades, from civil rights in Ireland to the 1984-5 miners' strike.

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Tom Durkin

TOM DURKIN-longtime chair of Brent Trades Council, notably at the time of the Grunwick's strike in the 1970s-died just before Christmas at the age of 87. Tom was in every sense a big man, with a booming voice sometimes augmented by his home-made sound systems.


Trouble on t' moor There have been some strange goings-on on the moors of North Yorkshire. Two weeks ago members of the Scarborough Coalition Against War And Globalisation (SCAWAG) got wind that the local Labour MP, Lawrie Quinn, would be holding a consultation meeting. It was about the upgrading of the Fylingdales base as part of Bush's Son of Star Wars scheme.

Gun law for royal family

POLITICIANS AND columnists have been queuing up to condemn the glorification of guns among young people, launching particularly bitter attacks on hip-hop and rap music.

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