Dated: 27 Sep 2003
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"I WISH it was not necessary to be warning people about a Labour government with policies that are a threat to the NHS." That statement came from a former Labour cabinet minister on the eve of the party's conference. Frank Dobson, Blair's first minister for health, launched a blistering attack on the government's key health policies, speaking in Sunderland on Monday of this week.
POSTAL WORKERS are in a bitter struggle with their bosses which will affect the confidence of workers and managers right across Britain. Crucial strikes are scheduled for next week. Several key mail centres were on the verge of unofficial strikes on Tuesday.
ON FRIDAY of last week over 400 postal workers in Oxford's mail centre walked out unofficially on strike. An Oxford CWU union rep told Socialist Worker, "Union headquarters sent out an excellent circular detailing the attacks from the top of Royal Mail. Our reps wanted to distribute it to the members.
UP TO 150 school students walked out of Harwich School on Thursday of last week. They organised their strike in support of a campaign against the effective privatisation of health facilities, including the maternity ward, in Harwich, Essex.
SOLIDARITY works-that's the clear lesson from Tyneside this week. Thousands of shipyard workers walked out on strike on Monday of last week in solidarity with 98 sacked workmates. This forced management to reinstate the workers and open talks on pay, the issue that sparked the dispute.
NOTTINGHAM BUS drivers have voted to accept the latest pay deal offered by Nottingham City Transport. The vote was carried by 362 votes for and 208 against. The deal appears to be an improvement on earlier offers, but it will mainly benefit new recruits. More longstanding bus drivers will receive a smaller pay increase.
ACTIVISTS IN the Amicus union are building support for the Amicus Unity Gazette slate that is standing in upcoming national executive elections. This is a great opportunity to create a strong union willing to stand up to the bosses and New Labour.
OVER 900 people packed into a World Development Movement meeting in London last Thursday to hear speakers report back from the WTO talks in Cancun. Prof Yash Tandon, an African delegate to the WTO, gave a perspective from the inside. The FT had a report saying that poor countries were "likely to be the biggest losers" from the collapse of the talks. Yash explained how this was completely upside down-no deal was much better than a bad deal.
STAFF ON the Heathrow Express, which takes passengers from central London to Heathrow airport, have voted in favour of strike action. The Aslef union plans three 24-hour strikes next month after 41 out of 76 members voted in favour.
IRENE STANLEY, the widow of Harry Stanley, joined campaigners to lay flowers at the site where he died on the fourth anniversary of his death. Harry Stanley was shot by police while carrying a wooden table leg through Hackney. The police claimed that they thought Stanley was armed. The family is continuing its fight for justice.
HYDRO ALUMINIUM Motorcast announced last week that it intends to close its Leeds factory. This will mean a loss of over 600 jobs over the next 15 months. The Amicus shop stewards have told the workforce at the factory that they intend to fight these proposals by whatever means necessary. The workforce has given us 100 percent support.
BIRMINGHAM'S NEW multimillion pound Bullring shopping centre opened last month with massive publicity. But it's a 21st century building under 19th century management. A shop worker told me about working there:
REFUSE WORKERS in Edinburgh voted last week to reject an offer from the council to end their long-running dispute over pay. They were offered a one-off payment of £1,000 each to end their unofficial work to rule. A refuse worker from one of the depots said, "We are determined to stick this out. We're not greedy-we just want a fair deal."
OVER 2,000 nursery nurses from the Unison public sector union took part in a noisy and vibrant demonstration in Edinburgh on Wednesday of last week as part of their fight for decent pay. Members of the public tooted their car horns, cheered and applauded to demonstrate their support as the march passed them. Nursery nurses in different areas of Scotland struck on Tuesday and Wednesday of last week.
TRADE UNIONS in the north east of England are at the forefront of local campaigns against the Nazi British National Party (BNP). This was shown at the TUC Northern Region's anti-racism training day held in Sunderland last Saturday.
THOUSANDS OF workers employed by London councils have backed more strikes to win an increase in the London weighting allowance. Members of the Unison union in town halls, manual depots and schools across the capital voted by 80.7 percent for more strikes in a consultative ballot. Existing ballots allowed union leaders to call more action but they foisted the new ballot upon members anyway.
THE LATEST round of strike action in the universities, targeting student registration week in London, kicked off at University College London (UCL) and Goldsmiths on Monday of this week. They are fighting for improved an London weighting allowance. Members of the Unison and AUT unions picketed the UCL main site on Monday and Tuesday, as well as a number of outlying buildings.
DELEGATES representing members of the Natfhe lecturers' union in further education (FE) colleges voted to reject an offer on pay and conditions at a meeting last weekend. Over the summer Natfhe's FE college negotiators and the national executive committee narrowly agreed to ballot members and recommend a deal with the employers. This was after a campaign which included several days of strike action.
WITH EVERY day that passes, the occupation in Iraq is creating more horror and hardship for the country's people. There are 1,000 killings a week in Iraq, Independent journalist Robert Fisk reported recently. This has been confirmed since by other journalists who have visited the country's morgues.
MANY PEOPLE who voted for the winning Liberal Democrat in the Brent by-election last week were motivated by good reasons. Brent saw traditional Labour voters turn away from Blair in disgust at his government's record on the war, privatisation and public services. Many voted Lib Dem believing this was, on the day, the way to give Blair a bloody nose.
WHAT ELSE can Gordon Brown do to convince us not to look to him as an alternative to Blair? At the TUC conference he was surrounded by bureaucrats who are desperate to have Comrade Brown as their dear leader. Brown gave the progressive elements a stern telling off for suggesting that society could be made any better through the Labour Party.
"As we move into a new political order, where all mainstream parties have become the same, it is important for all working class people to have a choice that has a clear agenda for socialist politics." Bill O'Dowd, chair of Stratford 1 RMT union branch
WE WANT Socialist Worker to be part of every strike and every campaign. Socialist Worker sellers in Leeds told me about meeting a worker from the Hydro Aluminium Motorcast factory:
DELEGATES COULD potentially humiliate Tony Blair at Labour's conference. It will be a test for the union leaders-if they really used their power they could wound Blair fatally and force his resignation. Party managers will find it very hard to keep Iraq off the agenda and, if there is a proper debate, then there will be motions directly rejecting what the government has done.
POSTAL WORKERS are facing a crucial few weeks which could determine what happens in the industry for years to come. Trade unionists in other industries will also be watching developments intently. Royal Mail managers have gone on the offensive after the shock announcement last week that postal workers had voted by 48,038 to 46,391 against strikes over pay. The outrageous assault from management provoked unofficial strikes in Oxford, and also forms the backdrop to the strikes over London weighting planned in the capital.
What's the reaction in the US establishment to what's happening in Iraq?
I COME from Derry in Northern Ireland. I'm in London as a journalist covering the Saville tribunal into the Bloody Sunday massacre in Derry in 1972. Men of the First Battalion of the Parachute Regiment came into our area and shot dead 14 of my neighbours, and wounded 13 others, as thousands of us watched. It took a campaign of 26 years of the relatives of the dead and the surviving wounded before we forced Mr Blair and the Labour government to set up a new inquiry.
It's like Vietnam-but it is happening so much quicker
TONY BLAIR likes to give the impression that widespread anti-war opposition across Britain has not swayed his government's actions. The facts show this is a lie. The Hutton inquiry into the death of Dr David Kelly has exposed how Blair's obsession with undermining anti-war resistance has driven every twist and turn in recent British politics.
WHAT WAS staggering before the war was how the media failed to ask even obvious questions about US and UK government claims about Iraq and weapons of mass destruction. Scott Ritter, the chief weapons inspector, claimed that by December 1998 Iraq had been "90-95 percent", that is "fundamentally", disarmed. That was one thing almost never discussed. Another was that when the inspectors left Iraq in December 1998 they were pulled out by the UN. Yet Tony Blair, Jack Straw and the rest of them said the inspectors were kicked out. And they were almost never challenged by the media, who parroted that same line.
INTENSE negotiations are taking place at the United Nations Security Council about the possibility of the UN taking responsibility for running Iraq. Many people, disgusted by the US and Britain's role, feel that it would be a good move for the UN to take over.
MOHAMMED 'IN A small city called Hebron there are 500 Israeli soldiers protecting a small number of extremist Israeli settlers. The Palestinians are forced to stay in their homes. The Israelis are putting all the Palestinians under curfew. It lasts all day.
THE anti-war protests around the world this weekend are another step in the development of a genuinely global movement of resistance to the present rulers of the world. Many protesters recognise that the problem goes much deeper than George W Bush and Tony Blair.
PEOPLE WILL be heading for the French capital in November to take part in the second European Social Forum (ESF). The first ESF was in the Italian city of Florence last November, when 60,000 people took part in three days of rallies, debates and forums. The Florence forum culminated in a million-strong demonstration against war. And it was out of meetings at Florence that activists from across Europe called for massive anti-war protests on 15 February this year.
OLIVIER BESANCENOT is the young postal worker who shocked the French establishment when he won 1.2 million votes standing as a revolutionary socialist in the presidential election in April last year. One in seven of the people under 25 who voted backed Olivier. He is a leading member of the socialist Revolutionary Communist League. He spoke to Socialist Worker about the build-up in France towards the European Social Forum.
WHEN 18 year old working class garage MC Dizzee Rascal picked up the Mercury Music Prize I was pleased, but something bugged me. It had nothing to do with his oversimplistic beats or the lack of content in his lyrics. I quite like his voice and style of flow.
NED KELLY is Australia's most famous bushranger. This new film shows how Ned tried to live a normal life but was continually set up by the local police, who are portrayed as brutal, corrupt and vengeful. He only turns to crime for revenge when he is accused of the attempted murder of a policeman. The police punish Ned's family by poisoning their wells and locking his mother up.
THIS CRACKING film about the power struggle between Tony Blair and Gordon Brown was dropped by ITV as "too sensitive". Luckily Channel 4 are screening it on the eve of Labour's conference. Like the recent The Project, it combines memorable newsreel footage with drama. The actors playing Blair and Brown are scarily true to life, although the Peter Mandelson character never gets close to explaining the man's power. The film shows how the drive to "modernise" Labour was born out of frustration with years of defeat by the Tories.
A CLEAR majority of people in Britain now think the war on Iraq was wrong. An opinion poll in the Guardian on Monday showed 53 percent think the war was unjustified and only 38 percent believe it was right to attack Iraq. This is the reality looming over Tony Blair at his party's conference starting on Sunday.
SOCIALISTS IN Cardiff were saddened to hear of the tragic death of Terry Jenkins. Terry, who had moved to St Dogmaels, Cardigan, some months ago, was a well known socialist in Cardiff. After joining the Young Communist League he joined the International Socialists in the 1970s and was an active member of SWP for many years.
DUE TO my husband being despicably treated at the hands of the TNT/Sony company he worked for, I am enclosing a copy of a letter I have sent to various appropriate people. I do not know if there is anything you can do, but I thought your readers should be aware of what tricks can be pulled on loyal employees.
THE BRUTAL reality of working life in Britain was shown in two industrial tribunal cases revealed in the press last week. Joanne MacDonald, a former telesales worker, lost her baby after being sacked for being pregnant.