"We're not militant, but now it's come to the crunch. We've finally had enough, and we're fighting." That's how medical secretary Susan Mann summed up the mood on an angry and lively picket line outside Sunderland Royal Hospital on Tuesday of this week. She was one of 90 low paid women health workers on the picket line at the start of their three-day strike. All of them had the same message. They are fed up of being treated like low paid dogsbodies. Medical secretaries across the north east of England have been fighting to win a higher grade and better pay.
STOP THEIR WAR
"ACTION AGAINST Iraq will be top of the agenda." That's how Tony Blair's official spokesman sums up the meeting planned between Blair and George W Bush in six weeks time. Bush has made it clear he is eager to blast Iraq, and Blair is cheering on the plan.
In South east London last weekend Moonbow Jake's cafe bar was packed with people discussing and debating Muhammad Ali and the spirit of the 60s. Jason Halal, an American student at Goldsmiths' College, has written an article for the student magazine on the forum:
The national dispute by tens of thousands of benefits office and job centre workers in the PCS civil servants' union has taken another major blow. The group executive committee, which runs the dispute and is dominated by the Left Unity group, decided on Monday of this week to recommend no action until a one-day strike for Tuesday 2 April. This is the day that New Labour's flagship Jobcentre Plus welfare scheme is officially launched.
Some 377 CWU union members who work in the D&DS section of BT are being balloted to take strike action against plans to transfer them to a contractor, ComputaCentre. At a meeting of around 40 union members in London last week there was a heated exchange between the audience and a national executive member.
National Union of Journalists (NUJ) members are celebrating winning union recognition at Emap Healthcare and Public Sector Management magazines after a campaign lasting nearly four years. The victory is significant-Emap, a major media group, derecognised trade unions a decade ago.
Some 800 TGWU union members from Manchester airport and their supporters marched through the centre of Manchester last Saturday during a 36-hour strike. This followed a series of lively one-hour stoppages in February. Their managers are demanding that the workers accept new contracts which cut their pay by 40 percent. They will lose their jobs if they do not.
A Stop the War Coalition teach-in took place in Nottingham last Saturday. Around 60 people engaged in a series of dynamic discussions. The final rally included Lindsey German, the editor of Socialist Review, Neil Kingsnorth of Yorkshire CND, and Alan Simpson, the local Labour MP.
Over 150 trade union activists marched through driving snow and winds to lobby the Scottish Labour Party conference in Perth last Saturday. Some coaches were prevented from attending due to the snowfalls. John McAllion, the Labour MSP, spoke at a rally against privatisation after the lobby.
Over 100 people attended an excellent weekend of meetings in London organised by the Colombia Solidarity Campaign last Saturday and Sunday. The highlight of the conference was a rally addressed by visiting trade unionists from Colombia.
Workers at historic tourist attractions in England are set to stage a one-day strike on Monday 11 March. Hundreds of workers will join the strikes at places such as Stonehenge and Dover Castle. The workers at English Heritage are fuming at an imposed pay award of 3.5 percent.
The streets of central London reverberated to the sound of 10,000 loud and angry students on Wednesday of last week. They were demanding the reinstatement of the grant and the scrapping of tuition fees.
Hundreds of medical secretaries in the north east of England are set to strike for three days from next Tuesday. The women workers are some of the lowest paid in the National Health Service. Most of them earn less than £13,000 a year. For years they have put up with low pay, working in an underfunded NHS without any reward for their work.
Thousands of workers at the Longbridge MG Rover car plant in Birmingham are balloting on strike action. Both the TGWU and Amicus unions have agreed to ballot their members in a fight over bosses' attempts to get workers to accept more "flexible" working arrangements.
The close vote on privatisation at the Scottish Labour Party conference last weekend underlined the depths of opposition to policies like handing council homes to private companies. The vote came just after a significant minority of the ruling Labour group of councillors in Glasgow voted against the plan to go ahead with a ballot on privatising the city's more than 80,000 council homes.
Teachers in London are voting for strikes as increasing workloads and the rising cost of living force record numbers to quit the job. Over 40,000 members of the National Union of Teachers (NUT) are balloting for action to win increases in the allowances paid for working in London.
"Management say they are digging in. But so are we, and the feeling is mounting." That's what Mark Russell, an RMT union guards' rep on Arriva trains, told Socialist Worker. Arriva bosses last week cancelled rest day working in a vindictive move designed to hit workers' pay packets between strikes.
At a packed meeting last week 300 council workers in Tower Hamlets, east London, voted unanimously to go ahead with strike action, starting with a one-day strike across the borough on Thursday of this week.
The mood for strikes is back. One group of workers after another are voting for action over pay, the impact of privatisation, aggressive managers and New Labour's insults. But they also face pressure from many of their own union leaders to hold back from battle. Rail workers on Arriva Northern were set to strike over pay for 48 hours on Friday and Saturday of this week.