Hackney council workers in east London are to strike for three days from 29 to 31 January. Urgent action is needed. The leaders of the Labour-Tory coalition that runs the east London council have agreed cuts of £50 million over the next three years. This will mean assets flogged off to private developers and more privatisation of vital services such as school transport for special needs children.
Workers at the Cowley BMW car plant in Oxford were to vote this week on a pay and conditions package. They should throw it out. The package includes a two-year pay offer of just 4 percent followed by a 3 percent rise. "That is pathetic money," says a Cowley worker, "only £13 a week before tax." The deal also includes a new grading scheme and performance related pay. "There's a principle at stake here," says the worker. "You can see how BMW want things to go in the future. They've got flexible hours-now they want flexible money."
Around 1,900 Crown Prosecution Service workers in the PCS civil servants' union started their industrial action campaign over pay on Monday of this week. The action will severely disrupt the work of courts across England and Wales. Bosses claim that the workers are getting a 4.5 percent increase, but for most workers it will work out as 3.3 percent. Top lawyers will get an extra £10,000 a year, while administration staff will receive just £350 more.
A protest is planned outside the Colombian embassy in London on Friday 19 January over the Latin American country's government's support for the US Plan Colombia. The US is pouring huge military resources into the plan under the pretext of a "war on drugs". In reality the plan is a US attempt to impose its will on a country at the heart of a region where it fears social unrest is threatening its business and strategic interests.
The government is in disarray over its plans to privatise council housing, and the chance is there to pile on the pressure to force a complete retreat. A marvellous opportunity to intensify the campaign comes in just over a week, when tenants and council workers join forces for a major lobby of parliament. Already coaches are booked from across Britain to bring people to London for the mass lobby on Wednesday 24 January.
"This is about our union leaders letting New Labour off the hook," was how a worker in East Ayrshire council reacted to the news that leaders of the UNISON union are calling off strikes by council workers across Scotland. Workers in other Scottish councils had the same reaction. "There's a feeling of shock, of betrayal," argued a worker in Inverclyde council. "The union leaders are trying to ditch the fight, to help out New Labour in the run-up to the general election."
Solidarity is flowing in from trade unionists around the country for the strike by health workers in Dudley in the West Midlands. Trade unionists have countered the mainstream media's news blackout on the strike by raising solidarity in their workplaces. The 600 ancillary workers were set to begin a further three-week strike on Wednesday in their battle against being transferred out of the NHS under the Private Finance Initiative (PFI).
Privatisation wrecks railways
TEN THOUSAND manufacturing jobs a month will go this year, says TUC union leader John Monks. If, as most economic commentators predict, the US boom ends, then thousands more will be destroyed. But there are important signs of resistance. Workers are angry at being playthings of the system's rollercoaster boom and bust. Even union leaders who instinctively back Tony Blair are appalled at the results of New Labour's jobs policy. But only pressure from workers will make them turn their words into deeds.
LONDON Underground workers were to begin ballots for strike action this week after management rejected union demands to preserve safety and staffing levels. The ASLEF and RMT unions are fighting the effects of New Labour's proposed PPP privatisation of the tube. The dispute hits at the heart of New Labour's privatisation mania. Strikes on the tube have the potential to kill the sell-off and add to the pressure on the government to renationalise the railway.
TENANTS AND trade unionists are preparing for a major lobby of parliament against council house privatisation on Wednesday 24 January. The lobby has been called to demand that New Labour drops its attempt to end council housing and force through the privatisation of all remaining 3.2 million council homes in Britain.
SIGNALS IN the area of the 1999 Paddington rail crash were "exceptionally difficult" for drivers to see and did not comply with industry standards. That was the conclusion of the official Health and Safety Executive (HSE) inquiry into the Paddington disaster, in which 31 people were killed when two trains smashed into each other.
HEALTH WORKERS in Dudley in the West Midlands struck for three weeks over Christmas and got a huge boost from the solidarity they received. Over 250 strikers and their families tasted the level of support at a party just before Christmas.
NATO MILITARY chiefs are under growing pressure to investigate a possible link between depleted uranium shells used by its forces in its bombing of Kosovo and a spate of deaths from cancer. Italy's military prosecutor is examining five deaths of military personnel who were in Kosovo.
RESEARCH BY the Health and Safety Executive, due to be published later this month, has uncovered intolerable working conditions and stress levels at call centres.
MICHAEL HESELTINE last week joined Tory leader William Hague's filthy campaign to play the race card in the run-up to the election. The man Tony Blair claims is a "one-nation Tory" launched a vicious attack on asylum seekers. "Let's not mince our language here," he said, claiming that most refugees were "bogus".
THOUSANDS OF council workers in Hackney, east London, struck for a day on 20 December in a big escalation of the battle against cuts pushed through by the ruling Tory-Labour coalition. The action before Christmas was extremely effective and needs to be built on now, because very serious challenges lie ahead. The unions organised emergency cover, but apart from that there was an almost total shutdown in both the manual and white collar services.
POSTAL workers will face serious challenges this year as reports in the press are saying that Post Office bosses and the government are preparing to attack them and their CWU union. Fortunately there are plenty of signs that postal workers are prepared to resist any attacks.
LABOUR WON the by-election in Falkirk West by the thinnest of majorities just before Christmas. Labour's majority of 13,800 in 1997 was slashed to just 705 over the Scottish National Party (SNP).
TRADE UNION officials rammed through an appalling deal at Luton airport just as workers were expecting to launch strike action over the Christmas holiday. Members of the TGWU union voted narrowly to accept the deal, by 217 to 179, the week before Christmas.