"IT'S LIKE working in a slave galley." That was how one striker in Lancaster summed up the feelings of the 4,000 workers on strike at 37 BT call centres around Britain on Monday.
NEARLY 2,000 bus workers across west London struck for the day over pay on Monday this week. The action hit services in Greenford, Acton, Uxbridge, Orpington, Alperton and Westbourne Park. It was the workers' second official one day strike. Members of the TGWU also struck for the day on Wednesday of last week. The drivers and conductors work for a company called Centre West which is owned by First Group, Britain's largest bus operator.
FORD WORKERS are not happy with management's pay and hours offer. Mass meetings were to take place at many Ford plants across the country this week where consultatative ballots were to be held. Results were expected after Socialist Worker went to press.
MEMBERS OF the white collar MSF union in London are taking on New Labour, and their own union leadership, over the right to vote for Labour's candidate for mayor. At the union's London regional council meeting last Saturday nearly 50 delegates and over 30 visitors packed into a room to debate the Labour Party's refusal to allow MSF members to vote in the election.
ANGER EXPLODED last week at the news that energy company Scottish Power plans to axe 450 jobs, 250 of them in Scotland. At the same time the company announced profits of £1.3 million a day. Company boss Ian Robinson was paid £1.1 million last year. Even AEEU union leader Sir Ken Jackson, who talks of "partnership" between bosses and workers, was forced to slam the company. Scottish Power has tried to blame the job cuts on the power regulator demanding customer savings. In reality the cuts are part of a massive shake up in the industry.
CAPITALISM'S ELITE will meet in Seattle in the US next week. They will gather for the World Trade Organisation summit. Representatives of 134 countries are expected to hammer out even more favourable conditions for the multinationals. They say they just want "free trade". But on the agenda are proposals to:
Rotten stitch up over London Mayor.
DISABLED WORKERS at Remploy, the government funded company which employs disabled people, are furious that the company has trashed its promise not to close nine factories. Remploy chief Tony Withey said last week that the company will cut 913 manufacturing jobs over the next two years. This is on top of reviving old plans to shut or merge nine of Remploy's 87 factories, causing "disruption and anxiety" for at least 500 workers.
ONE OF Scotland's leading trade unionists has been expelled from his union. Roddy Slorach was thrown out of the UNISON union on Tuesday by union leaders who often claim to oppose New Labour policies. UNISON leader Rodney Bickerstaffe appears on TV attacking cuts in the public sector. The hollowness of that rhetoric is shown by his appalling treatment of Roddy.
HOME secretary Jack Straw has once more caved in to the racists over immigration. He has added still more vicious measures against asylum seekers to the Immigration and Asylum Bill, which will shortly become law. Virtually all the groups that work with asylum seekers have described measures in the bill as barbaric.
MPs TAKE home more money than 96 percent of their voters, according to research by Incomes Data Services (IDS). They now get a basic salary of over £47,000 a year, or £902 a week before tax. Most people earn between £180 and £400 a week. You get £144 for a 40 hour week - less than one sixth of an MP's earnings - if you are on the minimum wage.
TWO LEADING banks announced last week that they were sacking hundreds of workers. Shares in both Barclays and Northern Rock shot up on news of the job cuts. Some 250 Northern Rock workers and 500 Barclays workers face the misery and fear of unemployment in the run up to Xmas. Shareholders will get an Xmas bonus. In the same week Britain's fifth biggest supermarket, Somerfield, said it will sell 100 to 140 of its larger shops. It has already hived off 350 Kwik Save stores.
THE NATIONAL Health Service faces crisis this winter. Finance directors say the NHS deficit for this year is already £200 million. The total NHS debt is up to £1 billion. This means that operations are likely to be cut back as hospitals try and balance the books.
"I DON'T know much about politics. But I do know that New Labour has spent the £130 million it got from introducing student fees on underwriting arms sales to Indonesia." That is one reason Oxford University student Oliver Clueit gave Socialist Worker for why he had joined a four day occupation of one of the university's central administration buildings.
"I WAS a gardener for Greenwich council for 12 years. But I had a nervous breakdown and took redundancy. My redundancy went on the mortgage until it ran out. Then I just lost everything. They repossessed my home. My girlfriend left me. Everything went down the drain. I stayed with my parents for a while but it didn't work out. I've been homeless on and off for four years now. They attack us for taking drugs. I take drugs sometimes because it blocks it all out. Everything just gets too much."
TONY, Big Issue seller, Charing Cross station
SOME 50,000 people marched in Vienna in Austria on Friday of last week in protest at the Nazi Jörg Haider. It was one of the country's biggest political demonstrations since the Second World War.
AN EXCELLENT 25 copies of Socialist Worker were sold at Royal Alexandra Hospital in Paisley while 12 were sold at Glasgow Royal Infirmary. Elsewhere 11 papers were sold at Royal Liverpool Hospital with £11 collected for the Socialist Worker Appeal. In the last week 5 people have joined the Socialist Workers Party in Birmingham; 4 at a public meeting in Hackney; 2 in Camberwell and at the University of Central England; 1 in Neath, Romford, Kent University, Toxteth, Wirral Metropolitan College and in Newcastle.
HEALTH WORKERS in UNISON, the biggest union in the NHS, have been dismayed by the decision of union leaders to call off a ballot for industrial action. The union called the ballot in protest at the lousy 3 percent pay deal offered to cleaners, porters, and admin and clerical, and ambulance workers. Yet within days union leaders called off the vote - even though not a penny extra pay had been offered to some of the most poorly paid workers in the NHS.
THOUSANDS of BT call centre workers are set to strike on Monday. If the action goes ahead it will be the first national action in BT for 13 years. It comes after BT announced record profits last week, up by 9 percent in the last three months to a staggering £137 a second.
THE NEW readiness of management to attack workers in the Post Office and the new mood of resistance continue. Among the unofficial walkouts last week were: