UNIVERSITY lecturers who are members of NATFHE in the new universities met at a special pay conference last Saturday. They reluctantly voted to accept the vice-chancellors' 3.5 percent pay offer. There was criticism of union leaders for the lack of a proper fighting campaign. Not one day of action was called by NATFHE during the whole pay dispute. Delegates were vehemently opposed to the introduction of performance related pay and "job evaluation" schemes.
JOURNALISTS IN the NUJ union at the Observer have voted for a strike over pay. The 34 to 15 strike vote is over Observer journalists being offered a lower pay rise than those at their sister paper the Guardian. Guardian staff have been offered 3.5 percent, while Observer staff are being offered just 2.4 percent.
GORDON BROWN handed Britain's biggest companies a huge incentive to carry on wrecking the Earth this week. Everyone sensible knows that action is needed over global warming. But, after intense pressure from the bosses, Brown has driven policy in completely the opposite direction.
"PRO-enterprise, pro-competition" is how chancellor Gordon Brown summed up his policy on Tuesday. The pre-budget statement handed millions more to the rich, while ignoring the needs of the many. Brown told "entrepreneurs" that he was slashing the capital gains tax on buying and selling business assets and shares from 40 to 10 percent. Bosses at the British Venture Capital Association were delighted, and hailed "a massive step in the right direction".
BROWN'S SPEECH on Tuesday gave a glowing account of the British economy. That's not how it seems to thousands of workers across Britain who learned in the last week that they face the dole.
POOR SALES of tickets for the Millennium Dome have led the government to bung the private company running it £50 million in public subsidy to cover "cash flow difficulties". The New Millennium Experience Company, the Dome's organiser, has spent £4 million on an advertising campaign to try and boost ticket sales. Prices are set at £20 for an adult and £57 for a family. But after two months not a single date, including the prestigious 1 January, has been sold out.
THE GOVERNMENT announced last week that there is to be a three year pause in the commercial growing of genetically modified (GM) crops. This climbdown follows the public outcry at the health risks and environmental dangers GM crops pose. The three year pause is welcome, but not nearly long enough to determine the long term damage GM crops can cause.
NEW LABOUR risks a fresh epidemic of food poisoning and BSE if it goes ahead with plans to axe official inspections in abattoirs. The recommendations come from a body set up by Nick Brown's Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. It suggests slaughterhouse bosses, not independent inspectors, should have greater responsibility in checking hygiene standards.
THE government claims it won't sell arms to countries if there is a "clearly identifiable risk they might be used for internal repression". That sounds like a sick joke in the light of new figures on the 10,000 arms export licences approved in 1998.
The Ministry of Defence is planning to target young offenders aged 16 to 18 as new recruits for the army. A pilot scheme will be set up in prisons in Wetherby in West Yorkshire and Dover, Kent. The scheme could go nationwide.
TEN YEARS ago this week many thousands of people reduced the Berlin Wall to rubble. They breached the divide which rulers East and West had maintained throughout the Cold War. They were reacting against the repressive regimes across Eastern Europe which they were told were socialist.
"THE WORLD is screwed and we've got to do something about it." That is what Sam from Derby University said last weekend. He summarised the feelings of about 1,000 students who gathered for People and Planet's "Shared Planet" conference at Warwick University.
THE HABINTEG Housing Association, whose main office is in central London, has agreed in principle to recognise the MSF union as a negotiating body. This follows a recruitment drive in which 27 staff - 50 percent of the workforce - have joined the MSF over the last six months.
THE NATIONAL Union of Teachers is calling on teachers to organise a week of protests, beginning on 29 November, against the government's plan to impose a performance related pay system. Activities are to be aimed at winning arguments with other teaching unions, parents, governors and MPs, but they will not include the one day strike agreed at the last annual conference. The union's general secretary, Doug McAvoy, announced this action when he spoke to 130 union branch secretaries last week.
"LOOK AT us. I feel like I am homeless. We look so poor sitting here in all the cold weather." They are the bitter words of one of the Sky Chefs workers at Heathrow airport who have been on the picket line for nearly a year after being sacked for taking a legal one day strike.
AT MORE and more workplaces Socialist Worker sellers are regularly selling on a Thursday or Friday morning. In Peckham in south London 14 papers were sold on 3 workplace sales, with 5 sold at both Jets stationers and Bournemouth Road council offices, plus 4 at Frensham Street DLO. Elsewhere in south London 7 papers were sold at both King's College Hospital and Southwark's education department building, plus 5 at Wandsworth housing department. Central London workplace sales included 5 at both Camden Town Hall and Mount Pleasant post office, plus 4 at BBC Bush House. Meanwhile in Leeds 9 papers were sold at both the Yorkshire Evening Post and Castle House Inland Revenue office, plus 8 at
HUNDREDS OF people joined a march and rally over rail safety in central London last Saturday. The protest was called by the Safety on the Trains Action Group, which includes families of those who died in the Southall and Paddington rail crashes, and was supported by the RMT, ASLEF and TSSA rail unions. Among the speakers was Mick Rix, general secretary of ASLEF, who threatened industrial action unless the government moves to bring in the ATP safety system which could have prevented both Southall and Paddington.
"IT'S A war in there." They were the angry words of a Ford Dagenham worker this week as the giant plant in Essex was again hit by strike action.
There is a new mood of resistance in the Post Office, with the level of struggle rising. Many of the disputes are centred on the actions of bullying managers. Last week there were at least six unofficial strikes - and workers won clearly in most of them.
TYNESIDE shipyard workers won a swift victory by walking out over safety last week. The walkout began when two workers at the Cammell Laird yard in Hebburn on the south bank of the Tyne complained over procedures for dealing with asbestos. They were working on a giant refitting of the Edinburgh Castle cruise line, a job which has seen the yard's workforce swell to its biggest number for 18 years.