"PEOPLE ARE up for striking. Everyone is pissed off with everything. We're sick of being treated like skivvies and dumped on." So said an angry driver on North Western Trains in the run up to the first of a series of 24 hour strikes, due to take place on Christmas Eve. The second strike day is set for 4 January, with others set to follow.
ACTION GETS results. That's the conclusion after the first national strike action in BT for 13 years looks to have forced the company to retreat. Britain's most profitable company had been ignoring complaints from workers in its call centres over their conditions. So 4,000 call centre workers staged a one day strike last month. A second strike was called off by the CWU union after a deal was struck.
"SCROOGE" AND "despot" was how bus workers on strike at Yorkshire Traction buses described their boss, Frank Carter, last week. Around 700 bus drivers, engineers and clerical workers, members of the TGWU union, were holding their third one day strike in three weeks to demand a decent pay rise from Carter. The solid strike is already costing Carter £120,000 for each strike day as services across west and south Yorkshire are hit. Pickets were out at the Sheffield Road depot in a lively show of force last week.
COMPUTER workers at Heathrow Airport have succeeded in forcing British Airways management to back off from some of its attacks. BA is still looking to sell off sections of the Information Management department. But a campaign, including the threat of strike action, has forced the company to promise that it will not take any worker off their BA contract.
UP TO 4,000 steel erectors, electricians and welders are planning a number of one day unofficial strikes over pay. The strikes are due to take place in the run up to Christmas. They will hit five big engineering construction sites, including Grangemouth in Scotland, Sellafield in Cumbria, and Saltend near Hull.
FORD: Workers at Ford will not be reballoted over the company's pay offer. There were hopes of a re-ballot after reports that union officials had been flooded with complaints about the original ballot that produced a narrow vote to accept the deal. But national officials denied last week that there were any problems with the ballot and signed the deal.
POSTAL WORKERS in many parts of Britain have won significant concessions over Christmas working arrangements. The moves follow an avalanche of requests for strike ballots. The biggest gains are in London where, according to one union member, "we have rewritten the national agreement between Royal Mail and the union, a deal which we did not like and should never have been accepted."
AROUND 70 people marched from Selly Oak Hospital, Birmingham, to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital last Saturday, shouting, "Hospital closures, no way-tax the rich and make them pay!" They were protesting at the building of a "super-hospital" under the Private Finance Initiative approved by the Birmingham Health Authority.
POLICE CIVILIAN staff in Manchester continued their campaign of strike action on Monday. Over 100 people attended the picket line outside Greater Manchester Police HQ. The campaign follows a "job evaluation report" which recommended pay cuts of up to £5,500 a year. This is in stark contrast to the chief constable, who received a £20,000 pay rise and spent £80,000 on a new toilet for his office. Following the first strike last week, management offered to delay the pay cuts by a year. The UNISON union has rejected this and has pledged to continue the action next week and into the new year.
THE CAMPAIGN is under way inside the London MSF union to fight the victimisation of three branch officers. The three were suspended by the MSF's national executive for protesting after the Labour Party took away the union's right to vote in the party's elections for London mayor. Activists argue that the decision was a political one after the London executive had voted to back Ken Livingstone. An action committee has now produced a broadsheet.
CIVIL SERVANTS at the Manchester based Equal Opportunities Commission have accepted a pay offer for 1999 which will mean pay rises of up to 22 percent for the lowest paid. EOC rates began to lag behind those of other civil servants after national bargaining was ended. But an overwhelming vote to strike last year forced a much improved offer. The 4.1 percent offer will mean members near the bottom of each grade receiving the highest raise, without any reference to pay being performance related.
So why won't Labour take action?
TONY BLAIR this week claimed it was wrong to talk of a north-south divide in Britain. There are "haves" and "have nots" in all parts of Britain, he said. That is true. Class, the reality New Labour denies, is the biggest divide in every area, not geography.
THE REALITY of inequality in Blair's Britain was revealed in research last week from Bristol University, the biggest study of health inequalities since the 1980s. The stark truth is that in Britain today, the poorer you are, the earlier you die. The study found:
A SCOTTISH bigot who leads a Catholic based anti-abortion group was exposed last week as formerly on the extreme right wing of the Protestant Orange Order. Jim Dawson is leader of the anti-abortion group Precious Life. The group models itself on violent US organisations that have firebombed abortion clinics, killing workers inside. Precious Life is threatening to picket the homes of clinic workers in Scotland. He used to play in a band that produced tributes to Michael Stone, the Loyalist terrorist who murdered three Catholics at a Republican funeral in 1988.
A US government department was exposed last week for trying to cover up scientists' concerns over genetically modified (GM) food. An environmental group, Alliance for Bio-Integrity, used a public hearing to accuse the Food and Drug Administration of suppressing warnings by its own scientists over the dangers of GM food.
MISERY AND persecution. That is what home secretary Jack Straw has in store for asylum seekers this Christmas. This week Straw set in motion plans to forcibly "disperse" asylum seekers around the country. His scapegoating of asylum seekers is an attempt to divert people's attention from the real problems of poverty in Britain, which Tony Blair was forced to pay lip service to this week.
Workplace sales of Socialist Worker continue to grow apace, with 23 sold at Glasgow Royal Infirmary, 17 at Liverpool Royal Infirmary, 16 at the BT call centre in Sunderland, 11 at Glacier Metals, 10 at Wandsworth council housing office, 7 at St George's Hospital in south London, and 4 at Severn-Trent Water in Nottingham. Central London workplace sales last week included 6 sold at Mount Pleasant post office, 5 at both the British Library and Camden council's Crowndale Centre, plus 4 at St Mary's Hospital.
OVER 500 train drivers on North Western Trains, members of the ASLEF and RMT unions, have voted by 90 percent and 100 percent respectively to take strike action over this year's pay award, which is still outstanding from April. The company has offered 3.6 percent with strings. The national executive of ASLEF was to meet on Wednesday to decide what form of strike action to call. The RMT will then respond with the same action.
TONY BLAIR is continuing his campaign against Ken Livingstone. Blair and former Labour leader Neil Kinnock launched a tirade against Livingstone at a meeting of over 600 Labour Party members in Brixton, south London, on Friday of last week. Blair declared, "We can't go back to gesture politics," and that Ken Livingstone as mayor would risk being "disastrous for the Labour Party and disastrous for London".
"IT IS fantastic to attend such an event. It shows that socialist ideas and action are more relevant than ever as we approach the next century." That is what an electrician from Glasgow said about last weekend's Socialism in Scotland conference in the city.