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.
BUS WORKERS in Essex staged their second one day strike over pay on Friday of last week. The strikes are the first for 29 years at Eastern National, now owned by the giant First Bus outfit. The action shut depots in towns across Essex, including Colchester, Chelmsford, Bishop's Stortford, Braintree and elsewhere.
WORKERS IN the Inland Revenue took action which crashed the entire national tax computer system last Friday. The workers, members of the PCS union, staged what they dubbed a "Flexi-Protest Day". This meant all workers sticking to their core hours of 10am to 4pm with a half hour lunch break. In Leeds over 200 staff marched into the Castle House office at 10am.
£40 million handout to the fat cats
AS CHANCELLOR Gordon Brown was praising the achievements of Thatcherism, hundreds of coal miners in the north east of England faced the sack. Private mining firm RJ Budge, which was allowed to buy up coal pits on the cheap by the Tories, announced that it is to close the last remaining working deep mine pit in the north east. Budge is to close Ellington pit, near Ashington in Northumberland, with the loss of 450 jobs.
THE HEALTH and Safety Executive (HSE) published its first interim report into the Paddington rail crash last week. The report found that signal 109 was obscured by overhead cables and gantries, making it hard for the driver to see the signal. The HSE report made it clear that the driver of the Thames train was not to blame for the crash.
THE INDIAN cyclone has caused complete devastation to one of the poorest areas of India. Ten million people's lives have been ruined and thousands are dead.