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:
ENVIRONMENTAL protesters have scored a success against a huge multinational company. The ex-mining village of Killamarsh, on the edge of Sheffield, has been plagued by chemical leaks from a SARP chemical plant since last May. A 150 foot high incinerator chimney has been belching out gas over nearby houses, schools and a nature reserve. Residents set up an opposition group, RASP (Residents Against SARP Pollution), which has campaigned 24 hours a day. They have picketed the plant and demonstrated in Paris, Brussels, and in Derbyshire County Council meetings.
SECRETARIAL and clerical workers at Manchester University were due to be out on strike on Tuesday in a dispute over pay. Staff have demanded an improvement on the 3.5 percent which was foisted on them in their September pay packets. The university has one of the highest proportions of low paid clerical staff in the country.
BOB CROW narrowly won re-election as RMT assistant general secretary last week. The RMT is Britain's biggest rail union. Crow polled 7,137 votes, against 6,795 for Watford based signal technician Mick Cash. Cash is a Labour councillor and was backed by the right wing in the union.
THE NATIONAL executive of the MSF union suspended three leading lay officers of the London Regional Council of the union last Saturday. MSF members in London have been excluded from voting for the Labour candidate for mayor of London. Instead of denouncing the Labour Party leadership for ignoring democracy, the union leadership is trying to place the blame on the left wing London MSF leadership.
RESISTANCE TO the ravages of the global market hit Warwick University on Tuesday of last week. The university had invited Nestlé executives to a graduate recruitment fair. Socialist Worker Student Society, People and Planet and others united to demonstrate against the multinational. Nestlé has been exposed by The Mark Thomas Product for its mislabelling of baby milk to African mothers. The United Nations believes this has resulted in over a million unnecessary deaths.
FOLLOWING A successful campaign against the Education Action Zone in Hackney, east London, eleven schools have pulled out of the scheme. After an indicative vote among the remaining schools in the EAZ, the National Union of Teachers is now looking to ballot two schools - Kingsland and William Patten - for industrial action.
BOSSES AT Ford motors have been forced to improve their pay and conditions offer to 28,000 workers across Britain. Union leaders hailed the agreement as "inflation busting" and are reccommending that workers accept the package. But Ford workers should reject the new offer.
"WE SUPPORT the sick and lonely. Sefton think of money only!" chanted over 100 home carers as they paraded through the main shopping streets of Southport, Merseyside, last Saturday. The march was in protest at Sefton council's decision to privatise the home care service and close four residential homes. This will put 408 jobs at risk.
MEETINGS ARE beginning to take place around the country to organise support for Roger Bannister's campaign in the election for general secretary of the UNISON public sector workers' union. Bannister is mounting a socialist challenge to Dave Prentis, the candidate backed by the union's existing leaders.
A GROUP of building workers have been picketing the Laing site off Trafalgar Square in central London. The workers, five bricklayers, had raised questions about conditions on the site. Soon afterwards their employer, Avondale, told the bricklayers there was no further work for them.
AN ANTI-racist demonstration has been called in Plymouth in support of black rugby player Carl Egonu. Carl faces jail for defending himself against violence during a rugby game.