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.
THE BRITISH government secretly sprayed huge areas of the country with deadly chemical spray in the 1950s, it has been revealed. The Ministry of Defence's chemical and biological warfare establishment at Porton Down conducted the secret experiments. It sprayed chemical spray and bacteria over Wiltshire, Hampshire, Berkshire, Dorset, Somerset and Surrey. Scientists claimed they wanted to find how vulnerable Britain was to a biological attack from the Soviet Union.
THE TORIES and the British press have whipped themselves into an anti-French frenzy over beef during the last fortnight. Labour cabinet ministers, like agriculture secretary Nick Brown, have encouraged the mood. But they all ignore the most basic facts about British beef and BSE.
NURSES' UNION leaders in Ireland ordered over 27,000 striking nurses back to work last week while they ballot on a deal proposed by the Irish government. Many nurses are unhappy with the proposals, which do not meet their demand for every long serving staff nurse to receive higher pay. Instead the government is proposing to create 2,500 positions of "senior staff nurse" which will only benefit a minority of nurses.
Sales of Socialist Worker outside workplaces are gathering strength. Last week in central London 14 were sold at St Mary's Hospital in Paddington, 9 at Mount Pleasant post office and 5 at the Westminster site of the Jubilee Line Extension. In the north east 15 papers were sold at Newcastle's Royal Victoria Infirmary with £15 collected for the Socialist Worker Appeal and £11 at Sunderland Civic Centre where 11 was collected. In Manchester 16 papers were sold at the town hall, 12 at Oldham Road post office and 8 at the Marks and Spencer construction site. In Bristol sales included 11 at the Avonmouth Bridge site and 9 at the central telephone exchange, while on Merseyside 15 were sold at
WORKERS ON Tyneside's Metro light rail system are threatening strike action over millennium holiday payments. They have rejected by eight to one an offer of a £350 bonus, triple pay and a day off for those working after 8pm on New Year's Eve. The RMT union, representing half of Metro's 600 employees, is asking for a £750 millennium bonus.
CAR WORKERS in Coventry have been taking French lessons! The French parliament last week approved the key stage in a law cutting hours to 35 a week with no loss of pay. Unions at Peugeot in Britain are now demanding that the French company's 6,000 workers in Coventry get the same.
MORE AREAS are getting organised behind the campaign for the election of Roger Bannister for general secretary of Britain's largest union, UNISON. Activists on Merseyside met last week to plan a public meeting to build the fight for a socialist alternative to UNISON's current leadership.
ABOUT 50 people attended a counter-demonstration to face down an annual anti-abortion commemoration in Glasgow last week. The anti-abortion "vigil", on the anniversary of the passing of the act which legalised abortion in Britain in 1967, was much smaller than in previous years. The pro-choice lobby included health workers, lecturers and students. Men joined women in with angry chants of, "No return to the backstreet - a woman's right to choose", and, "Not the church, not the state, women must decide their fate."
HOME HELPS in Derbyshire have voted by more than nine to one for industrial action to stop the introduction of electronic time sheets. The result is a blow to the Labour controlled council, whose scheme has been dubbed "electronic tagging" by the home helps. The industrial action was due to start on Wednesday of this week and will allow home helps to boycott the scheme.
LEADERS OF the AUT lecturers' union have disgracefully suspended industrial action over pay. The campaign began earlier this year with an excellent one day strike. Since then it has consisted mainly of boycotts of some administration tasks and admissions inquiries. The union's winter council (a delegate based body similar to a conference in other unions) could be asked to consider holding another ballot for action if there is not sufficient progress by the time it is held.