Socialist Worker


Civil servants

UP TO 100 members of the PCS civil service union attended a lunchtime rally over pay on Friday of last week. They gathered outside deputy prime minister John Prescott's office at the Department of the Environment, Transport and Regions (DETR). PCS members in the DETR have had a pay deal imposed on them after rejecting it in a ballot. The dispute is not just about the small amount of money on offer, but also over Performance Related Pay, which has been shown to discriminate against black staff and people with disabilities.


THE TROUBLES at British Airways have drawn attention away from the problems faced by BAA - the airport operator. A profits fall has led to cost cutting. The company says it may be looking for compulsory redundancies. There is no need for this immensely profitable company to make people redundant. BAA is still looking at projected profits of £306 million. The unions need to be challenging the company.


A WORKER at a non-union west London call centre has been suspended following a 45 minute stoppage by some 70 workers. Clarence Jackman works at the British Market Research Bureau (BMRB) in Ealing, west London. Last Friday dozens of workers stopped work in protest at bad working conditions. The next day Clarence, an MSF member, was summoned to a meeting by management but was refused union representation by the firm, which does not recognise the union. He has now been suspended and is looking to the union to take up his case.


A MASS picket caused a three mile traffic tailback outside a Scottish Highlands oil rig fabrication yard last week. Some 150 workers employed by subcontractor Palmers downed tools and blockaded the entrance of the Barmac yard at Nigg in Easter Ross. The walkout was sparked by the death in a road accident of a 63 year old scaffolder, James Maclennan, while travelling from work late at night. Workers want shift times changed so that they do not have to set off for long journeys home in the dark.


WORKERS AT sock makers Pex in Leicestershire have won some of their demands after a 12 day picket at the Earl Shilton plant. Pex bosses wanted to shut the plant down leaving many workers without pay owed to them. The workers' protest saw administrators appointed by the high court to take control. The workers hope this will mean getting some of the money due to them.


INDUSTRIAL action could be hitting ITN soon, after workers voted at a mass meeting last week to be balloted. Any action could disrupt news programmes on ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5.


AROUND 300 students demonstrated at the University of Kent's Canterbury campus on Monday. College management want to cut the portering service, which would threaten safety on campus. Students had already protested on Friday of last week. On Monday students marched around campus rallying support and then rallied outside a management meeting discussing the cuts. "If they're not going to listen we're going to have to occupy," said one student.


PENSIONERS ARE planning to protest across Britain on Wednesday 24 November. A variety of events, ranging from displaying placards on buses, to sit downs in town centres, to blockading roads, are expected to take place.


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.

Brown bows to bosses' blackmail

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.

Proud to rule for rich

"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".

Thousands more learn they will face jobs axe

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.

Dome company gets a bung

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.

GM crops retreat

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.

Beef rules face cuts

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.

Arms to brutal regimes

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.

Jails feed trenches

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.

Legacy of the 1989 revolts

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.

People and Planet conference: students show 'We do give a damn'

"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.

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