THE FIGHT for the leadership of Britain's biggest union will be between a candidate wanting to cosy up to the government and a socialist standing against the attacks from New Labour. The election is a result of current UNISON leader Rodney Bickerstaffe's decision to stand down.
DELEGATES FROM the PTC civil service union met in Scarborough last week against a backdrop of continuing low pay and government attacks. The delegates were split up into their "groups", such as Inland Revenue, Employment Service (ES), and so on.
OVER 40 people attended a public meeting in central London on Thursday of last week. They decided to campaign against the Labour Party and MSF union leadership's attacks on the MSF London region. The Labour Party has ruled that MSF members in London cannot vote in the party's mayoral candidate election because of a late payment in affiliation fees. When three London region MSF branch officers challenged the ruling they were suspended by their national leadership.
"I WAS staggered to learn of the expulsion of Roddy Slorach. Stop the witch hunt - justice must be done." So said UNISON national executive member, and candidate in the union's current general secretary election, Roger Bannister, over the expulsion of one of Glasgow's leading trade unionists from his union. Roger's message of support for Roddy will be read out by a delegation from his Knowsley UNISON branch who plan to join a lobby in Glasgow on Saturday. UNISON members and other trade unionists from across Britain are to protest outside UNISON's Scottish Regional Council.
TEACHERS IN England and Wales remain adamantly opposed to New Labour's plans for performance related pay, even as their union leaders move to sell them out. That is the conclusion from a special conference of the second largest teachers' union in England, the NASUWT, on Saturday, and from the build up to a week of action by the largest, the NUT.
STEEL WORKERS are demanding action to stop an £800 million "Maxwell style" pensions rip off. Thousands of steel workers are furious that British Steel bosses are taking £800 million from the £1,000 million pension fund surplus for themselves. Union leaders have accused British Steel of raiding the pension fund to finance the company's merger with Dutch firm Hoogovens.
"WICKED!" That was how one student summed up last week's national NUS demonstration against student poverty that saw up to 20,000 students march through central London. Despite this magnificent turnout none of the national press saw fit to report the protest.
THEY CAME in their hundreds, placards at the ready, with slogans such as, "Rent rise £2.70 a week - pensions increase 75p a week", and, "Thanks for the licence - pity we can't afford the TV." The pensioners came despite the cold weather, because they are angry with a Labour government which has reduced their quality of life.
OVER 1,000 people marched through Glasgow on Saturday on the Scottish TUC's march against racism. The demonstrators were headed by the Chhokar family campaign who are fighting for justice for their son Surjit who was stabbed to death. The rally was addressed by Scottish minister for communities Wendy Alexander and Sky Chefs workers from the London Heathrow dispute, amongst others.
UP TO 3,000 jobs are under threat at oil rig building yards in the Scottish Highlands. The yards, owned by Barmac, are at Nigg and Ardersier, both near Inverness, and are the largest private sector employer in the Highlands. Closure, which bosses say could happen next spring, could devastate the area.
ALL HELL broke loose in the computing section of British Airways at Heathrow Airport in west London last week. The company had announced it was to sell off three sections of the Information Management Department. Workers were gobsmacked. No one could believe it.
SOME 2,000 workers at Bernard Matthews turkey factories have voted for industrial action over pay in the run up to Christmas. The workers, members of the TGWU union, want a 4.6 percent rise and also have complaints about the way they are treated by managers. Union leaders are considering what form the action should take at the factories in Great Witchingham in Norfolk and Holton in Suffolk.
AROUND 150 people lobbied Hackney council in east London last Wednesday on a protest called by the Friends of Hackney Nurseries campaign group. The lively protest shook councillors, who are discussing possible cuts which will hit local parents and their children hard. The cuts plan was to be discussed at a council education committee meeting on Thursday, and at a full council meeting next Wednesday. More protests are planned.
AT THE best attended meeting ever, TSSA white collar rail maintenance workers at GTRM trains voted in favour of a call for a ballot to take industrial action. The dispute is about pay differentials with blue collar staff. Over the previous year wages grade staff have struck repeatedly to improve their conditions. Now many wages staff have higher basic rates of pay than their supervisors.
THE GOVERNMENT set out major attacks on people's liberties in last week's Queen's Speech. They include abolishing, for some people, the centuries-old right to a jury trial, and extending catch-all "anti-terrorist" laws.
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THOUSANDS OF students planned to hit the streets on Thursday for the National Union of Students (NUS) demonstration against tuition fees. Students at Sussex University had already scored a victory in their protest over fees on Wednesday of last week. Around 40 of them halted a society dinner hosted by Lord Attenborough by occupying the venue.
DEPUTY PRIME minister John Prescott unveiled plans in parliament last week to impose "congestion charges" on cars driving into Britain's cities. Under one plan up for consideration, for example, car drivers would be charged £5 a time to drive into London and then have to pay £2,000 a year to park in the city.
MANY OF Britain's major banks met in Harrogate on Tuesday to discuss plans to fleece people even more than they already do. Barclays was pushing for the banks in the Link network to charge people to withdraw cash from hole in the wall cash machines. People could have to pay a flat rate charge of between £1 and £2.50 simply for taking their own money out.
A NEW study has shown that global warming has had an even greater impact on the polar ice caps than was previously reckoned. A study of sonar data gathered by naval submarines showed that the Arctic ice cap has shrunk by almost 40 percent in the last few decades. Up to now satellite pictures have been used to measure the shrinkage. But the sonar soundings show that melting UNDER the ice caps is happening. The melting ice caps mean that sea levels will rise.