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.
HUNDREDS OF workers at Ford Halewood on Merseyside walked out in disgust last week after they heard of the suicide of a fellow worker. Halewood is the third Ford plant in the last month to be hit by an unofficial walkout.
THE PRESS presented the recent meeting between Jacques Nasser of Ford and Bill Morris of the TGWU as a solution to the problems of racism and bullying at Ford's Dagenham plant. But many workers at Dagenham are left wondering what the deal will mean for them. Ford has agreed to a plan from the unions - the TGWU, AEEU, GMB and MSF - for a "Diversity and Equality Assessment Review".
UNION OFFICIALS will meet with the Ford motor company next week for three days of negotiations over the pay deal. Workers are angry with a whole host of Ford's proposals. "This is a lousy pay deal with strings," says a worker. "We don't want corridor annualised hours and we don't want attacks on our union negotiating structures. That would be going backwards, not forwards. But we do want better pay and two hours off the working week. Ford will have to think again."
SIR KEN Jackson, the right wing leader of the AEEU, has rammed through a rotten pay deal. Electricians in the construction industry voted to accept a pay offer by 3,324 votes to 2,636. Jackson claimed that electricians would get a 30 percent pay rise. But because they will lose overtime payments and travelling expenses many electricians will in fact be worse off.
WORKERS AT Leicestershire sock manufacturer Pex have mounted protests after the company locked the workers out and their pay cheques bounced last week. Pex manager Andrea Dellavolta disappeared owing workers their wages and £18,000 in union contributions that he has deducted from wages.
FIREFIGHTERS IN West Yorkshire are planning a demonstration after the fire authority voted to press ahead with its plans to merge the Bramley and Pudsey fire stations in Leeds. This is despite firefighters handing in an 11,000 signature petition to the fire authority meeting.
ZUBER LATIF from India has won his battle against deportation. He has lived in Britain for 12 years and is married to a British citizen. The Home Office had claimed that their marriage was "ill timed" and was not grounds for Zuber staying in Britain, despite the fact that the couple had a child.
POSTAL WORKERS at the giant Mount Pleasant office in central London are waiting to hear if their site is to lose 1,600 jobs. Royal Mail plans to shift most of Britain's international mail work to a new "greenfield" site at Langley near Slough in Berkshire. That would mean huge job losses at Mount Pleasant - and at Glasgow, Birmingham, Manchester, Reading and Dover. The key date is 15 November when the Royal Mail board meets.
THREE QUARTERS of voters believe that the government should take Railtrack back into public ownership. That was the finding of a poll published in the Guardian on Tuesday of this week.
A STRIKE to protect rail passengers' safety was declared illegal by high court judge Mr Justice Turner on Friday of last week. Rail bosses want to change the guards' duties so they are no longer responsible for train safety. Instead they will be glorified ticket collectors and food sellers.
MUCH OF the press has flown into a French bashing frenzy. The pretext is the refusal of the French government to accept assurances that British beef is safe and free from the BSE "mad cow" disease. The foreigner bashing tabloids have seized on the revelations that some French farmers have illegally been using sewage based animal feed for their cows and pigs.
THE NEW Labour government ordered the police to crack down on protests against Chinese president Jiang Zemin's tour of Britain, according to a source in Blair's cabinet. People who had suffered years of imprisonment in China's jails or were demanding human rights were blocked and manhandled by the Metropolitan Police.
MANY OF the elderly are set to become victims of the market in old people's homes. The private sector runs many nursing homes after local authorities came under pressure from the Tory government to sell them off.
WORK MAKES you ill, and things are getting worse, says a new Health and Safety Executive study. It found a 122 percent increase in work related illness between 1990 and 1995-6. As many as 1.3 million people reported work related illnesses in 1995-6. Some 58 percent of them suffered from upper limb, lower limb or back disorders, and about a third took time off because of stress. Manual workers account for 72 percent of all reportable workplace injuries.
THE INQUEST into the death of 28 year old Peter Knox began this week. He was found dead in Belmarsh prison in January. He was the fourteenth prisoner to die in Belmarsh since it opened in 1981. A recent report produced by the inspector of prisons showed that between 1988 and 1998 there were 600 "self inflicted" deaths in prison custody. Peter's family says he should have been in a hospital due to a mental condition.