Solid picket lines as NewVic college strikers keep up action

Posted on: January 20th, 2022 by TTE No Comments
A group of strikers at NewVic college

NewVic workers are fighting for students too (Picture: Guy Smallman)

Workers at Newham Sixth Form College (NewVic) in east London are upbeat as they continue strikes against academisation.

NEU union members rounded off a three-day strike with a rally on Thursday—and are set for further walkouts. 

Workers’ mood hasn’t dipped since the start of the strikes last December. Union rep and teacher Rob told Socialist Worker, “The NEU has seen solid picket lines and education workers at the college remain determined to win.

“We have taken eight days of action so far and have seen support from NEU branches around London and from the unions—the UCU, PCS and Unite.

“Messages of support have been coming in from around the country strengthening workers’ resistance.

Strikes will continue at NewVic, we are taking action over unfair management practices, workload and academisation.”

Picket lines are lively, attended by dozens of workers, parents and local activists. And workers from Oaks Park High School in the neighbouring borough, Redbridge, have joined the pickets previously.

Some placards read, “Principles not CEO’s,” “Teaching over testing,” and, “Accountability, not accounting.” Workers chanted, “No academies.”

Union membership increased to 100 during the pandemic in the lead up to the strikes, which began last December.

All but one department is participating in the strike, forcing management to continuously cancel planned events.

The workers are determined to win all their demands around workload and a culture of bullying. And they regularly point out that winning around these issues would benefit students.

NEU president Daniel Kebede said, “Fighting to defend NewVic from privatisation and keep it a community college will benefit all of Newham.” 

Rob encouraged everyone to attend their picket lines and rallies. One school or college turning into an academy can open the flood gates to more.

Every trade unionist should build solidarity for the NewVic workers’ fight in their union branches and workplaces.

Messages of support to Rob Behan at [email protected]

Former Guantanamo detainee Moazzam Begg to take legal action against Home Office

Posted on: January 19th, 2022 by TTE No Comments
Moazzam Begg speaks at a demo

Moazzam Begg has fought for justice (Picture: Garry Knight on Flickr)

Former Guantanamo Bay detainee Moazzam Begg is planning to launch legal action against the Home Office to restore his British passport.

Moazzam’s passport was first revoked after his release from Guantanamo, the US prison camp on Cuba, in 2005. It was then taken from him eight years ago—and taken again at the end of last year just weeks after being reinstated.

In Guantanamo, Moazzam was held without trial or charge and tortured for three years. Since his release, he has been harassed by British spooks, the Home Office and government.

Moazzam told Socialist Worker his experience has been “unbelievable”. He slammed the Tories, saying they’re either “lying, or deeply incompetent, or both”. “I’ve had my passport revoked three times in the past 15 years,” he said.

“I’ve been put in three military prison camps and been arrested by anti-terror police three times.

“I’ve not had my day in court, I’ve not been convicted of any crime.”

In fact, Moazzam has been declared innocent of crimes that led to his passport being taken.

Moazzam, who works with advocacy group Cage, was arrested in February 2002 in Pakistan and given to US forces. While held in the prison, British and US officers interrogated him. He was released in 2005.

He then travelled to Syria in 2012 and 2013. Before his second visit, Moazzam was told by M15 spooks that he was free to travel.

Yet his passport was again taken in December 2013 after returning from South Africa.

Moazzam applied for a new passport in 2019. It was issued in September 2021 and revoked weeks later. His treatment, Moazzam says, is the government “doing more of what it does—harassment and disruption”.

The letter informing Moazzam that his passport had again been revoked was incorrectly addressed to a woman in northern England. She had been convicted of passport fraud.

“It’s highly incompetent, vindictive and malicious,” Moazzam said.

Moazzam thinks he is being treated this way because he’s been attempting to hold the state to account for over 15 years. “MI5 were involved in my torture,” he said.

“But having given evidence to the police about the role of the US and Britain in the torture of prisoners, there has been no accountability.

“The government has avoided any prosecution and accountability. Anyone who seeks to hold them to account is punished.

“I’ve been put through the worst they could—they physically, racially and religiously abused me. They beat people to death in front of me. But I keep trying to hold them to account.”

So fighting for his passport, Moazzam said, “Is a relative walk in the park.”

Moazzam’s lawyers sent a letter to the Home Office and Passport Office with notice of the legal action. With no reply, he will launch an application for judicial review if the government doesn’t act.

“Criminal behaviour is not just on the streets,” he added. “It happens within governments, among leaders, prime ministers and cabinet ministers. When they act criminally, they should be held to account.

“They try to use the concept of people not adhering to so-called ‘British values’. One of their own values they repeatedly flaunt is the rule of law.

“Torture and false imprisonment are crimes. Clearly the government doesn’t believe in the rule of law—otherwise there wouldn’t be a set for them and one for everyone else.”

“It doesn’t matter to them I can’t attend the marriage of my daughter or do investigations that show clearly the government was involved with war crimes. Which I intend to continue,” he added.

“The tide is with us. The mood is you can’t trust people in power.”

Decades of poverty and plunder make Tonga disaster worse

Posted on: January 19th, 2022 by TTE No Comments
A devastated coastline on Tonga

A glimpse of the devastation on Tonga (Picture: NZ Defence Force)

Tonga is still reeling after an underwater volcano erupted 40 miles off the coast of the Pacific country’s main island on Saturday.

The full scale of the destruction remains unknown. But it will have been made worse by decades of inequality and policies that have benefited the island’s royals and rich, multinationals and imperial powers.

The eruption of Hunga Tonga caused huge tsunamis. A series of waves battered the capital, Nuku’alofa, where a majority of the country’s 104,000 population lives and works.

At least three people have died—and many more are reported missing.

Tonga’s 176 islands—36 of which are inhabited—remain covered in ash and many cannot communicate with other islands or countries due to a near-total power blackout. Phone lines and internet services are damaged and down.

Aerial images show entire villages have been wiped out.

On Mango Island, where 36 people lived, at least 20 buildings have been destroyed and one elderly woman died. An evacuation effort is in progress.

On the island Atata, most buildings have been destroyed and holiday resort workers are believed to be missing.

Elsewhere, the US reported flooding in its Pacific territories and Japan experienced waves as high as three metres.

In Peru, two women drowned in Lambayeque, in the north as two metre high waves submerged a truck. 

The devastation will hit ordinary people hard. Many tourism workers have been struggling to hold jobs as the government failed to provide support during Covid-19. And farm and industrial workers will now have to rebuild their workplaces and start anew. 

Some 27 percent of the population is deprived, living in low income households, and youth unemployment stands at 40 percent.

Wages remain incredibly low—the average annual income was just £3,452 according to the World Bank.

Money made from tourism rarely remains in Tonga as multinational companies soak up the majority of the profits and pay poverty wages. On average, a hotel concierge earns just £181 per month. 

But the royal family and business-owning elite live in luxury. 

As money is concentrated in the hands of the few, much of the disaster relief is left to charities or the people themselves.

Meanwhile, imperialist powers will try to use the crisis for their own advantage as aid comes with strings attached.

Tonga already receives aid from the US—both economic and military—in exchange for supporting US wars and interests. But that doesn’t benefit ordinary people on the islands.

Further eruptions are likely and Tonga can expect more natural disasters.

More investment into monitoring systems, emergency response programmes and better infrastructure is needed. And there needs to be a reckoning with the elite and its imperialist backers that hoard the money for themselves.

Oxfam slams ‘economic violence’ of rich—struggle to beat their system

Posted on: January 18th, 2022 by Sophie No Comments

Wincanton B&Q workers in Worksop on the picket lines

Wages in Britain are falling amid rapidly surging inflation. Official figures released on Tuesday showed basic pay rose 3.8 percent in the September-November quarter. 
On Wednesday the government’s preferred measure of inflation soared to 5.4 percent, its highest rate since March 1992. And the more accurate RPI figure is 7.5 percent. That means workers’ wages fall unless they win a rise of 7.5 percent or more. 
In another set of statistics, there was news of Covid’s terrible toll.  There has been a big increase in the number of people who are not available for work, particularly people over the age of 50. 
A rise in long-term sickness is the driving factor. For many of the lowest paid and people on benefits, poverty is already hitting hard. And from April, when the energy price cap soars upwards, it will be much worse.
The Joseph Rowntree Foundation said this week that low income families could spend 18 percent of their wages on energy bills.  
Single-adult households on low incomes could be forced to spend 54 percent of their income on gas and electricity. This is not some minor shift. It has to be an urgent call to arms. 
The TUC union federation has called for bigger wage rises. But it will take much more than its requests that “ministers must give unions more power to go into workplaces and negotiate better pay and conditions”.
Change will come through union action and struggle, not hoping for the Tories to have a change of heart. 
Capitalism is failing in Britain—and internationally. A new report by charity Oxfam, coinciding with the start of the Davos conference of the rich, branded the choices made for the wealthy as “economic violence”.
The ten richest men have doubled their hoard of money during the pandemic, while the incomes of the poorest people have taken a hit.
Since the pandemic began a billionaire was created every 26 hours. 
Yet at least 160 million people have been pushed into poverty during the same period. The 20 richest people are estimated to emit 8,000 times more carbon than the billion poorest people.
The report says that we are headed towards a society “in which billionaire wealth booms, in which millions of people are killed, and billions of people are impoverished due to inequality, in which we burn the planet and our future human existence on the altar of the excesses of the rich.”
Working class people everywhere face one deadly system. The task is not to patch it up but to destroy it.
As we battle to drive out Boris Johnson and the Tories, that revolutionary change has to be part of our answer.

Tory police bill not beaten yet

Posted on: January 18th, 2022 by Sophie No Comments
Protesters against the police bill they have purple flares and yellow placards

Kill the Bill demonstrations over the weekend (Guy Smallman)

The Tories suffered defeats this week in the House of Lords over parts of their repressive Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts bill. 
More amendments were set to be voted. Peers rejected moves to criminalise protesters locking themselves onto objects. 
They also rejected amendments that would have outlawed interfering with infrastructure such as airports, railways and printers, and obstructing construction or maintenance works on transport.
And out went measures to allow police to stop and search protesters “without suspicion”.
Because of the way the Tories have organised the bill’s progress through parliament, these measures cannot be introduced when it returns to the Commons.
That’s hugely welcome. It shows that campaigning and demonstrating in a militant way can increase the pressure on the people at the top. 
But other defeats in the Lords, such as over plans to ban noisy or disruptive protests and stop protests in Parliament Square can be reinstated to the bill in the Commons. And the Tories will certainly try to do this.
The core of the bill remains, including many of the repressive measures and the attacks on Gypsy, Roma and Travellers.
As they face multiple crises, the Tories want more authoritarian laws and more powers for the cops. But they do not always succeed. More strikes, protests and dissent can keep up the struggle to kill the police bill and defy whatever is passed.

Reports round-up: new strikes at NewVic

Posted on: January 18th, 2022 by Nick No Comments
Ten strikers at Newham Sixth NewVic Form College

Lively picket lines in east London (Picture: Guy Smallman)

Newham Sixth Form College (NewVic) workers struck last week against unfair management practices, workload and academisation.

They were set to return to picket lines from Tuesday to Thursday this week.

And they have plans for more in the following weeks if management refuse to give in to demands.

Striker Rob told Socialist Worker workers were currently “doing a lot more with a lot less”.

This has had a huge impact on both teachers and students over the Covid-19 pandemic.

Many local campaigns and trade unions such as the UCU, Unite and PCS have sent messages of support, and strikers hold lively picket lines.

Messages of support to [email protected] or [email protected]

Hospitality workers protest in Dundee

Around 50 workers and their supporters employed by MacMerry held a successful demonstration in Dundee last Friday.

The company, which owns hospitality venues in Dundee and Glasgow, faces allegations including covering up a Covid-19 outbreak, bullying, union-busting, pay problems, and failing to investigate sexual misconduct.

This action, organised by the Unite union, came after workers decided to lead the fightback.

Speakers included workers from Unite Hospitality, Dundee trades council and the local Socialist Workers Party branch. They spoke about solidarity and wider trade union struggles in Scotland. 

The demonstration was a boost for the workers and is a rallying point for trade union activists and campaigners in the area.

Ross Clark

Technicians won’t be merced off

Technicians at Mercedes Benz Retail Group are set to strike for four days next week.

The 185 Unite union members across nine sites voted by majorities of between 80 and 100 percent for strikes after a second year without a pay rise.

Workers at sites in Brentford, Brooklands, Colindale, Croydon, Heathrow, Loughton, Temple Fortune, Stratford and Watford will strike from next Tuesday to next Friday.

The workers have since been offered a 1.5 percent pay rise—well below inflation.

Fight for more at FLB Group

Around 110 workers at print and publishing firm FLB Group in Dalkeith, near Edinburgh, which owns Filofax and Letts brands, are fighting over pay.

Unite union members struck last Wednesday for 24 hours and are set to do so every Wednesday until 31 March.

Bosses have offered a pay offer of just 2.75 percent, while Unite is demanding 6 percent. But with at inflation now over 7 percent, even that is not enough. It’s good that workers are striking—they shouldn’t have to accept a pay cut.

Bosses’ silence fuels strike ballot

Over 400 workers employed by refuelling and ground handling company Menzies are being balloted for strikes.

The company has refused to enter talks for pay for 2020 or 2021.

The workers, based at Heathrow, will be balloted until 27 January. Strikes could begin in mid-February hitting the half-term holidays.

Stop companies profiting from deportations

Posted on: January 18th, 2022 by Isabel No Comments
TUI plane in the sky

TUI Airways carries out the most deportation charter flights

Commercial airline service TUI Airways Limited is under mounting pressure to cease deportation charter flights.

Forcing TUI to stop its flights would be a victory for activists who have regularly protested outside the company’s offices in Brighton. 

Virgin Atlantic was similarly forced to end a ­partnership with the Home Office in 2018 after increasing public outrage over the Windrush Scandal. 

From 2020 the Home Office and TUI’s partnership has caused misery for people trapped in Britain’s deadly immigration system. 

The company chartered nine flights in 2020 and over 20 in 2021, quickly becoming the commercial airline that carried out the most deportations. 

Those forced onto flights were sent to Ghana, Zimbabwe, Vietnam and Jamaica. 

Profit was behind TUI’s move to deporting people. In 2020 the company lost around £2.7 billion earnings due to the pandemic. 

The German government gave the company was given a bailout of over £4 billion. But this didn’t stop it doing deportations. In fact, the number doubled. 

The Home Office pays millions to private companies to carry out its deportations. It spent £8.2 million on 47 ­charter flights in 2020. 

In August last year seven people were deported to Jamaica at an estimated cost of £43,000 per person. 

From these figures, it’s clear that TUI made millions from charter flights. This money could have been used to instead help refugees trapped in the asylum system.

One deportee recalled to Corporate Watch the night before they were kicked out of Britain. They described the horror of the situation made possible by greedy private companies.  

“I heard that I had lost my appeal. I was desperate. I started to cut myself. I wasn’t the only one. Eight people self-harmed or tried to kill themselves rather than be taken on that plane. One guy threw a kettle of boiling water on himself.

“One man tried to hang himself with the cable of the TV in his room.”

How much TUI makes from deportations is unclear due to dodgy deals made by the Home Office and third-party private company Carlson Wagonlit (CWT).

CWT is an exclusive travel agency that since 2004 has been employed by the Home Office to hook private travel companies to carry out deportations. 

In 2017 the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration revealed just how much business the company gets.

“Annually it receives 21,000 booking requests from Home Office caseworkers 

for tickets for enforced removals. CWT also managed flight rescheduling, cancellations and refunds. The volume of transactions processed varied from 5,000 to 8,000 per month,” it reported. 

At present CWT’s contract with the Home Office is worth £5.7 million and will end in 2024. 

TUI may be under pressure to stop deportation flights, but other travel companies will be waiting in the wings to pick up the ­contracts CWT offers. Budget airline EasyJet carries out the most deportations to eastern Europe, and British Airways and Qatar Airways also regularly carry out flights. 

Travel companies making large profits from deportations are just the tip of the iceberg. 

Detention centres that hold those facing deportation are also run by private companies, including GEO Group, Mitie and Serco. 

Clearsprings Ready Home, which runs Napier Barracks, pocketed a £1 billion Home Office contract.

Credit reporting company Experian also conducted financial checks to define immigration statuses. 

Private companies profit from deportation horror. But protests by ordinary people have the power to stop them.

Last November activists prevented a flight to Jamaica and in May protesters in Glasgow stopped two men from being taken by border forces.

Anti-racists must keep up the pressure on firms and the government to halt deportations.

Bosses cause blockage on the tube

Posted on: January 18th, 2022 by Nick No Comments
Six striking tube workers with raised fists stand in front of large red and green RMT flags

Night tube strikers (Pic: Phil Rowan)

Night Tube strikes returned last weekend as the RMT union accused London Underground of blocking progress in talks.

RMT reps said they were willing to suspend the strikes if bosses agreed to a new set of proposals from the union.

But bosses refused.

Now workers remain determined to strike each weekend until June.

RMT General Secretary Mick Lynch described RMT members as “angry and frustrated”.

He added, “We are not backing down, the action goes ahead.”

With the dispute at a deadlock, the RMT must escalate action involving workers on all Night Tube lines.

Action down the line?

London Underground workers that voted 94 percent to strike over jobs, pensions and working conditions could soon walk out.

Around 10,000 workers across all roles on the Underground are set to strike after bosses refused assurances on working conditions. Workers are angry at the rising cost of living and the sense that they are being made to pay for the governments Covid-19 failures.

RMT union reps are considering what action to take and when it will happen.  Union leaders shouldn’t delay the action and should call hard-hitting strikes.

Strikes could sweep south east England train services

Cleaners for outsourcing company Churchill have begun balloting for strikes over pay and justice for these essential workers.

The RMT union  represents workers on four of Churchill’s contracts in the south east of Britain.

The ballot runs off the back of a long-running campaign for pay justice by cleaners. They have worked throughout the pandemic and picketed at the central London Churchill offices regularly.

Churchill has refused to make an acceptable offer despite two directors receiving a £3.8 million dividend last year.