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Year 2001 Number 13, January 24, 2001 Archive Search Home Page

Southwark Campaign against Privatisation of Education

Workers' Daily Internet Edition : Article Index :

Southwark Campaign against Privatisation of Education

Victory over Fraud Squad

West Midlands News In Brief
Birmingham Council Workers Rally against Privatisation
Workers Rally at Lockmakers Chubbs
Walsall Refuse Workers Contemplate Strike Action

Racist Incidents Rise at Massive Rates

International News In Brief
Thousands Protest in Spain against British Submarine
Tens of Thousands Converge on Washington, DC, for Counter-Inaugural Protest
Vieques Peace and Justice Camp

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Southwark Campaign against Privatisation of Education

Southwark Campaign Against Privatisation of Education (SCAPE) organised a lobby on Monday of the Southwark Council Education Ratification Sub-Committee meeting. The meeting was to ratify the award of the contract to run the LEA to a private company called WS Atkins.

The privatisation is opposed by the Southwark Parents Forum – which represents Southwark parents, and UNISON and other unions representing teaching and non-teaching staff. They have all come together to fight Southwark’s proposals to privatise education.

The lobby gathered in front of Southwark Town Hall armed with banners and placards with slogans opposed to the privatisation of education. The protest was attended by 60 Southwark employees, parents and campaigners against the privatisation of the LEA services.

In particular the campaigners raised the issue that the Labour-run council does not have a mandate for privatising education. They had not said that this is what they were going to do, neither have they informed or consulted a key "stakeholder", the parents themselves. The campaigners also point out that WS Atkins is not qualified to take on the delivery of educational services to Southwark children.

Campaigners on the issue of housing were also present. They spoke about the fact that when tenants were consulted about handing over the running of housing to a private company, they rejected the proposal. This is why this time, they argue, parents have not been allowed to have a say in the decision on the privatisation of education.

At 6.00 p.m. all present filed into the council meeting room and copies of the Education Public/Private Partnership Contract Award were circulated to the lobbyists by a member of UNISON.

SCAPE was given five minutes to put its points to members of the Education Sub-Committee. In sum they put forward the arguments circulated in a leaflet of the Southwark Socialist Alliance. Instead of "education, education, education" we get "privatisation, privatisation, privatisation" and that this programme is "part of a wider programme of privatisation in transport, the health service, pensions and housing with one simple objective: to make this country more profitable for the rich, at the expense of the working people."

They criticised Labour MP Harriet Harman who became infamous for sending her children to a grant maintained school in a neighbouring borough. They also claim that they have possession of a letter from David Blunkett instructing the committee to award the contract to WS Atkins.

The Southwark Socialist Alliance will be standing John Mulrenan as the prospective parliamentary candidate for the Peckham & Camberwell constituency in the General Election against Harriet Harman.

The campaigners claimed that the failings by the education service should be addressed by putting more public resources into the education service. What further needs to be put forward is the need to question the whole direction that our society is taking.

Despite these arguments, Southwark Council approved the award of the contract to WS Atkins.

The councillors may or may not be correct in saying that WS Atkins has the technical capability and management expertise that Southwark LEA does not have, but is the question one of expertise? Careful examination of the issues at stake in education will show that education is a right and that it should be provided to the highest level possible according to the level of development of the society. If the question is kept simply at the level of which is better, the public or the private sector, or that the issue is "people before profit", then the aim of the movement against privatisation will be lost sight of.

The parents and all those concerned about education do not want to be reduced to a lobbying group. They want to be in a position where they are directly involved in making the decisions about how best to develop the education service, as with all other aspects of their lives. What is behind the programme of privatisation is the all-round destruction of society. In education, this involves a broad assault on the principle that the pupils and students should receive an all-round education so that they can safeguard the future of society. At the same time, the government is suggesting that teachers and parents should carry the can for the decline in standards. As for the pupils, they should get rid of their attitude problems and be the recipients of a policy of "zero tolerance".

In short, it is the whole programme of marginalisation of parents, youth, teachers, and generally all sections of society from decision-making that must be opposed. At the same time, all the anti-social programmes, such as the privatisation of education and health, must be fought against with a pro-social programme which begins from the standpoint of the rights of the people to education and all the material and cultural blessings that a modern society is capable of providing. The movement must be built to bring about that society.

Background information about WS Atkins gathered by SCAPE:

· W.S. Atkins was sacked from the Aldermaston Nuclear plant for allowing radioactive nuclear emissions into local streams.

· W.S. Atkins was fined £10,000 for failing to identify and remove asbestos from a primary school in Stroud.

· W.S. Atkins cost the taxpayer millions of pounds in extra consultancy fees whilst building the M11.

· W.S. Atkins is the Health and Safety advisor to Railtrack.

· W.S. Atkins’ contract for Southwark education is being investigated by the European Commission for breaching EU law.

· W.S. Atkins failed to fulfil the contract that they had with the government to build accommodation for British troops in Kosova.

Article Index



Victory over Fraud Squad

The Unemployment Action Group reports that a large picket took place at a UNISON Branch Committee meeting in Brighton which was to decide on whether to expel two supporters of Brighton Against Benefit Cuts and cut off support to it and all outside organisations. Members of the Public and Civil Service Union (Benefits Agency & Employment Service) also joined the lobby. The move was heavily defeated.

It emerged during the debate that the complaint against Brighton Against Benefit Cuts had been instigated by non-union managers in the Housing Benefit Service who presumably believed that UNISON's affiliation fee would be enough finish off claimants/unemployed groups.

The overwhelming decision of the UNISON meeting to reject all the recommendations of the Inquiry Report means that the campaign against the attempts of New Labour to privatise Housing Benefit and Social Security will continue.

Article Index



West Midlands News In Brief

Birmingham Council Workers Rally against Privatisation

An unprecedented 2,000 Birmingham council workers attended a mass rally on Monday to discuss the plans being made to transfer their jobs to the private sector.

Housing repair workers claim that their rights and working conditions will be jeopardised and lost if they are employed by private companies. The workers believe also that important social programmes will suffer.

The Labour-dominated council told the rally that productivity targets had not been met.

Around 90 percent of today's council workers in Birmingham are members of the builders' union UCATT, who say industrial action could follow.

Workers Rally at Lockmakers Chubbs

Workers and their unions, fighting to save 170 jobs at the historic safe-making Wolverhampton firm Chubbs, staged a public rally on Tuesday evening. They are organising to gather support for their campaign to oppose factory closure.

The Swedish parent firm, Gunnebo, is pushing ahead with plans to move manufacturing out of Britain and concentrate elsewhere in Europe. These plans are being made despite a full order book at Chubb's Wednesfield factory site.

Ray Ward of the Lockmakers' Union said: "The workers have had a very raw deal. They've been betrayed by Gunnebo and let down by the board of Wednesfield."

Walsall Refuse Workers Contemplate Strike Action

Refuse workers and their unions are threatening strike action over plans to privatise and cut the costs of waste collections. The proposals include selling off trade waste collections to private operators, charge the public to collect bulky items, introduce double shifts for household bin routes and merging medical waste with domestic pick-ups.

UNISON assistant branch secretary Bob Piper said: "Feelings are running high in a number of direct services organisations and if these proposals were to be implemented, I do not think we would rule out the possibility of industrial action."

The council currently makes nearly 17,000 free bulky collections a year and is responsible for disposing of rubbish from nearly 100,000 properties.

A refuse workers' shop steward, David Wilkinson, said: "The collectors are very angry about these proposals. Merging the collection of medical waste – such as hypodermic needles – with domestic bin collections has all sorts of health and safety implications, both for our members and the public. We are also opposed to selling off the trade waste to the private sector. If it can make a profit for the private sector we should use the government's best value methods to ensure we have an efficient in-house service."

Article Index



Racist Incidents Rise at Massive Rates

The Home Office has recently carried out research on the rise in the number of racist incidents.

State-organised racism and racist attacks are utilised, especially when the movement of the people against the old order is developing, to divert people from achieving the goal of the movement and to divide the polity and suggest the problems the people are facing are inherent and come from the people themselves.

West Mercia Police has recorded the biggest rise in the country in reported racist incidents. In the West Midlands, reports of racist incidents have risen enormously by 459% compared to a national rise of 107%.

This kind of crime varies from individuals carrying out attacks, police "Stop and Search" and attacks carried out by racist gangs and nazi organised racist attacks.

Nationally, the total number of racist incidents spiralled from 23,049 in 1998-9 to nearly 48,000 the following year in England and Wales.

As the working class prepares for the development of the upsurge in class struggle, they must also deal with the divisive and diversionary nature of this criminal strategy of the rich and their state.

Article Index



International News In Brief

Thousands Protest in Spain against British Submarine

Between 70,000 and 80,000 Spanish people demonstrated for over two hours on Saturday in Algeciras, a port in south-west Spain, against the presence of the British nuclear submarine "Tireless" in Gibraltar.

The demonstrators shouted slogans against the presence of the British ship. Placards read "Get the nuclear sub out" and "For our future". Among the demonstrators were 12 ecologists led by Francisco Casero, who have all been on a hunger strike since the previous Monday. About 100 people in the nearby city of La Linea de la Concepcion reportedly began a march to Algeciras at 8.00 a.m. to join the protest against the nuclear submarine. Local police said a total of 192 buses from different parts of Andalucia and many people from Morocco and Ceuta also marched to Algeciras to join the demonstration.

"Tireless" has remained in Gibraltar since May 19 due to a malfunction in its cooling system. The governments of Spain and Britain have been trying to solve the problem since then, but have failed. The people are demanding an end to the danger posed by having the submarine remain.

Tens of Thousands Converge on Washington, DC, for Counter-Inaugural Protest

On January 20, tens of thousands of activists protested against the Bush administration, raising the issues of the racist disenfranchisement of voters and the death penalty and demanding a new trial for death row inmate Mumia Abu-Jamal.

On January 19, organisers had won a court victory against federal and local law enforcement authorities, providing assurances that demonstrators would not be obstructed from arriving at permitted demonstration sites. One of the organisers commented: "They hoped to shield the Bush administration from the political embarrassment of having thousands of demonstrators lining the parade route, but they were overruled by the strength of the movement."

Vieques Peace and Justice Camp

The occupants of the Peace and Justice Camp on the Puerto Rican island of Vieques are continuing their actions to demand an immediate and permanent cessation of military activity of the US Navy on the island and an end to the threats of future bombing. The aim of their struggle is the complete demilitarisation of Vieques.

The campaigners are also denouncing the use of uranium 238 weapons. The presence of hundreds of uranium projectiles on the east end of the island poses a serious danger. The US Navy admitted it shot the radioactive weapons in February of 1999. They also admitted they have not been able to remove all the shells because of the danger involved.

The demand of the Peace and Justice Camp, as of the Puerto Rican people and of all progressive opinion, is: US Navy Out of Vieques!

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