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Year 2001 No. 43, March 7, 2001 Archive Search Home Page

Teachers ballot over staff shortages:

Chaos Predicted in Schools

Workers' Daily Internet Edition : Article Index :

Teachers ballot over staff shortages: Chaos Predicted in Schools

March 5 Day of Action against Drug Companies

African Leaders Proclaim African Union

DPRK Foreign Ministry Spokesman on DPRK’s Principled Stand toward DPRK-US Relations

Turkey: The So-Called "Life Saving" Operation

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Teachers ballot over staff shortages:

Chaos Predicted in Schools

Up to 5,000 teachers are to be balloted on industrial action next week over the crisis in teacher recruitment. Already schools across the West Midlands region are being plunged into what has been described as an "irreversible crisis".

One teacher interviewed by WDIE told us, "The government can talk about its plans and standards, but this situation, unless responded to immediately could to lead to a total breakdown in education which could be irreversible."

The sentiment is being echoed by many teachers who are faced with overwork and feel as though their problems of pay have not been addressed.

Another teacher told our correspondent, "At my school teachers are quitting left, right and centre. There are many teachers who have been in the job for years who have said, 'enough is enough'. We are having more people going sick and children with exams don't know from one week to the next who is going to be teaching them. I think that the teachers' working week should be cut so that they take Friday afternoons off and children go home. A lot of factories in the area now don't work Friday afternoons, neither should we. If you are a teacher, like me, who hasn't had the threshold yet but isn't new in the job either, we are stuck with an insulting 3.7 per cent increase. It is this area of teaching where people are upping sticks and leaving the profession. The government keeps coming with more work for no reward, they are literally piling it on still, this performance management means more targets and things to worry about instead of simply being allowed to teach in the classroom."

In Birmingham, like other parts of the country, members of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers are to be asked to work-to-rule in protest at increasing stress and workloads. Other unions such as the NUT, with its 4,500 members, are also balloting their members.

The ballot begins on Tuesday, March 13, and will ask members to support the action, which will refuse cover for vacant posts or absences longer than three days. The likely outcome is thousands of pupils being sent home because of a lack of teaching cover. Already London and Doncaster have agreed to wage industrial action with many more areas knocking at the door for ballots. The teachers' action along with the deepening crisis in the education system now threatens the worst classroom chaos for 15 years.

Lesley Connolly, NASUWT Birmingham secretary, said: "Since Christmas, the problem has been building up with unfilled vacancies which can only get worse. We have been keeping a dossier from members increasingly concerned about the stress and pressures caused by their workload.

Teachers doing between 50 and 60 hours a week normally are increasingly being asked cover, but this is causing their health to suffer. Things are going to crack at this rate. Some schools are having appalling problems, and we have had quite a few requests from members to ballot for action in individual schools."

The NUT recently in its March edition of The Teacher editorial said: "The insulting 3.7 per cent overall pay rise, the inadequate increases in the London allowances, and the refusal to limit teachers' working hours, do nothing to attract new people. That is why teachers are looking towards Scotland where teachers have won a guaranteed 35 hours rather than the 50 plus hours a week currently worked in England and Wales."

NUT General Secretary Doug McAvoy commenting on the recent results of the "no cover" ballots in and around London said: "This action is just a beginning. The complacency of employers and the government is no longer acceptable. They can no longer be allowed to overload teachers to hide the growing crisis. This is an opportunity for teachers to show David Blunkett how wrong he is to suggest it is a problem affecting only a few schools, Even his new chief inspector has told him otherwise."

It was only a question of time when teachers would start to assert themselves on the major questions affecting them. It is not possible for the situation to remain as it is despite the divisive initiatives of the government to quell any unrest. Teachers, who care about the future of education know first hand how important it is to fund an important social programme as education; they know too that despite what the government has said about its main manifesto commitment of the last election, teachers are the most important education resource. Everyone knows that the government has failed to focus on the teachers' requirements to reduce workload and address pay properly. This failure will haunt the government in the run up to the next election. Teachers themselves will increasingly focus on the question of what it means to have a properly funded and decent education system, they will increasingly do this by refusing to be marginalised and put forward the kind of education system society really wants.

Teachers are renowned for opening up the debate about education and indeed all other questions affecting society. They will assist the development of the movement for the renewal of the political system, which has to move in the direction of new politicians coming from the ranks of the working class and people who will carry out the aspirations of the broad masses of the people to open the door to progress for society.

Article Index

March 5 Day of Action against Drug Companies

Of all the people living with HIV/AIDS in the world, just under half live in Southern Africa. For most of these people, being diagnosed HIV positive is little short of a death sentence, because the drugs which can control the disease or treat infections are simply too expensive.

Under World Trade Organisation rules poor countries can increase access to these life-saving drugs by making copies themselves or buying them from countries where they are cheaper. But when South Africa passed a law allowing them to do this, both big drug monopolies and governments of the "North" attacked the legislation.

On March 5, African drummers led 100 protesters from South Africa House in Trafalgar Square to the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) on Whitehall as the lawsuit against South Africa brought by thirty-nine drug companies was being heard in the Pretoria High Court. This was part of an international day of protest against the companies, which allege that legislation introduced in 1997 by former President Mandela to improve access to affordable drugs would violate their patent rights.

The action in London was supported by several British groups including Action for Southern Africa (ACTSA), Oxfam, VSO, National AIDS Trust, Terence Higgins Trust Lighthouse and UNISON and was one of many world wide protests in response to a global call for solidarity by the South African Treatment Action Campaign (TAC). TAC in South Africa and ACTSA in Britain have co-ordinated an open letter to the international press signed by over 200 organisations from 35 countries around the world that condemned the action by drug companies as "legally flawed and morally reprehensible". TAC campaigns for access to treatment for all South Africans, and against the system under which contracting AIDS is tantamount to a death sentence. ACTSA is the successor to the Anti-Apartheid Movement, and its aim is to campaign for peace, democracy and development in Southern Africa. ACTSA is stepping up the pressure on the drug monopolies – particularly the British giant GlaxoSmithKline

Vusi Nhlapo, President of NEHAWU, one of South Africa’s largest trade unions, thanked protesters for their solidarity and spoke movingly of the crisis in South Africa. He said, "Many of my fellow union members have died for want of medicines, widely available in countries like Britain. Improving access to affordable medicines in South Africa is critical in the fight against the stigma of HIV/AIDS".

Protesters delivered a letter of solidarity to Cheryl Carolus, High Commissioner for South Africa, who outlined the importance of the Medicines Act to address the legacy of apartheid on South Africa’s health system and called for an end to "double standards" in the implementation of international trade rules.

Protesters then marched onto to the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) calling on the drug monopolies to "drop the case". Representatives met with ABPI Director General Trevor Jones and its President Edgar Fullagar who told them that the South African legislation could set an unacceptable international precedent. After the meeting, ACTSA’s Director Ben Jackson condemned their "warm words on reducing prices whilst persisting with this court action against the South African Medicines Act which would deliver a sustainable system for affordable drugs".

For more information on the global day of action, take a look at the TAC website:

Article Index

African Leaders Proclaim African Union

Over 40 African heads of state and government attending the 5th Extraordinary Summit of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) in Sirte, Libya, last week proclaimed the creation of the African Union, which will in time have its own executive assembly, parliament and court. The African Union will eventually replace the OAU and lead to the creation of a common defence, foreign and communications policy, as well as closer economic ties between all African countries. It is being viewed by many African countries as a necessity in order to combat the consequences of globalisation and what is seen as the African continent’s marginalisation in world affairs.

The creation of an African Union was previously discussed at the 4th Extraordinary Summit of the OAU in 1999, also held in Sirte, following a proposal from the Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi. This proposal was then endorsed at the 36th Summit of the OAU in Togo last July. Now all the member states of the OAU have signed the Constitutive Act of the Union, which will go into operation 30 days after it has been officially ratified by the parliaments of the majority of members of the OAU. At the present time over 60% of the member-states of the OAU have ratified the Act. The current chairman of the OAU, Togo’s leader Gnassingbe Eyadema, described last week’s proclamation as "a victory for Africa and a decisive step towards the realisation of the African Union".

The two-day OAU summit ending on Friday paid a special tribute to Colonel Gaddafi who had hosted the summit and who had played a leading role in the work to realise the African Union. In his speech to the summit Gaddafi spoke of the creation of a future "United States of Africa" and stressed that the proclamation was an "historic turning point" for Africa and an important step in the struggle for the emancipation of the peoples of the African continent. Amongst other things he reaffirmed Africa’s opposition to foreign interference in its internal affairs and stressed that the African Union would play an important role in preventing conflicts and divisions created by Africa’s enemies.

African leaders concluded the Extraordinary Summit by passing a unanimous motion in support of Colonel Gaddafi and Libya. They paid "special homage" to him for his "vanguard role in the continent", called for the lifting of the unjust UN Security Council sanctions against Libya and pledged to continue political efforts to this end. The motion declared: "Any hostile actions against Colonel Gaddafi’s Libya will be considered as an affront to the aspirations of the African peoples and their struggle for the development and defence of their dignity."

Article Index

DPRK Foreign Ministry Spokesman on DPRK’s Principled Stand toward DPRK-US Relations

On March 3, the spokesman for the DPRK Foreign Ministry gave an answer to a question put by the Korean Central News Agency as regards the US side's reaction to the recent statement issued by him. He said:

As already reported, on. February 21 we issued a statement of the spokesman for the Foreign Ministry clarifying our principled stand toward a torrent of hard-line remarks made by the new US administration against the DPRK.

The tenor of the statement is that if the US proposes dialogue we will respond to it with dialogue and if the US comes out in confrontation we will counter it with confrontation. However, the United States is spreading the rumour that the DPRK is "threatening" it in a bid to shift the responsibility for the possible worsening DPRK-US relations onto the DPRK. We have neither the intention nor the capacity to browbeat anyone. It is the DPRK itself which is exposed to threat owing to the conservative hard-line stand expressed by the US administration. The same is true of the issue of offering light water reactors to the DPRK. The prospect for the provision of LWRs under the DPRK-US agreed framework is becoming gloomier and this gravely threatens the DPRK's right to existence as it is suffering acute shortage of electricity.

Under this situation it is self-evident that it is difficult for the DPRK to unilaterally and indefinitely keep in force such measures as a moratorium on the launch of satellites and missiles taken by it in good faith for promotion of DPRK-US dialogue, to say nothing of the DPRK-US agreed framework. Of course, we take note of the statement of the authorities of the US administration that they would implement the agreed framework. What we need now is not empty words but practical actions. A year ago, we advanced a concrete proposal for the solution to the issue of the loss of electricity caused by the delayed LWR offer and the US side said that it would set forth an alternative proposal. The US side should put forward as soon as possible a solution to the issue of loss of electricity for which it is responsible. The US is keen to impose unilateral sacrifice and loss upon the DPRK while shunning the fulfilment of its commitment and evade its responsibility by bringing the charge of "threat" against it. The US should know that this wrong great-power chauvinist conception and trite trick will never go down with the DPRK.

The DPRK, which has sincerely implemented the agreed framework, has a legitimate right to call the US side to account for its insincere attitude towards its implementation and an unshakeable will to exercise it.

Article Index

The So-Called "Life Saving" Operation

WDIE has received the recently issued bulletin of "The Campaign for Human Rights in Turkey". This was launched by the Liverpool Dockers’ Shop Stewards Delegation to Turkey, July 1996. Yesterday we reprinted the lead article. Here we reproduce an article published under the above headline.

The operation that took place on 19 December 2000 around 4.30a.m in 20 prisons has been named the "life saving" operation. It was claimed that the operation that took place on the 56th day the death fasts and hunger strikes was aiming to save the lives of the prisoners. Before the operation in 20 prisons 205 prisoners were on death fast and 780 prisoners were on hunger strike. After the operation over 200 prisoners were on death fast and hunger strike. The death fast has gone over 100 days.

The decision to implement isolation cells (that is, F-type prisons) was taken three years ago during a meeting of the MGK (National Security Council). In response to this decision the IHD (Human Rights Association) initiated a protest campaign against isolation cells. Various political parties, trade unions and democratic institutions also joined the campaign. As a result of these protests the implementation of isolation cells was not able to take place. The 19December attack was seized on as an opportunity for the implementation of isolation cells. After the operation political prisoners were transferred to F-type prisons.

When the death fasts and hunger strikes reached the 50th days opposition from the public increased. As a result the government began a lie campaign instead of dealing with the legitimate demands of the prisoners. Listed their demands are; improving the conditions of the political prisoners, the condition of the prisons, ending torture and maltreatment, ending oppression over the prisoners and implementing the promises given during the 1996 hunger strikes. False expressions of compassion were displayed by the government by urging the relatives of those on death fast and hunger strike to ask them to end their strikes. Although the sham compassion of the state towards the prisoners was already exposed from the unkept promises and the oppressive political methods, the destroying and torture, it was to be seen once again with the brutality before and after the operation.

The gendarme and Special Forces performed the operation with their guns, panzers and heavy-duty work machines. During the operation four types of bombs were used (nerve gas, tear gas, gas bomb, fire bomb). These bombs caused more deaths as a result of the fires caused. More than 30 prisoners (the exact number is unknown) were killed as a result of being burnt or shot at and over one hundred were injured. Thousands of gas bombs were thrown into the dormitories through the holes drilled on the roofs and walls of the prison. Effects of the bombs were felt by students attending a school 2km away from the prison and journalists who visited the prisons 2 days after the operation.

The prisoners have openly described the security forces as if they were on manhunt. As the Interior Minister, Saadettin Tantan, explained the state was preparing for this operation over a year ago. A week prior to the operation prison maquettes were used for practising and hospitals and F-type prisons were prepared without public knowledge. Besides, the operation took place during a period where Justice Minister, Turk, announced that transfers to F-type prisons were being postponed because of public pressure, and intellectuals like Zulfu Livanelli and Yasar Kemal were carrying out negotiation meetings with the prisoners to end their death fasts and hunger strikes. This clearly shows that the state carried out this brutal attack by misinforming and deceiving the public. Thousands of bombs were thrown into small dormitories. Pressurised water was used against the prisoners who were already worn out and they were fired at. While the prisoners were insulted and were beaten when leaving the prisons the injured were not treated. They were also beaten all over and were raped with truncheon before being transferred to F-type prisons. According to IHD, 2,165 people protesting against the operation have been arrested which shows that the oppression is not only limited within the prisons but extends to the wider democratic-minded public.

The second aim of the operation: oppressing the general public

Some branches of the IHD (Human Rights Association) and TAYAD (Solidarity with the families of the Prisoners) were closed. DGM (State Security Court) introduced a general ban on any publication that might show the state as weak. The governor of Ankara city sent an order to parties, trade unions, and organisations telling them not to join the demonstration on December 24 in the city. In OHAL (Area under State Emergency) region any form of discussions, briefings, posters, fliers, petition campaigns and so on were banned. All the demos, marches, press conferences, democratic reactions etc was viciously attacked.

While many were seriously injured in these attacks, human rights activists, party and trade union presidents were arrested and cases against them were filled. The families of the prisoners were in a wretched situation. Many were arrested, beaten and were sent from one place to another. All copies of Evrensel daily newspaper were impounded on 26 December because it published articles on prisons. TTB (Turkish Medical Foundation) was pressurised to give medical treatment by force without the consent of the prisoners.

This operation was not only against the prisons but also against all the democratic and progressive public. All state institutions were used to attack the opposing public; MGK took the decision, all the existing laws were enforced and where they fell short of what was needed new laws were approved by the parliament and the security forces carried out the operation. This operation has exposed the true face of the state and has revealed the deceitful and oppressive politics of the state.

Lie Propaganda: the basis of the operation

In order to avoid criticisms, it was being stated that the prisons had been transformed into terrorist havens, that regular searches could not be carried out, that there was guns in the prisons and so on. It was said that the state lost the control of the prisons. In contradiction, however, former Bayrampasa Prison attorney general said that daily counting and regular searches were being carried out in the prisons. Istanbul Branch Lawyers Union, Ali Yazici, said that the allegation that there were guns in the prisons is an exaggeration. The allegation that prisons are terrorist heavens have not even been taken seriously because everybody knows that the political prisoners have been labelled and are being kept in the prisons because of their beliefs. The claims made by PM Ecevit, that for the past 9 years the state has not been able to go into the prisons, have been denied by the revelations of the former attorney general.

With the aid of this propaganda a tape record of a conversation apparently with two prisoners speaking by mobile telephones was broadcast on all the TV channels on the day of the operation. According to this tape recording one of the prisoners was calling from Bayrampasa Prison. However, Zulfu Livanelli (an artist) who was involved in the negotiation process at one stage confirmed that there was not sufficient reception in this prison for a mobile telephone to operate.

The statement of the Minister of Justice that this operation was a last resort was again exposed by the Home Secretary as not being true. The Home Secretary expressed the view that this operation has been planned for a year. The claim that a soldier-sergeant who died during the operation was shot by the prisoners was also undermined by the doctors; in fact he had not been shot at. The claims that the prisoners burnt themselves were exposed as untrue by a women prisoner, Hacer Arikan, who was being taken to Hospital because of excessive burns to her body and especially face. Arikan shouted out, "they have burnt us alive". She also shouted that along with all sorts of gases the cells were set on fire by the security forces. In all the shots in TV and newspapers it was clearly seen that even the iron bunk beds were burnt, not a single corner in the cells was left not burnt. It is therefore unbelievable that the banners, magazines and publications obtained by the security forces and presented as evidence remained clean and ironed.

In reality the operation named as "returning to life" was lie propaganda and was a massacre operation. The Turkish State carried out this operation in such a way that was indistinguishable from the Hitler period and openly in the full gaze of its people and the public of the world.

Turkey while trying to enter the EU has not refrained from carrying out this so-called "returning to life" operation which has not been criticised by the EU itself. It is now quite clear that EU members only show reactions to brutality and massacres in Turkey if it is in their own interests to do so.

Oppression and all sorts of torture are taking place in the F-type prisons. Over two thousand prisoners and convicts are still on death fast and hunger strike. The problems in the prisons still remain unchanged. The prisoners are continuing with their determinations and the state is refusing the basic humanitarian demands of the prisoners. Until now 13 prisoners have died in the hospitals. It is a matter of time for more deaths. Even if the death fasts and hunger strikes ended many prisoners will end up with terminal illnesses and permanent disabilities.

In order to prevent more deaths occurring the response of the public is paramount.

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