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Year 2001 No. 52, March 20, 2001 Archive Search Home Page

Teacher Shortage Sends Pupils Home

Workers' Daily Internet Edition : Article Index :

Teacher Shortage Sends Pupils Home

Corus Workers Consider Industrial Action

London Bus Drivers against Decline in Living Standards

Gloucestershire Council Cut Disabled Pay

Campaign against Terrorism Act

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Teacher Shortage Sends Pupils Home

Up to 600 pupils are to miss classes this week at Holywells High School in Ipswich, with the first group of 200 14-year-olds leaving school at the mid-morning break on Monday.

This is the second school to send home pupils since the launch of a "no cover" protest by two teachers' unions, in which teachers are refusing to cover for long-term absences.

The first school was Rangefield primary in Lewisham, London. The sending home of 27 pupils last week occurred when teachers refused to cover for a sick colleague.

Head teacher at Rangefield, Maggie Ayres, said pupils were allowed back on Friday after Thursday's disruption, when a supply teacher was found with help from the local education authority.

"Teaching should be the best job in the world but they've managed to kill the joy and it is successive governments that have done this," said the head teacher.

The local authority, the London Borough of Lewisham, says that it is watching the situation carefully, with future staffing levels at the school depending on factors such as staff ringing in sick and the availability of supply teachers.

The head of Holywells High School, Barrie Whelpton, said that he had no choice but to cut the timetable, although that decision was taken before most of his teaching staff voted to join the action.

"We got to the stage where we didn't have teachers to put in front of classes - and for the last couple of weeks the deputy head has had to supervise several classes in the library," he said.

The school has had problems since a number of staff left at Christmas, and had to delay its reopening after the Christmas holiday.

School inspectors have recommended that the school be put into "special measures" and there have been particular recruitment problems in such "failing" schools.

The Schools Minister, Jacqui Smith, said Holywells had found it difficult to attract and keep staff and her department was working with the school and the local education authority to try to help.

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Corus Workers Consider Industrial Action

Steelworkers at the Llanwern plant in south Wales look set to vote on industrial action.

The main steel union the ISTC said it had received requests for strike ballots from two branches of the steel monopoly. Corus had announced on February 1 that it was making 3,000 steelworkers redundant at plants in Wales, 1,300 of whom work at Llanwern. Overall, the Anglo-Dutch monopoly has announced plans to axe 6,000 steelworkers’ jobs.

It is reported that the steelworkers at other sites are waiting to see the monopoly’s response to the union's rescue proposals before planning their next move.

Corus revealed heavy losses of £1.15bn when it published its annual results last Thursday, March 15.

But Michael Leahy, general secretary of the Iron and Steel Trades Confederation, has insisted that underlying losses at Corus are comparatively small, and include exceptional costs of more than £1 billion. He says he still hopes to persuade Corus to adopt the union's alternative strategy when talks are held later this month.

Michael Leahy said: "When you take from the losses the costs of plant closures and job losses that have not yet taken place, but are in these figures, you discover an overall operating loss of only £23 million over 12 months and £130 million over 15 months. Steel is a cyclical business and, in good years, you make very large profits indeed. These comparatively small operating losses are no reason to panic and certainly no reason to swing the jobs axe."

Sir Brian Moffat, Corus chairman and chief executive, confirmed that underlying losses before exceptional costs were around £100 million, and said: "We have said to the unions that we will look at any constructive suggestions they have got but, frankly, it would be wrong to raise hopes." He said he hoped to rule out further restructuring and added that Corus had tried to draw a line in the sand. "We think we can ensure the competitiveness going forward."

On Wednesday, March 14, a committee of MPs criticised Corus for poor management and failing to involve the government in key talks over job cuts. The root of the problems go back to the merger of British Steel and Hoogovens said the Trade and Industry committee report. The weak euro was described by MPs as only a "short term" problem for Corus and they said "a large well-managed company could have been expected to weather" the fluctuations. The select committee said that it "regretted" Corus had not fully briefed ministers initially in December when plans for huge cutbacks were first being drawn up.

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London Bus Drivers against Decline in Living Standards

Talks began on Monday between London’s bus drivers’ union representatives and the transport companies.

The Transport and General Workers’ Union has pointed out that London United and First Group needs to halt the decline in the living standards of the bus drivers. A TGWU spokesman said: "Enough is enough. The bus operating companies in London and their parent companies together with Transport for London simply have to understand that they cannot get improved services on the cheap."

The demand of the drivers’ union is for a £9 an hour pay rate in London and a reduction in the working week to 38 hours, which it says is essential to attract new drivers and retain existing employees.

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Gloucestershire Council Cut Disabled Pay

The Council in Gloucestershire has decided to translate its "overspend plans" into reducing the pay to disabled workers. Social services have "overspent" and workers are being asked to lose over £1,000 a year.

Disabled people have been militant in their response to the attacks upon them in recent times and have demanded that society take a progressive stand and recognise their rights as a collective. However, this case represents yet another example where they have been told to accept the unacceptable, be treated as second class citizens and accept a wage cut.

The social services department's budget is £3.5m in the red and their disabled workshops in Cheltenham, Gloucester and Cinderford have been targeted for savings. The aim is to save £250,000 by reducing the working hours from 37 to 32 without compensation.

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Campaign against Terrorism Act

A meeting took place on Sunday in London to discuss the launching of a campaign against the measures of the Home Secretary, Jack Straw, to proscribe 21 organisations under the so-called Terrorism Act.

The meeting planned to create an alliance of civil liberties, Islamic, animal rights and anti-globalisation groups. The participants pointed out that organisations carrying out legitimate political activity are being branded as "terrorist", and that the measures of the Terrorism Act are a draconian move to criminalise such political activity.

The organisations represented at the meeting stressed that the Home Office accepts that many of the 21 "proscribed organisations" named under the Terrorism Act have never been active in Britain, but is still proposing it should become a crime to be a member or supporter.

"We want to channel our efforts into a movement which may lead to the repeal of certain aspects of this draconian Act," said leader of the Muslim Parliament of Great Britain, Dr Ghayasuddin Siddiqui. "This is just a beginning and later we will be talking to other human rights groups and discussing what to do next."

Many members of the Islamic community feel some groups named by Labour are legitimate political causes fighting oppressive regimes and illegal occupation, Dr Siddiqui said. Dr Siddiqui gave the example of people of Kashmiri origin in this country. He pointed out that there is great concern because the Kashmiri people are fighting against the occupation of their country.

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