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Year 2001 No. 72, April 25, 2001 Archive Search Home Page

Campaign against Hospital Workers’ Worsening Conditions

Workers' Daily Internet Edition : Article Index :

Campaign against Hospital Workers’ Worsening Conditions

Health Care Workers Protest for Shorter Work Week

Dudley Strikers Vote for Another Three Weeks

Threatened Mutiny of GPs

BMA Accuses Government of Abusing Human Rights of Asylum Seekers

International News:

Romanian Steel Workers Protest

EU and NATO Begin Talks on Military Planning

Proposal for European Air Transport Command

More Hunger Strikers Die In Turkey

Solidarity Appeal from Slovakia: FREE MARIO BANGO!

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Campaign against Hospital Workers’ Worsening Conditions

A campaign to improve pay and conditions for tens of thousands of public sector workers in London was launched yesterday. The army of support workers at London hospitals faces worsening conditions and poor pay.

Geoff Martin of Battersea and Wandsworth TUC said: "For a generation cleaners, cooks, porters and other support staff have been kicked from pillar to post and have been at the sharp end of every round of cuts. These workers are the lifeblood of London's public services and deserve some respect and decent pay and conditions." Geoff Martin said that cleaners provided a vital service to hospitals but are demoralised and demotivated by spending cuts. He added, "Cleaners are as important to a hospital as consultants. You can have the best surgeons in the world, but if you have dirty theatres and wards then people will pick up infections."

Hospital-acquired infections contribute to around 5,000 deaths a year among NHS patients. In this respect, Geoff Martin said that competitive tendering for contracts had driven down conditions for staff as firms compete to offer the cheapest service to hospitals. It is common for hospital cleaners not to be paid the minimum wage and not to get holiday or sick pay, he pointed out.

The campaign comes two weeks after the first national so-called "traffic light" awards report of the Department of Health on the standards of cleanliness in hospitals.

Regarding one of the hospitals given a "red light", Leicester Royal Infirmary, Kate Ahrens, Communications Officer for Leicestershire Health UNISON branch, said the union put the blame for the poor performance on privatisation of the cleaning service. She said, "Since SERCO won the contract for cleaning services at the LRI, they have forced their staff to do more work in less time. It’s no wonder that standards of cleanliness fall when the resources in terms of staff and equipment are cut. And even where services have remained in-house, as at the Leicester General and Glenfield hospitals, resources have been cut back to the bone to compete with the private sector. We are paying the price now for cost-cutting in domestic services over the last twenty years. The only solution to that is an adequately-funded service based on quality not profits."

Kate Ahrens emphasised: "Cleaners don’t need to be told off for not doing their jobs, they need to be given the time and resources to do their jobs properly. This is an area of the health service that has for too long been neglected, under-resourced and then hived-off to ramshackle private companies looking for an easy profit. Cleaners should be treated as a respected part of the health service team. They have an invaluable role to play in infection control as well as making the hospital a pleasant and welcoming environment. The solution to cleanliness in hospitals is to give these valuable members of staff the respect, resources and rewards they deserve."

Article Index

Health Care Workers Protest for Shorter Work Week

Some 10,000 health care workers demonstrated on the streets of London yesterday, demanding a shorter workweek to cope with increasing job workloads. Major unions joined in the march after last-ditch talks with the government failed to produce a deal.

Some health care workers have already won the cut in work hours, but the work force is campaigning that all health care workers should be included.

The government, however, said that last year's agreement has already cost some £218 million and it is refusing to take additional measures.

Personnel at hospitals and retirement homes worked on a reduced weekend schedule in protest.

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Dudley Strikers Vote for Another Three Weeks

Dudley Hospitals strikers are due to enter their tenth month of strikes against privatisation under a PFI project after last Friday’s mass meeting voted for another three-week round with the shortest possible gap. This means that the workers could be on strike on May First.

This was pointed out at the mass meeting by several strikers who emphasised that the striking hospital workers are fighting the same neo-liberal agenda of privatisation and globalisation as were the protesters at the Summit of the Americas in Quebec

The vote to continue the strike was won overwhelmingly, despite continued threats by the Dudley Hospitals Trust, the private-sector Summit Healthcare and the government to sign the deal and begin staff transfers. Yet again dates for completion of the deal have been passed. The strikers’ action is delaying the signing by putting the proposed privatisation in the spotlight.

The strikers are to send a coach to the UNISON National Minimum Wage demonstration in Manchester this Saturday, April 28. They will also be holding a May Day Rally and Social on Thursday, May 3, at 7.30pm at Pensnett Welfare and Social Club, Commonside, Pensnett. All supporters are welcome.

For more details please contact Mark New, Branch Secretary, on 07970 788873.

Article Index

Threatened Mutiny of GPs

An unofficial strike of GPs is planned for May 1 over lack of improvements in the NHS. A ballot of GPs is taking place, the results of which would be published on the eve of a June 7 election, which will show how many would resign without such improvements.

Health Minister John Denham has also revealed that there has been a rise of 43 per cent in the number of vacant senior positions within the NHS. The government has announced that it is to put together a package for hospital consultants in order to reduce the high number of early retirements.

Article Index

BMA Accuses Government of Abusing Human Rights of Asylum Seekers

The British Medical Association in a new handbook opposes the detention of immigrants seeking asylum and the voucher system. It has strongly criticised the way in which the dispersal around the country of people seeking asylum has been managed, and accuses the government in its treatment of the asylum seekers of actions which amount to an abuse of human rights.

The accusations of the BMA come in "The Medical Profession and Human Rights", which was published on Monday, and which examines the range of abuses that doctors may encounter internationally and the practical steps which they can take.

The BMA points out that virtually every violation of human rights is relevant to medicine, because all have a negative impact on human health. Doctors may be the only independent observers who see what is going on in a prison, detention centre or war zone.

In this country, the handbook says, doctors caring for refugees and asylum seekers are now seeing the after effects of trauma and torture, as well as domestic and sexual violence, and it deplores the government’s attitude towards the asylum seekers. The BMA says that refugees seeking asylum have been cut off from support and advice from existing refugee community groups. Doctors have struggled to cope with the needs of vulnerable people arriving without warning, planning or language support. Some of the special problems documented in the BMA handbook include the risk to health if entrants do not receive adequate health screening on entry, the need for more time for doctors to build up trust with survivors of trauma and torture, the existence of a much higher incidence of mental health problems, and a lack of explanatory material in the language of the refugees seeking asylum.

This new publication builds on the work of "Medicine Betrayed", which was first published in 1992. The International Red Cross and many human rights organisations have used this work in training for prison doctors in many countries. Dr Michael Wilks, chair of the BMA medical ethics committee, commenting on the new publication said: "Those who have suffered torture or lived through trauma may be a minority of those seeking to enter the UK but the Medical Foundation for the care of Victims of Torture receives more than 5,000 referrals per year. The problem is real and serious, as are the health needs of the other entrants being dispersed around the UK."

Article Index

International News

Romanian Steel Workers Protest

Some 2,000 workers from the steel company in Resita, Romania, occupied the town square on April 23. Leaders of the protests warned local authorities that the situation had become dire and could lead to greater unrest.

The steel plant had ceased operations on March 5, leaving all the workers without wages. The US-based company "Noble Ventures" had acquired the majority share in the enterprise in June 2000, but had not been able to attract enough finance to resume production.

The leader of the workers’ union Vatra demanded a meeting with Prime Minister Adrian Nastase. He warned that if action is not taken within two weeks, the union will organise a massive struggle at the regional level. The workers’ protest is the first since the new Romanian government took office in late 2000.

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EU and NATO Begin Talks on Military Planning

European Union and NATO military representatives began talks yesterday in Brussels. The talks had been put on hold since last December’s Nice Summit, which spelt out under what conditions NATO would lend its planning capabilities, assets and command structure to the EU.

The central issue has been what access the EU should have to NATO assets. The immediate cause of the four-month stalemate has been a veto by Turkey, which is not a member of the EU but is one of NATO’s biggest military contributors, because it has demanded greater involvement in decision-making and planning than the EU had been offering. Turkey has officially denied that it has blocked the discussions, but its ambassador to NATO has confirmed that his government is claiming more participation rights in EU operations than are currently on offer. It has not been made clear what the present breakthrough in getting the talks between the EU and NATO military experts has consisted of.

At the Helsinki summit of the EU in December 1999, member states signed up to a "Headline Goal" that by 2003 they would be able within 60 days to deploy 60,000 troops, with the possibility of sustaining such a deployment for at least one year. The issue in the coming seven weeks of talks will be what military requirements are needed to create the 60,000-strong Rapid Reaction Force, and what access to resources and experts from NATO this EU force will need to make good any shortfall in capability.

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Proposal for European Air Transport Command

Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon is considering a proposal by Germany and France for a European Air Transport Command, it has been reported.

However, the Ministry of Defence is claiming that it has no knowledge of the scheme which has been put forward by the Germany Defence Minister Rudolph Scharping. Under the scheme, all the EU countries would buy the new Airbus A400M military transport jets. Britain has already agreed to purchase 25 of the jets, replacing the present Hercules fleet.

Controversy is surrounding the proposal, since it is regarded as a first step towards an EU air force, with a command independent of NATO.

Article Index

More Hunger Strikers Die In Turkey

The Turkish government's irresponsible and aggressive approach to the prolonged hunger strikes is causing more and more deaths. Sixteen more hunger strikers, of whom three are relatives of prisoners who have been on hunger strike in their support, have lost their lives since the military operation in the prisons in December. This operation was designed to forcibly end the political prisoners’ hunger strike and transfer them to the newly built isolation cells known as F-type prisons. As a result of the operation, 31 prisoners died and more than a hundred were injured. With the recent loss of lives the death toll has reached 47.

The prisoners began their hunger strike last October in protest against the implementation of isolation cells and the abolition of State Security Courts (DGM). Since their transfer to cell-type prisons they have also been demanding the use of common areas in the prisons. The Justice Minister refuses the demand on the grounds that this is against the Anti-Terror Law.

It is reported that when prisoners lose consciousness their feet are chained and they are taken to prisoners' wards in hospital. Forced medical intervention has cost the life of one prisoner who was on the Death Fast.

Many democratic organisations and parties are outraged with the stand of the Turkish government over the situation with the political prisoners. The Council of Europe has announced that the Committee for Prevention of Torture (CPT) is to visit Turkey to "put an end to the hunger strikes in prisons".

Ahmet Sami Turk, the Justice Minister, and the government are being called on to keep their promises in relation to isolation cells not being put into use until public agreement is reached; that the use of common areas in the prisons be opened to all; and that the F-type cells be restructured on a humane basis according to the agreement between the Bar, the Doctors' Union (TTB), the Architects and Engineers' Associations (TMMOB) and Parliament's Human Rights Commission.

More deaths are feared and it is likely that practically every day a prisoner will become physically and/or mentally disabled.

In this situation, the Campaign for Human Rights in Turkey, which was launched by the Liverpool Dockers' Shop Stewards Delegation to Turkey in July 1996, issued a call on April 23 for all democratic minded individuals and organisations to send letters of protest to the following:

President A. N. Sezer 00 90 312 427 1330

Prime Minister B. Ecevit 00 90 312 418 5743

Justice Minister H. S. Turk 00 90 312 417 3854

Interior Minister S. Tantan 00 90 312 418 1795

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Solidarity Appeal from Slovakia:


Stop the Lynchings of Roma People! The Oppressed and Persecuted Have a Right to Defend Themselves!

To all militants for racial and social justice, to all opponents of fascism and racism!

Mario Bango is an 18-year-old Roma activist in Slovakia who is currently in jail facing charges which could result in his being imprisoned for up to 12 years for defending his family against a racist assault.

Support for Mario has already come from the Communist Union of Youth in the Czech Republic and from the New York-based International Action Centre, who are calling for his release and for protests to the Slovak authorities.

His case is symbolic of the plight of the Roma people, so-called "gypsies", in East Europe today. Nearly six decades after the Nazis murdered four million Roma people, the Roma in East Europe are again afraid to walk the streets. As people of colour, they have become the targets of a new Nazi movement that has arisen in that region over the past decade. They are beaten and murdered by "skinhead" youth gangs and are victims of official discrimination as well. Right-wing governments and political parties make them scapegoats for the devastating poverty and unemployment imposed on East Europe in the last 10 years by the policies of the International Monetary Fund. In reality Roma people have suffered the most from the economic catastrophe. They have the highest unemployment rate and the lowest income. Although the Slovak Roma people account for about ten per cent of the country's population, they represent 40 per cent of its prison population.

On March 10, Mario and his twin-brother Edo and their mother were travelling on a bus through the largest high-rise estate in Bratislava, Slovakia's capital, when Edo was attacked by a young racist named Branislav Slamka. Mario came to his brother's aid and, in the course of the struggle, the attacker was stabbed five times. The brothers themselves called the police and waited for them to arrive while the attacker was taken to hospital.

This was not the first such attack suffered by the Bango family. In his early teens Edo was hospitalised for a week after being beaten up by racist skinheads. Such tragic experiences have become routine for Roma people in Slovakia today.

After a police interrogation lasting all day, Mario was jailed. The judge said that he had to be jailed because he came from "a poor background and might commit another crime"!

Several days later his brother's attacker died, and Mario was charged with "causing injury leading to death". Although the deceased was an active member of a Nazi organisation, Slovakia’s media (much of it owned by US companies) and right-wing politicians have portrayed him as "an innocent boy attacked by a Roma". According to a statement issued by the Bratislava-based Mario Bango Defence Committee, this tragedy is being used to further inflame anti-Roma bigotry.

Mario has been a fighter for justice and equality from an early age. Together with Edo he organised a youth march against fascism in Bratislava. In early September 2000 the brothers organised a demonstration against the International Monetary Fund as a show of solidarity by Slovak youth with the planned protest against the IMF summit in Prague. He is a former member of Slovakia's Socialist Union of Youth, and last year demonstrated alongside members of the Czech Communist Union of Youth in September's anti-IMF/World Bank protests in Prague. The brothers took part in the peaceful blockade of the Nuselsky Bridge. Prior to that he had been an active participant in anti-government trade union protests in Bratislava and helped tenants in a Bratislava suburb resist evictions after their homes were bought up by a wealthy speculator. Mario and Edo are also avid students of the history of Black and Native American people in the United States, which is so similar to that of the Roma people.

Mario’s life in the service of the oppressed has now been interrupted by the attack of a misguided racist. After one experience of a direct racist attack, after years of fear of skinhead attack, after years of non-stop stress while simply walking in the streets, after being forced to stay at home every night to avoid violence and after escaping several attempted attacks, a moment came which sooner or later was inevitable. Mario has been fighting for others for years. It is time now to express to him our thanks. Therefore we demand that the Slovak government drop all charges against Mario Bango.

Protests and appeals for the release of Mario should be sent to the Office of the President of the Slovak President, Stefanikova 14, Bratislava, Slovak Republic, or e-mail via the President’s web site at, click on VIRTUALNA POSTA, then click on NOVY PRISPEVOK, which means new message.

Messages of support for Mario can be sent to PO Box 178, 850 00 Bratislava 5, Slovakia, or e-mail:

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