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Year 2001 No. 86, May 22, 2001 Archive Search Home Page

Labour Hurriedly Tries to Repair Damage after Being Denounced

Workers' Daily Internet Edition : Article Index :

Labour Hurriedly Tries to Repair Damage after Being Denounced

Pensioners Protest in Newcastle by Stopping Traffic on Tyne Bridge

Anti-Nuclear Campaigner Standing against Tony Blair Is Jailed

News In Brief
1,300 BMW Workers Transfer to MG Rover at Longbridge
College Lecturers Plan Strike
Giant University Merger
Socialist Alliance Launch Manifesto in Birmingham
Asylum Seekers Action in Birmingham

Spain:
Miners Injured after Brutal Attack by Civil Guard

India:
Trade Unions Threaten Nationwide Actions

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Labour Hurriedly Tries to Repair Damage after Being Denounced

After Sharron Storer, whose partner is being treated at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, denounced Tony Blair, saying that the NHS had let them down, she appeared on breakfast television to further criticise the government.

Sharron Storer said that her partner, who is being treated for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, had been moved to A&E after a long wait because no bed could be found for him on the hospital’s specialist unit. The hospital later said that the man had been given a bed on an acute medical ward, not in A&E, and had later been transferred to the specialist unit. On GMTV, she said in reply to Alan Milburn’s allegation regarding Birmingham’s hospitals that "it takes time": "They have definitely had enough time. They keep promising to make things better, to make hospitals better, but it’s just not coming through because hospitals are still in the same state."

Sharron Storer’s action forced Tony Blair to order a full report on the case. He said, "I recognise that there are still individual people with a real sense of grievance, and that there’s still a lot to do in the Health Service."

Alan Milburn published what was, from all appearances, a hurriedly put-together dossier of targets and promises largely taken from the NHS plan. Alan Milburn claimed that cancer and heart disease were Labour’s top priorities. The dossier, Investment and Reform, was handed out to journalists at the party’s morning press conference last Thursday. Alan Milburn said, "No-one pretends for a moment that cancer and cardiac services are anywhere near as good as they should be. Although many patients get good care, some do not." He continued, "Our ambition is to give our country levels of cancer and heart disease care that are no longer behind the rest but up with the best in Europe."

Taking up New Labour’s theme of "tough choices", "choices not chance", he said, "Here there is the starkest of choices for our country. The choice between investment and reform in the most vital public services or £20bn of cuts which would make this investment in cancer and cardiac services impossible. None of these improvements will come about by chance. They can only be made by making the right choice."

The incident epitomises the issue that in the election, Labour is urging the electorate to vote for them because the alternative of voting Conservative is too terrible to contemplate. Improvements are yet to come, but they won’t come about by chance. Although people’s experience is that matters are getting worse, they should put their trust in Labour to build in the future what has not come about in the past.

The alternative they do not talk about is for the people themselves to come to power, to make the decisions on the direction of the economy, to ensure that health care is provided for all as of right, to build hospitals and provide resources for schools. The electorate cannot be fooled by Labour’s claim that the only alternative is some other party becoming the government, but must build up the opposition to Labour’s "Third Way" programme to stop it in its tracks with the perspective that the alternative is for a complete renewal of the political system so that the people’s claims on society are met.

Article Index



Pensioners Protest in Newcastle by Stopping Traffic on Tyne Bridge

The North East Pensioners Association organised a protest at the entrance to Tyne bridge, Newcastle, on Monday May 21, stopping the traffic for several minutes.

Speaking to a WDIE reporter, John Berry, secretary of the North East Pensioners Association, said: "The North East Pensioners Association created a brief stoppage of the traffic on Newcastle bridge to protest at the pittance paid to the old age pensioners. We would hope that nationally the same protests have taken place. The protest will fire a warning shot to whoever becomes the next government that we will continue to fight for the restoration of the link between pensions and earnings which will benefit the present day pensioners and will take away the indignity of means testing and safeguard the future of pensions for those of the younger generation."

The protest, which was organised as part of a national campaign to "Listen" to pensioners, put forward the demand that the link be restored between pensions and earnings as well as an active ageing manifesto for pensioners. Among the demands in the manifesto are:

· State pension for living not existing;

· Age discrimination made illegal;

· Health and social care free according to need;

· Warm homes, stop winter avoidable winter deaths;

· A voice for older people in every area.

During the protest many people including lorry drivers demonstrated their support for the pensioners.

Roger Nettleship, Independent health worker politician candidate for South Shields, who took part in the protest, said: "I fully support this action by the pensioners and their demands. Pensioners should also be in a position to select candidates from amongst their ranks, and they should be among the decision makers in society, representing their interests, rather than having to continually protest about their conditions and lobby government." Another alternative candidate, Jimmy Fitzpatrick, a pensioner, who is standing as a Socialist Labour Party candidate in Tyne bridge also took part in the protest.

Article Index



Anti-Nuclear Campaigner Standing against Tony Blair Is Jailed

Helen John, a long-time anti-nuclear campaigner who is standing against Tony Blair in the General Election, was jailed yesterday for causing criminal damage at the Menwith Hill US military base.

Helen John had been found guilty of causing criminal damage and attempted criminal damage during a trial earlier this month, and yesterday was given a three-month sentence by Harrogate magistrates. She had cut a hole in the perimeter fence around Menwith Hill, North Yorkshire, during a protest against US President Bush's "Son of Star Wars" system.

Helen John is not going to drop her campaign as an Independent candidate while in jail. In addition, other members of the peace movement will be canvassing in the constituency while she is behind bars. She says she does not expect to win the Sedgefield seat but the intention is that her campaign will raise the issue of America's proposed NMD system in Britain, which is a threat to world peace

She says that when she is released she intends to re-establish a peace camp outside the Menwith Hill base, similar to the one at Greenham Common.

Article Index



News In Brief

1,300 BMW Workers Transfer to MG Rover at Longbridge

More than 1,000 workers still working for BMW at the Longbridge site have transferred to Rover. Workers have demanded that BMW hand over the Powertrain engine business. BMW wanted to cling on to profitable parts of the company to maintain profits, and has announced the disposal of the group’s engine business and an agreement with MG Rover.

The struggle resumes for car workers at Longbridge to have their say over the future of production at the plant, whether run by the Phoenix Consortium or any other concern whose interest is making the maximum capitalist profit. Workers will have to continue to make sure their rights to be heard are upheld, which means coming out of the margins and asserting themselves. At the end of the day it is only when workers become politicians and work out their own destiny that they will guarantee a future for themselves and the rest of society.

College Lecturers Plan Strike

College lecturers across Cheshire and Staffordshire are planning a one-day strike next week. Members of Teachers in Further and Higher Education are striking in protest against national pay policy on pay.

Giant University Merger

London Guildhall University and the University of North London are to merge, creating a 25,000 student body, one of the largest in the country.

Socialist Alliance Launch Manifesto in Birmingham

Socialist Alliance candidates erected a platform at 10am Saturday morning in Chamberlain Square, outside Birmingham Town Hall, to launch their local manifesto. Speakers included the three candidates, Caroline Johnson (Perry Barr), Steve Godward (Erdington) and Clive Walder (Northfields).

The candidates had participated in the "Cardboard City Sleepover" the night before, which was to protest about homelessness in the city. The capitalist media totally ignored the event, though RTE covered it for a documentary about the Socialist Alliance alternative candidature to New Labour. The launch was a militant affair, which received a warm response from city shoppers.

Asylum Seekers Action in Birmingham

A militant action took place in Birmingham at 12pm on Saturday in defence of Asylum Seekers. People from various organisations such as Socialist Alliance, anti-racist organisations, the Revolutionary Communist Party of Britain (Marxist-Leninist), the Campaign Against Euro Federalism, The Committee to Defend Asylum Seekers, the Birmingham Campaign to defend Asylum Seekers, the National Coalition of Anti-Deportation Campaigns, the Churches Commission for Racial Justice and Anti-Global Capitalism Campaigners were all represented.

They demanded that the racist voucher system be scrapped and that racism should be kept out of the election. A stall was erected with activists addressing the public over a megaphone. Many leaflets were distributed and information made available describing the prejudicial media coverage. Exposure of New Labour and Conservatives racist and xenophobic policies was part of the public action. A huge response from the public was seen in the signing of a petition by the campaign.

Other actions planned in Birmingham are a Leaflet of Sainsburys – Scrap Vouchers! Saturday 19th May, Sainsburys, Union Street, City Centre, from 11.30 -13.00; a March For Dignity! Saturday 26th May, Sainsburys, Union Street, City Centre, 11.30, followed by a procession around the City Centre till 13.30; and a Rally to Defend Asylum Seekers! Saturday 2nd June, Victoria Square, City Centre, from 14.00 - 15.30 with speakers, stalls and music.

Article Index



Spain:

Miners Injured after Brutal Attack by Civil Guard

On Thursday, May 17, workers in the anthracite sector in Leon began their fourth day of strike against the cancelling of an agreement on working conditions which affects 2,000 coal miners, and against the removal of community subsidies from 2010, announced by the European Union.

During Thursday morning, the mercenaries of the Civil Guard used rubber bullets and gas canisters to prevent a picket of some 200 miners from blocking the Northeast motorway at San Roman de Bembibre. However, the traffic was interrupted for more than half an hour some 30 kilometres either side of this point, in the area around Villafranca del Bierzo, where two lorry loads of sand were emptied onto the road, and in Ventas de Albares. The Civil Guard got as far as the entrance to the village of Bembibre, where the workers repelled them with stones.

On many occasions, the Civil Guard attacked the miners’ picket which was blocking the motorway with barricades, while other pickets were blocking traffic at other points of the same motorway. The miners succeeded in partially blocking a motorway and access routes. The miners also maintained road-blocks on all the access routes to the thermal centres of Allares (Páramo del Sil) and Compostilla (Cubillos del Sil).

Different groups of pickets were posted on the highway at Matarrosa del Sil and prevented lorries laden with coal and buses with workers for the first morning shift at the thermal centres from getting through.

In addition, the miners also prevented the workers of Coto Minero del Sil, in the Fabero-Sil coalfield, from getting to the coalface for the 8am shift. The Fabero-Sil and El Bierzo Alto coalfields remained paralysed by the miners’ action, along with coal firms which did not come under the provincial anthracite agreement on working conditions.

The confrontations between Civil Guard and miners ended with three workers being arrested and two injured in a brutal police attack. One of those detained received a blow to the face, while another miner, Jorge Ramírez, received another blow to the eye with a rubber bullet, which resulted in loss of sight.

On the same Thursday, in the afternoon, the last two miners held in custody because of their participation in the pickets were set free. They were released in front of a crowd of more than 400 miners and their neighbours from the area which had assembled in front of the Civil Guard Barracks of San Román de Bembibre.

There will be more mobilisations next Tuesday and Thursday, and on Wednesday the collective agreement meetings will take place.

The more than 200 workers affected by the breaking off of negotiations for the collective agreement for anthracite have been called out for two more days of strike on the Tuesday and Thursday of the following week. Altogether, this will make six days of strikes this month.

In between these strike days it is hoped that there will be a new meeting with the bosses of the sector, grouped in Apema. The meeting is scheduled for Wednesday in Léon with the participation of the provincial director of labour.

Article Index



India:

Trade Unions Threaten Nationwide Actions

Leading trade unions on Sunday, May 20, threatened to launch nationwide actions against the ongoing programme of privatisation, amendment of labour laws and the removal of quantitative restrictions by Central Government.

Article Index


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