Solidarity 087, 26 January 2006

Stop Blair and Brown: An appeal to the unions

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

There are times when politics is in flux, when resolute action, or, alternatively, gutless inaction, shapes the future. Now is such a time.

Tony Blair’s “retirement agenda”, what he wants to do in his last period as prime minister, is thoroughly reactionary.

He wants to complete the destruction of the National Health Service which Thatcher began 25 years ago.

Big crowd at RMT conference

By Chris Ford and Pat Markey

Over 300 people attended the conference on working-class political representation sponsored by the rail union RMT on 21 January, and another 100 or so were unable to get in because the hall at Friends Meeting House in London was full.

The large attendance — despite the lack of publicity for the event even inside the RMT — shows the interest in the question among activists.

Lib-Dems: moving right

by Sacha Ismail

“Scandal-hit Lib Dems in free fall” was a typical newspaper headline this week, as the fall out from the sex scandal surrounding ex-Liberal Democrat leadership contender Mark Oaten damaged the party in the polls. Yet the Lib Dems’ do have a substantial, although mostly passive, following among leftish youth.

New Zealand: Unions show how to rebuild

By Bryan Sketchley

After years of union decline in New Zealand, at the hands of anti union labour governments and a concerted effort by the big business Round Table to take advantage of business friendly legislation, a recently formed union has made impressive headway in organising low paid and previously non unionised workers.

Unite has taken advantage of legislative changes and have refused to limit themselves to organising workers in a particular sector of the workforce, instead have signed up members regardless of occupation, full, part time or casual status.

Zanon tour: Factories without bosses

The Zanon tile factory in Neuquen is one of many “recovered” factories in Argentina – factories taken over and run by the workers. Faced with pay cuts and redundancies – and then no pay at all – the Zanon workers occupied and began to run the factory. They are coming to Britain to discuss their experience with activists here.

Despite several attempted evictions, the workers, supported by their local community and allies have held out and even managed to dramatically increase production, sales and jobs.

Firefighters give a lead on pensions

By colin foster

The new leadership of the Fire Brigades Union has launched a big campaign to mobilise firefighters to defend their pension rights. The FBU is organising a round of district mass meetings, in early February.

FBU branches will elect delegates to a special conference of the union on 16 February, where a call from the union’s Executive to ballot for strike action will be debated.

The Government wants to cut firefighters’ pension provision so that:

• Their normal retirement age will rise, from 2013, from 50 to 55.

Zanon: a factory without bosses

The Zanon tile factory in Neuquen is one of many “recovered’ factories in Argentina – factories taken over and run by the workers in the last five years, in the wake of capitalist economic collapse in the that country. Here the workers tell their story.

How US students built their movement

By Laura Schwartz

The US based student campaign United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS) has groups in almost 200 universities and has dominated student politics on US campuses since it was founded in 1997. USAS campaigns have ensured on campuses all over the US that workers are paid a living wage and collegiate apparel is no longer made in sweatshops.

Hamas set to make gains

By Mark Osborn

As Solidarity goes to press the Palestinians go to the polls in the first parliamentary election since 1996. 1.27 million Palestinians are eligible to vote and commentators predict an 85% turnout, with Hamas and Fatah closely contesting the election on 25 January.

Hamas did not participate in the last parliamentary poll, but recently beat Fatah in municipal elections in the main West Bank cities.

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