Solidarity 211, 8 July 2011

Unions: make Labour change course!

The National Union of Teachers has followed up the 30 June strike against pension cuts with a proclamation that it is fighting for Fair Pensions For All, including a fair deal on the state pension and levelling-up for private-sector workers.

It’s a good move. The Government’s planned changes to public sector pensions go hand-in-hand with changes to state pensions (raising the pension age, freezing Pension Credit), and interweave in a more complicated way in the process, already well advanced, of trashing private-sector pension schemes.

Richer than ever

According to a new report, the world’s wealthiest are getting more prosperous by the day.

The annual World Wealth report by Merrill Lynch and Capgemini shows that the wealth of “high net worth individuals” (HNWIs) around the world reached $42.7 trillion (£26.5 trillion) in 2010, rising nearly 10% on the previous year and surpassing the peak of $40.7 trillion reached in 2007.

Industrial news in brief

6,500 workers at Tory-controlled Shropshire Council face the sack as their employer becomes the latest local authority to use the threat of mass redundancies as a way to undermine collective bargaining and bully workers into accepting worse conditions.

Workers must agree to a 5.4% pay cut by 30 September if they want to keep their jobs, as the council seeks to make £76 million of cuts.

Raising debate at Marxism 2011

Workers’ Liberty members always attend the SWP’s “Marxism” festival (this year 30 June-4 July) because we firmly support debate on the left.

We run a stall, sell Solidarity, and organise fringe meetings to discuss things we believe are missing from the main agenda. We also try to intervene in the sessions to put across our ideas and engage other socialists in a discussion.

This is difficult at times. For example in the session on anti-fascism (a controversial topic on the left), “comments from the floor” were taken from a pre-arranged list. Hence no debate.

Rail workers plan to fight McNulty

At the Annual General Meeting (conference) of the rail union RMT (26 June to 1 July), the key debate was about the recently-announced McNulty Report on the rail industry.

Although rail spending post-privatisation has risen due to the privateers themselves, the report recommends further deregulation of the industry. All recommended savings will be from cuts to staffing levels, wages and conditions. This is a class-motivated attack on our unionised workforce; as one delegate put it: “this is our miners’ strike”.

Southampton strikes spread

Unite and Unison have given Southampton City Council notice that unless the council lifts the threat of mass redundancies, due to come into effect on Monday 11 July, their six-week long strike will spread to more groups of workers.

Building maintenance workers, who carry out repairs on council housing stock, and Port Health Officers, who provide health protection within Southampton port and oil refinery, through inspection and certification of cruise liners, containers and oil tankers, will join the strike from 11 July unless the council backs down.

A lo-fi look at symbolic action and its dilemmas

For her documentary about the environmental direct action movement the director, Emily James, was given access to the often secretive world of Climate Camp, Plane Stupid and the other loose networks which came together for direct action at the UN climate change conference in Copenhagen, the London G20 summit and Kingsnorth power station.

The political logic of the BDS campaign

The boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) campaign has become the dominant frame for viewing the Israel-Palestine conflict in recent years and Omar Barghouti has been its most high-profile exponent. His book Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions: The Global Struggle for Palestinian Rights (Haymarket Books) demonstrates the real political confusion behind BDS and why socialists should oppose it.

Roots of Euro crisis

John Grahl (Professor of European Integration, Middlesex University), will be speaking at “Ideas for Freedom”, 9-10 July. He talked to Solidarity.

Some of the Baltic and central and east European countries are in virtually the same situation as the eurozone crisis countries. One big difference as far as the west is concerned is that they’re not in very heavy debt to western banks, so western banks haven’t got a lot to lose. Their debts are largely to the IMF and so on.

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