Solidarity 228, 15 December 2011

Pensions fight: plan now for the New Year

The government has dramatically raised the stakes in its class war assault against public sector trade unions.

George Osborne wants to see national pay rates for public sector workers abolished, and has written to the heads of pay review boards for teachers, nurses, civil servants and prison officers giving them until April 2013 to find ways of cutting workers’ pay.

Having chemo? Get to work says the government

By Jo Maxwell

In November, Macmillan Cancer Support launched a petition against a government proposal to axe benefits for chemotherapy patients who cannot prove they are unfit to work.

London Overground Olympics win

Workers on the London Overground, connected to the Tube network but operated separately, have secured a 25% pay increase for shifts worked during the Olympic and Paralympic games in summer 2012.

This means that all workers will be guaranteed an additional payment of at least £650 for Olympic and Paralympic working.

Unilever strike over pensions

Unilever workers struck for a day on Friday 9 December as part of their battle to defend their pensions.

Members of the Unite, GMB and USDAW unions took action, with the strike being reported solid in most Unilever facilities.

Unite said that no engineer had gone to work at Unilever’s Burton site, and USDAW reported the strike 100% solid at the Port Sunlight research and development facility.

Aspire: “Bosses are charming, polite, and utterly ruthless”

Michael Given is a support worker for homeless people in Glasgow.

Tell us a little bit about the work you do.

I am a homeless support worker based in the community in the East End of Glasgow.

I support people classed as “Homeless” to move on from Temporary Furnished Flats (TFF'S) to Permanent Tenancies. The work involves a package of support — assistance with obtaining Community Care Grants, accessing second hand furniture, state benefit checks and advice, referring and accompanying people to addiction services etc.

Should faith keep its fortresses?


Molly Thomas

While I am an atheist, I still respect people with faith (or superstition, as it is sometimes called). But should we respect faith itself?

Is there a real difference between faith and superstition, or are they just different words that people use for the same thing, depending on whether they want to refer to it warmly (faith) or coldly (superstition)?

Some people who are atheists themselves argue that faith should be respected as a valid way of knowing on questions which science cannot reach.

Hugo: intricate and visually sumptuous

By Molly Thomas

At first glance, Hugo seems to be about little more than a lonely young boy; but as the film progresses, it becomes clear that Martin Scorsese’s ambitions lie much further: the story of the birth of film itself.

Based on the 2007 illustrated novel The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick, the plot (set in 1930s France) weaves the narrative of the fictional titular character (played by the young though experienced Asa Butterfield) with a surprisingly accurate historical account of early filmmaker Georges Méliès (played by Ben Kingsley).

US Republican bigotry

In the USA, three Republican presidential candidates have signed up to an explicitly anti-gay pledge to defend marriage.

Rick Perry, Rick Santorum and Michele Bachmann have backed the call from right-wing Christian organisation The Family Leader for candidates to defend heterosexual marriage. The pledge declares that homosexuality is a choice and a health risk, and commits candidates to the appointment of Supreme Court judges who will defend the status quo definition of marriage as between one man and one woman.

Academies to teach “marriage is best”

Dozens of academy schools have signed up to teach the ‘importance of marriage’ as part of their deal to get government funding.

The Government has quietly changed the previous guidance on relationship education, which previously emphasized that care should be taken ‘to avoid stigmatisation of children based on their home circumstances’. Instead, in an appeal to the Tory right, schools have been given a green light to say ‘marriage is best’.

The meaning of the mass strike

By Ed Maltby

Discussion is growing in the British labour movement about shifting the public sector pensions battle from a string of “demonstration strikes”, with long gaps in between, to a more active and self-controlling battle. Elsewhere in Europe, working-class resistance is already developing beyond the stage of occasional set-piece one-day strikes.

A debate from 1910 is relevant.

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