Solidarity 247, 23 May 2012

School strike wins in East London

Joint strikes of support staff and teachers, involving Unison and National Union of Teachers (NUT) members, at Central Foundation Girls School in East London, have forced school management to back down on plans for pay cuts and job losses, and have won victories on teachers’ workload, observations and sickness policy. Below, a trade union activist in the school explains how the battle was won.

From the moment that both Unison and NUT began their ballots, all meetings, bulletins and decisions were joint. No single action took place unless both unions were in it together.

Abolish the monarchy! Up the republic!

More than £10 million will come straight out of the public purse to fund the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Celebrations, along with millions more from private sponsors.

That’s money for pompous pageantry to celebrate an accident of birth, and an institution that more civilised countries than ours abolished centuries ago.

Even when they’re being rammed down our throat by the media and political establishment, there’s a temptation to dismiss the monarchy as an irritating quirk, a relic, but ultimately one that has no real grip on or connection to actual politics.

Industrial news in brief

A strike ballot of London bus workers is underway as transport workers’ campaigns for decent Olympic working arrangements continue.

LGBT transport workers discuss solidarity

Delegates to this year’s LGBT members’ conference of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) on 18 May debated a range of issues including international LGBT rights, homophobic bullying in UK schools, equal marriage and the banned advertising campaign on London buses (which aimed to promote the “ex-gay” movement and “conversion therapy”).

Delegates also discussed the recent upsurge in religious and state-sponsored homophobia in many regions around the world.

“Workfare” comes into hospitals

The latest manifestation of the government’s “workfare” schemes sees not only jobseekers being exploited, but also hospital patients put at risk.

Sandwell and West Birmingham hospital trust has piloted a scheme whereby unemployed people worked, unpaid, for six weeks, cleaning wards and helping to feed patients. They were given just two weeks of training.

This scheme is not only exploitative to the jobseekers themselves but an insult to NHS workers and a risk to patient safety.

Train drivers in pensions battle

Train drivers working for East Midlands Trains (EMT) have taken 6 days of strike action in the past 3 weeks to try and prevent the company from reducing contributions to their pension fund.

In 2010 an actuarial valuation revealed a funding level of 99.1% and a prediction that if the Joint Contribution Rate (the money paid into the fund by management and workers) stayed the same, then the fund would probably move into surplus.

How solidarity won school cuts fight

New head teachers in a school always want to stamp their authority by making a few changes. The new head at Central Foundation Girls School, in Bow, East London, went a few steps too far.

Under her “leadership”, the sickness policy changed to trigger procedures against absentee staff after four days (previously eleven). Support staff became subject to a new evaluation process. Observations of teachers increased. Data entry went through the roof. Not surprisingly, morale hit rock bottom.

Ideas for Freedom: What is capitalism? Can it last?

Ideas for Freedom is Workers’ Liberty’s annual weekend of socialist education, discussion and debate.

It is an opportunity for members and sympathisers of our organisation, and others interested in class-struggle, revolutionary ideas, to learn from each other in an environment which is simultaneously politically sharp, thoughtful, welcoming and accessible.

It opens on Friday evening at the Exmouth Arms (London NW1 1HR), and continues on Saturday and Sunday at Highgate Newtown Community Centre, 25 Bertram St, London N19 5DQ, near Archway.

Greece: right unites to blackmail voters

New Democracy (Tory) leader Antonis Samaras is intensifying his attempts to create a centre-right front against Alexis Tsipras and the prospect of a government of the left in Greece.

He wants to get ND into government by exploiting the bonus of the 50 seats that is given to the top party. According to all polls, the election on 17 June will be tough for ND, with a close contest for the lead between the Radical Left and ND.

On 21 May a merger was announced between ND and Dora Bakoyannis’s ultra neo-liberal party Democratic Alliance.

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