Year 2000 No. 201, November 27, 2000
At the National Consultative Conference 2000:
Workers' Daily Internet Edition : Article Index :
At the National Consultative Conference 2000:
The Line of Two Extremes and the Threat to Democracy
Closure of Clothing Manufacturers in the Region
Postal Workers Actions
Coventry Postal Workers Ballot for Strike
Stalemate in Postal Workers Strike
The Concerns of the Teaching
Teachers Expectations High over Pay
Teachers Concerned with Higher Class Sizes
Letter to the Editor
Health Workers Are Not to Blame
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At the National Consultative Conference 2000:
In the context of the National Consultative Conference 2000 of RCPB(ML), and its focus on setting the Party's priorities for the coming period, we are very pleased to announce that Sandra Smith, Leader of the Communist Party of Canada (Marxist-Leninist), has very kindly accepted an invitation to make a presentation at the Conference. The intervention will be on the topic: The Line of the Two Extremes and the Threat to Democracy.
Sandra will address how the official circles describe the threat to democracy for purposes of providing their criminalisation of the struggles of the people with a justification. More importantly, she will address the role played by the official anti-communist left as a bulwark to stop the workers from developing their independent leading role to open society's path to progress. Keeping the workers apolitical is crucial for the official circles, Sandra points out. How it is achieved is a matter of utmost importance, she adds.
Sandra's presentation will bring out how the crisis of the official left therefore poses a serious problem for the ruling class, which would like to resuscitate it. At the same time, it opens up an important space for the working class to occupy in order to bring about the kind of change which favours its interests.
Workers at Courtaulds Ladieswear in Peterlee, County Durham, are under threat of redundancy after an announcement on Friday last week. The announcement came as the company entered talks with the workforce over the future of its stitching operation, and closure would mean 300 jobs going at the factory with a further 70 jobs in supporting functions at the pressing department and cutting room also under threat.
Last month the Courtaulds Ladieswear plant in Blyth closed with a loss 280 jobs and before that at the beginning of the year Dewhirst, also in Peterlee, closed with a loss of 850 textile jobs. The fact behind the closures is that clothing manufacturers as well as other companies are closing factories here and switching production abroad. Marks & Spencer, which is a major purchaser of clothes in the region from these companies, has also demanded that they move their production abroad to reduce costs.
All the closures by these companies have been blamed on the "severe competitive pressure", and a company spokesman was reported as putting the blame on shoppers when he said, "Shoppers in the high street are seeking even lower prices and retailers are competing for sales by reducing prices." MP for Easington Mr John Cummings also spoke on TV saying that the shopper was to blame. These accusations are completely wide of the mark. They are designed to hide the fact that the real aim of the clothing monopolies is to maintain their huge profits in the global market by switching production to where production costs are lowest regardless of the damage to the economy in the North East.
The government for their part is trying to put a gloss of varnish on this whole disastrous course for the economy both in North East and in Britain. This is the subject that Tony Blair constantly refers to when he regularly visits the region claiming that what they are building is a "knowledge-based economy" as part of his "Third Way" for Britain. Such a declaration is to try and suggest that the direction for the economy under the "knowledge-based economy" is forward looking and progressive. The reality is shown by the closures. It is that even such vital aspects of the national economy as clothing manufacture have been abandoned, the jobs of the workers are being attacked, and the manufacturing base is being further smashed up.
This programme is a further exposure of the illusions that the government tries to foster through such Third Way creations as the "knowledge-based economy". If no goods are produced, how is it possible to speak of any sort of economy? The workers must fight to end their marginalisation and create the conditions for the people themselves to decide on the direction of the economy.
Ballot papers have been delivered to around 500 delivery staff at Coventry's Bishop Street sorting office, after talks with Royal Mail broke down without agreement. Workers are unhappy that they are the only Royal Mail workers in the country who have to work six days a week.
Union leaders say a mail strike in the run up to Christmas cannot be ruled out. Mick Kavanagh, from the Communications Workers Union, thinks a strike is highly likely.
All day discussions in Shropshire broke down on Saturday and resumed on Sunday in order to deal with the build up of mail.
Management wants to recruit part-time staff but workers want the work to be done by full-timers.
There were virtually no collections on Saturday and there is no real prospect for services to return to normal at the moment.
As the Teachers Review Body prepares its report to the government, it is widely recognised that the levels of pay have been held down for many years. The divisive "Performance Related Pay" has not addressed the issue of retention of experienced teachers.
David Blunkett recently indicated that teachers need to be rewarded not only through holidays but their contribution recognised in their pay also. This acknowledgement is due to a build up of public pressure and opinion and in particular from teachers themselves.
While matters of salary are being discussed, teachers have to recognise that in their struggle to raise consciousness over developing a programme for a better education system, which includes the well-being of teachers, as well as pupils, they cannot rely on lobbying the government. It is necessary for teachers to step up their own political activity, formulate their own programme and actively engage in the struggle for empowerment.
Pupil-teacher ratios have started to rise again. David Blunkett has recently been trying to convince people that the education policies he has been responsible for are working. The reality is that teachers and pupils' parents are not convinced that New Labour can deliver the education system they want.
Some figures from the West Midlands can be given as an example. The ratios here have slipped to their worst levels in 25 years. Local education authorities in Wolverhampton, Walsall and Sandwell has a ratio of 16.6 : 1, slightly above Dudley at 16.4. Wolverhampton's number of pupils for every qualified teacher has risen since Labour came to power in 1997.
The picture is worse in Staffordshire where the figure this year is 17.9 and Worcestershire has a ratio as high as 18.5 :1.
Average class sizes have risen in secondary schools in particular. David Blunkett has been squirming around the critical fact that inadequate funding has not ameliorated the situation. The finger has been pointed at the government, which has not acted on the public demand for investment in education.
One Black Country Teacher said: "The Government came to power on the back of promises for education. This being their so-called 'priority' has given a lie to the actual reality on the ground. This is an indictment of Government spending cuts on an important social programme."
It is estimated that at least 5,000 teachers are needed just to return to the ratio levels of when the Labour government came to power.
Teachers have borne the brunt of the government's failure on the education system. Added exploitation has shown that stresses caused by OFSTED inspections, Performance Pay and "performance management" schemes have added to an ever increasing burden on teachers. In these circumstances, teachers pay has been held down and paperwork increased. The leaders of all the teachers' unions have so far failed to give adequate leadership. It is not surprising that failure by government to increase teaching staff and also maintain recruitment has escalated a crisis in the education system.
Under these circumstances, teachers and parents of pupils are looking towards a better education system than the one we have seen, which has been undermined by the various negative policies piled on by successive governments. Teachers themselves are raising the question of "What kind of Education System do we want?".
It is in this context that teachers are coming forward to take on an important role of encouraging the working class to become worker politicians. A new attitude to organising is necessary where the issues surrounding all kinds of social programmes, which include education, can be debated and acted upon by the working class. Teachers will always play an important role when it comes to challenging the capitalist organisation of society and seeking alternatives. There must be a proper and fully funded education that is not conditional on paying the rich, society must Stop Paying The Rich and Increase Investment in Social Programmes.
The recent exposures of the National Health Service which have appeared in issues of Workers Weekly and Workers Daily Internet Edition have been critical in debunking the relentless government propaganda about what is actually being done in the health service. It is clear that health workers in an organised way are taking a stand on these questions and are themselves the key people who exposing the dangers the NHS Plan and other government measures are creating in the health service.
Like all sections of the working class and people who take a stand, the health workers are subject to a particularly insidious form of attack designed to undermine their position of high esteem with which the people as a whole view them. The form that this attack is taking will be familiar to many other sections of the working class who have seen this kind of tactic used against them by the bosses time and again. This is the method spreading disinformation.
It is clear to me that this idea of super bugs killing 5,000 patients a year being down to failures of hygiene on the part of health workers is an attack against the health workers. This is not to suggest that there may not be an issue of hygiene here, but one has to consider what are the factors which lead to a drop in service quality, how these things come about. Clearly the situation with cuts in the health service play a role, as must the high levels of overwork and lack of resources. To suggest that keeping wards hygienically clean does not require at least the precious resource of time is to throw reality out the window.
In my view to raise this issue at this particular juncture when the NHS Plan is being pushed by the government and opposed by the health workers is an underhand way of attacking their credibility which will fail in its attempt to divert the attention of the people of Britain.
From a public sector worker in the field of education
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