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Volume 43 Number 34, November 2, 2013 ARCHIVE HOME JBCENTRE SUBSCRIBE

Save Lewisham Hospital Campaign Wins
Appeal – The Fight to Safeguard the NHS Goes On!

Workers' Weekly Internet Edition: Article Index :

Save Lewisham Hospital Campaign Wins Appeal – The Fight to Safeguard the NHS Goes On!

Jeremy Hunt Brazenly Carries Forward the “Reconfiguration” of London NHS Services

What Was Said: Lewisham Hospital and the House of Commons
Debate: Changes to Health Services in London

For Your Information:
Trust Special Administrators
Amendment to the Care Bill Currently in House of Commons

Fighting to Safeguard the Future of the NHS

Battle Lines Drawn as GKN Provoke a Dispute on the Isle of Wight

Co-ordinated Strike Action by University Staff and Students, October 31

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Save Lewisham Hospital Campaign Wins
Appeal – The Fight to Safeguard the NHS Goes On!

The Save Lewisham Hospital Campaign issued the following:



They said that the Secretary of State had gone beyond his “vires” or powers.

A rally was held outside the Hospital from 5-7 pm – broadcast live on BBC London.

It has been a magnificent effort from the Campaign, the Community, hospital clinicians and staff, the Council, the Mayor and MPs, Millwall FC and fans, Lewisham Pensioners Forum, the buggy army, the Council refuse department and 38 degrees.

A community united WILL NEVER BE DEFEATED!

Jeremy Hunt says he is “considering” the Supreme Court, but for now, let’s enjoy our victory.

The fight to maintain our NHS goes on!

Law firm Leigh Day’s news story on the victory:

Article Index


The Battle for the Future Direction of the NHS

Jeremy Hunt Brazenly Carries Forward the
“Reconfiguration” of London NHS Services

WWIE correspondent

Soon after his humiliating defeat in the Appeal Court, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt nonetheless announced the continuation of the Coalition programme of “reconfiguration” of the NHS. In a statement to the House of Commons on October 30, he gave a common justification for government measures which go against the public interest, namely the necessity of “taking tough decisions”. His explanation that the NHS has to be “sustainable” is what the communities who are fighting against closures, mergers and down-grading have come to understand as government-speak for its refusal to accept its responsibility for providing essential funding for the people’s health care.

The particular pretext for accepting the proposals of the deceptively titled “Independent Reconfiguration Panel” is that there is, according to Health Secretary, “great variation in the quality of acute care”. He referred to the proposals of the “Shaping a healthier future” programme as “ambitious plans”. The proposals, according to Jeremy Hunt’s statement are these: “[S]ignificant changes to services, including centralising accident and emergency services at five rather than nine hospitals; 24/7 urgent care centres at all nine hospitals; 24/7 consultant cover in all obstetric wards; a brand new trauma hospital at St Mary’s hospital, Paddington; brand new custom-built local hospitals at Ealing and Charing Cross; seven-day access to GP surgeries throughout north-west London; the creation of over 800 additional posts to improve out-of-hospital care, including a named, accountable clinician for all vulnerable and elderly patients with fully integrated provision by the health and social care systems; and increased investment in mental health and psychiatric liaison services.”

Hunt underlines that he had asked the “Independent Reconfiguration Panel” to conduct a “full review” of these proposals, since Ealing council had opposed the plans. This sounds uncomfortably similar to the situation with Lewisham and the South London Healthcare Trust, when he asked Sir Bruce Keogh to review the Trust Special Administrator’s report, with similar results – that is, basically, “go ahead”. The words Hunt quotes from the Panel are: “the way forward for the future and that the proposals for change will enable the provision of safe, sustainable and accessible services.”

It may indeed be asked how closing or downgrading hospitals and A&E departments is going to ensure that accident and emergency cover is provided at the necessary level not just to overcome the present crisis but to improve the people’s healthcare and avert loss of life. Hunt said that the north-west London hospitals would, after all, keep their A&Es but “in a different shape or size to that currently offered”. No-one can be seriously taken in by Hunt’s logic, or lack of it.

The Save Our Hospitals Campaign said of Jeremy Hunt’s proposals: “A&E departments at Hammersmith and Central Middlesex Hospitals, serving some of London most deprived communities will close ‘as soon as practicable’; A&Es at Charing Cross and Ealing Hospitals will offer ‘a different size or shape’ of service. This inevitably means a downgraded A&E. As it will not be ‘a 24 hour consultant-led service with full resuscitation facilities and designated accommodation’ (Type 1) the remaining A&Es will be minor injury units (MIU) or walk-in centres (Type 3).” Mark Honigsbaum, spokesperson for the campaign said: “Now we know the truth. Charing Cross will be closed and replaced by a community care clinic with no A&E, no intensive care unit, and no acute stroke services.”

The movement to safeguard the future of the health service will only grow stronger in the face of these announcements. The Save Our Hospital campaigners quickly responded to Jeremy Hunt's announcement by vowing to continue their fight and held rallies outside Ealing and Charing Cross hospitals on October 30. Following on from the judicial victory in blocking the plans to decimate Lewisham Hospital, campaigns all over the country, including North West London, are gaining in strength and people are showing more and more that they are not prepared to allow the wholesale privatisation and destruction of their hospitals to continue by this or any other government. The fight over the direction of the NHS continues as the Coalition moves further down the road of ripping it apart. There is cause for optimism if the people rely on their own forces and unite in action to affirm that health care is a right.

Whose NHS! Our NHS!

Article Index


What Was Said:

Lewisham Hospital and the House of Commons
Debate: Changes to Health Services in London

October 30 (extracts)

Andy Burnham (Leigh, Labour): The Secretary of State has made a statement on London health services. People will not have missed the fact that he has failed to mention Lewisham hospital and what happened at the Court of Appeal yesterday. Is that not a staggering omission? The victory that was won by the people of Lewisham will give hope to people who are disappointed by today’s announcement.

The humiliation of the Secretary of State in court again raises major questions about his judgment and his ability to manage such important decisions. In the summer, we explicitly warned him to accept the first court ruling. Instead, he ploughed on, throwing around taxpayers’ money in a cavalier fashion, to protect his pride and defend the indefensible. I have a simple question: how much has he spent on appealing that decision? When he decided to appeal, did the official legal advice from the Government recommend an appeal or did he overrule it? Will he confirm today to this House and to the people of Lewisham that there will be no further appeal against the court’s ruling? Will he give the people of Lewisham and the staff who work at Lewisham hospital a commitment that their A and E and maternity services will be protected? Finally, will he apologise to the people of Lewisham for the unnecessary distress and worry he has put them through?

It will not have escaped people’s notice that the Secretary of State is trying to put powers through the House quite soon to grab further powers for himself and drive through financial closures of A and Es without proper consultation, so that in effect he can do what he tried to do to Lewisham to every community in England. That will send a chill wind through those communities that fear to lose their A and Es, and that is why we will oppose those powers when they are considered by the House.

In conclusion, the Government have come a long way since the Prime Minister stood outside Chase Farm hospital days after the last general election and promised a moratorium on all hospital changes. Local people in west London will not have forgotten the Prime Minister standing outside Ealing and Central Middlesex hospitals and promising the same. People are seeing through a Prime Minister whose broken promises on the NHS are catching up with him. Has it ever been clearer than it is today that people simply cannot trust the Tories with the NHS?

(Citation: HC Deb, 30 October 2013, c922)

Jeremy Hunt (South West Surrey, Conservative): I will come on to Lewisham. I am acting to end uncertainty because I made the decision today that whatever the outcome of further discussions that the Independent Reconfiguration Panel recommends, there will remain an A and E at Ealing and Charing Cross. That is the best thing I can do for those residents.

The right hon. Gentleman mentioned Lewisham, but let us remember that the problem started because his Government saddled South London Healthcare NHS Trust with £150 million in private finance initiative costs. I judged that the right thing for patients was to sort out a problem that was diverting £1 million every week from the front line. Yes it is difficult, but I would rather lose a battle with the courts trying to do the right thing for patients than not try at all.

Finally, these are difficult decisions, but the party that really has NHS interests at heart is the one that is prepared to grip those decisions. We are gripping the problems in A and E, and in terms of hospital reconfigurations. That is why the NHS is safe in our hands and not safe in those of the Labour party.

(Citation: HC Deb, 30 October 2013, c924)

Joan Ruddock (Lewisham, Deptford, Labour): Let me remind the Secretary of State that the High Court ruled that his actions in trying to remove services from Lewisham hospital to save a separate failing trust were illegal. He then lost the appeal. Will he now stop throwing good public money after bad, leave Lewisham hospital alone, and learn to respect the views of the people who work in our hospital and those who use its services?

(Citation: HC Deb, 30 October 2013, c925)

Jeremy Hunt (South West Surrey, Conservative): I respect those views and the right hon. Lady for her campaigning. I understand why the people of Lewisham were unhappy about those changes but, as Health Secretary, I had to take a decision in the interests of all patients in south London. That was the first time the powers—the trust special administrator powers—were used. My interpretation was different from the courts, but I respect them as the final arbiter of what the law means. However, when we have to make difficult decisions about turning round failing hospitals—south London has some of the most serious problems in the country—it is important that the local NHS can take a wider health economy view of what changes are necessary. As I have said, I will respect what the Court has decided, but it is important that I continue to battle for the right thing for patients.

(Citation: HC Deb, 30 October 2013, c925)

Diane Abbott (Hackney North and Stoke Newington, Labour): The whole House knows that all the medical directors in the hospitals involved in north-west London support the reconfiguration. Does the Secretary of State really understand the importance of bringing ordinary people with him? Londoners are especially cautious about these reconfigurations because of the historic problems with access to GPs and the many excluded communities for whom A and E is their primary care, and because these institutions are often major employers in their area and people identify with them. Does he realise that unless he brings ordinary people and patients with him on these reconfigurations, Londoners will continue to fight them and, as in the case of Lewisham, they will continue to win?

(Citation: HC Deb, 30 October 2013, c929)

Heidi Alexander (Lewisham East, Labour): It is a bit rich for the Secretary of State to accuse the Opposition of being desperate when he has been told by the court not once, but twice that he acted unlawfully in relation to Lewisham. The Secretary of State’s amendment to the Care Bill would enable him to do to other hospitals what the courts said yesterday he could not do in south London. Will he admit that under those changes no hospital would be safe, and that in fact he wants to inflict the blatant injustice that he tried to inflict on Lewisham on hospitals not only across London, but up and down the country?

(Citation: HC Deb, 30 October 2013, c929)

Jeremy Hunt (South West Surrey, Conservative): I understand why the hon. Lady is rightly representing the concerns of her constituents, but she must also understand that I have to look at their interests as patients, as well as at the interests of the broader south London population. It is important to make that amendment to the Care Bill because hospitals are not islands on their own. We have a very interconnected health economy, and what happens in Lewisham has a direct impact on what happens in Woolwich and vice versa. If we are to turn around failing hospitals quickly—something that the last Government sadly did not do—we need to have the ability to look at the whole health economy, not at problems in isolation.

(Citation: HC Deb, 30 October 2013, c930)

Jim Dowd (Lewisham West and Penge, Labour): Why does the Secretary of State find it so difficult to realise that he is not above the law? Both the Court of Appeal and the High Court have made it plain that his flagrant disregard for the law in trying to destroy Lewisham hospital cannot stand. Why does he not have the decency to abandon his proposals; apologise to the people of Lewisham and the staff and users of Lewisham hospital; and share his humiliation with the Leader of the House, the previous Secretary of State, who launched this illegal programme in the first place?

(Citation: HC Deb, 30 October 2013, c930)

Jeremy Hunt (South West Surrey, Conservative): There is no humiliation in doing the right thing for patients, and I will always do that. Sometimes it is difficult and we have battles with the courts, but no one is above the law. I have said that I respect the judgment made by the court yesterday, and that is what I shall do.

(Citation: HC Deb, 30 October 2013, c930)

Article Index


For Your Information

Trust Special Administrators

In 2012, Health Secretary Andrew Lansley, the then Health Secretary of the coalition government invoked powers under the Health Acts brought in by the previous Labour government and placed an NHS trust in administration for the first time, setting in motion a legal process of applying the “failure regime” to the South London Healthcare Trust. This would see all board directors suspended and a “trust special administrator” sent in, Mathew Kershaw, on July 16th. It is this “trust special administrator” that delivered a decision outside of the powers of the Act and backed by the new Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt to close A&E and maternity services at the neighbouring Lewisham Trust that was subsequently successfully challenged in the high court jointly by the Save Lewisham Hospital Campaign and Lewisham Council. Of course the whole conception of “failure regime” is based on the reactionary and irrational notion that hospitals can be arbitrarily declared “bankrupt” and then subject to closure when in fact the responsibility of government is the opposite to ensure that the funding of these hospitals and the health service they provide is guaranteed.

There is provision of the “failure regime” and the appointment of “independent regulators” in the Labour Government’s Health Act 2006. The Labour government’s Health Act 2009 an Act that ironically brought in “the NHS constitution” added the appointment of Trust Special Administrators to the Health Act 2006. The statutory guidance for Trust Special Administrators appointed to NHS trusts sets out the duties of Trust Special Administrators under Chapter 5A of the NHS Act 2006 (which was added by the Health Act 2009).

The Health Act 2009 introduced a time limited and “transparent” framework. The key objective of a Trust Special Administrator appointed to an NHS trust “is to develop and consult locally on a draft report, making recommendations to the Secretary of State for Health in a final report about what should happen to the organisation and the services it provides so that high-quality, sustainable services are delivered to the local health economy. The public and NHS staff must be fully involved if the regime is used.”

The legal framework sets out a maximum period of 120 working days for the regime (unless this is extended in exceptional circumstances), by which time the Secretary of State must make a final decision on the future of the NHS trust following the Trust Special Administrator’s recommendations. Under the present Acts both the special Trust administrator and the Secretary of State have no powers to effect changes to other Trusts as happened with the Lewisham decision.

The present government in July 2012 produced statutory guidance for Trust Special Administrators.

Article Index


For Your Information

Amendment to the Care Bill
Currently in House of Commons

Amendment to the Care Bill proposed by the government and now before Parliament to widen the powers of the special administrators and the secretary of state to involve other Trusts not under special administration in their cuts and closures.

The Care Bill is expected to have its second reading debate on a date to be announced.

The Bill completed its House of Lords stages on 29 October 2013 and was presented to the House of Commons on 30 October 2013. This is known as the first reading and there was no debate on the Bill at this stage.

The amendments have been marshalled in accordance with the Order of 8th October 2013, (as proposed to be varied by the motion in the name of Earl Howe) as follows—

Insert the following new Clause—

Trust special administration: powers of administrator etc.

(1) In section 65O of the National Health Service Act 2006 (Chapter 5A of Part
2: interpretation) (the existing text of which becomes subsection (1)) at the
end insert—

“(2) The references in this Chapter to taking action in relation to an NHS
trust include a reference to taking action, including in relation to
another NHS trust or an NHS foundation trust, which is necessary
for and consequential on action taken in relation to that NHS trust.

“(3) The references in this Chapter to taking action in relation to an NHS
foundation trust include a reference to taking action, including in
relation to another NHS foundation trust or an NHS trust, which is
necessary for and consequential on action taken in relation to that
NHS foundation trust.” and so on....

Article Index


For a New Direction for Society

Fighting to Safeguard the Future of the NHS

Workers’ Weekly Health Group

We base our fight on opposing the anti-social direction of the NHS. We affirm that there is a necessity for a change from this anti-social direction to a pro-social direction. We recognise that this fight is taking place within the context of fighting for a change in the direction of the economy and the direction of society as a whole.

The pro-social direction can be summed up in our overall political programme, which is Stop Paying the Rich! Increase Investments in Social Programmes! So, the fight to safeguard the future of the NHS is taking place within the whole struggle against the anti-social offensive of the rich and their governments. The fight opposes this anti-social offensive first and foremost by saying that we affirm the rights of the people and their collectives and their necessary claims on the wealth, the added-value, that they produce. The future lies in the defence of the rights of all, and in the case of the health service the claim is that health care is a right, it must be available to all at the highest level, and that the claim of the rich over the added-value produced through the health service is illegitimate, and that the government, on behalf of society, must ensure that the value produced within a healthy workforce is realised so that investments are made in the health service commensurate with the needs of the society.

For a new direction for the NHS

Today, the Coalition government is systematically wrecking every aspect of society which is for the public good, or that has generally served the well-being of society. The public sector in particular is being singled out for sabotage and wrecking in pursuit of denying the claims of people for social, health and well-being needs in favour of directly serving the demands and interests of the rich and, especially, the financial oligarchy and the global monopolies. This wrecking activity of what is for public good is most openly reflected in the speeded up drive to privatise the NHS with the passing of the Health and Social Care Act 2012 and its subsequent implementation.

At the same time, with the demise of Margaret Thatcher, the responsibility for such a disastrous course for society is being presented as if it were just the personality of a reactionary politician, of Margaret Thatcher, or of the present leaders of the Coalition government, Jeremy Hunt and Co., or indeed the Labour leaders before them. But what is being overlooked in making everything an outcome of these policy decisions by these reactionary politicians is the whole direction of society and the crisis of post-war monopoly capitalism and its continued drive to turn everything in society into a mechanism to pay the rich, from the water we drink to the most vital services such as our National Health Service.

Today, the fight to safeguard the future of the NHS, which our Party took up as its call fourteen years ago under a Labour government, has now taken a centre place in the political demand of the Workers’ Opposition and resistance of the people in fighting for the alternative. Such an alternative is not just a call for a change of policy, a policy objective, but must become a recognition by broad sections of society and especially by its organised forces of health workers and the working class movement that a new direction for society is needed. Such a situation demands the development of the Workers’ Opposition that challenges the whole pay-the-rich direction for society and engages in the fight to stop paying the rich and increase investments in social programmes, the NHS and social economy instead.

Modern Britain and the developed world is one where the productive forces have become completely socialised and every section of society and every community is dependent on that socialised economy. Such a society requires social relations for that socialised economy that serve the interests of all. In other words, it requires modern arrangements in empowering the whole population to chart the direction for society and its economy. The present direction that the ruling elite are trying to impose on this 21st century world is the 19th century neo-liberal conception of society, the agenda of private ownership of everything, even water which the Romans had made public 2,000 years ago and even all our vital public services such as social and health care. However, the issue of the “free market” is a fraud, a cover-up for the imposition of monopoly right. It is this direction for society which is causing the economic crisis and is responsible for wrecking the economic and social relations of society. It excludes the people from decision-making and concentrates power in fewer and fewer hands. To expand the space for public participation in setting the agenda is one which is therefore of vital importance.

What has to be recognised as well is that the ruling elite have always pursued this present direction and there has never been a time when the working class and people have not had to defend the NHS and other public services from cuts and privatisation of one form or another. However, it is a direction that the ruling elite in Britain did not pursue in full until the latter part of the 20th century when the crisis of state monopoly capitalism deepened.

In 1948, the modern welfare state and NHS came into being as a social contract between big business, state monopoly capitalism and big labour to resolve the economic and political crisis in their favour at the end of the Second World War. At that time, with the defeat of Nazi fascism, and with the prestige of the Soviet Union in this titanic battle, the ruling class had to present the working class with the prospect of building some elements of the new society in order to divert it from going for socialism. However, the monopoly capitalist class was never reconciled to taking any steps in building a modern society. With the deepening of the crisis of their state monopoly capitalist system Margaret Thatcher led the anti-social trend, privatising everything in her wake, even attempting it in the publicly funded NHS introducing the White Paper Working for Patients which brought to the NHS the idea of a fictitious internal market which was first introduced between 1991 and 1997. This marked a new stage in the anti-social offensive in the NHS. That it has taken them 25 years to get to this point of the Health and Social Care Act 2012 shows not the strength of the ruling elite but that they have been faced with the collective resistance, will and social consciousness of health workers and the broad masses of the people.

This fight which continued through the period of New Labour has particularly taken the form of a large mass movement, as a fight to safeguard the future of the NHS, against the present Coalition government with the demand for the repeal of the Health and Social Care Act 2012. The necessity today is to develop this collective will and social consciousness. The struggles which are taking place such at Lewisham and elsewhere show the level of opposition and the obstacles that need to be removed in order to open up further progress in this fight for a new direction. To further elaborate these issues, we plan to publish a pamphlet very soon based on articles which first appeared in Workers’ Weekly over the years. The aim is to further the work to fight for a new direction for the NHS and for society.

On the struggle against privatisation

The struggle against privatisation has become a crucial focus in the overall struggle for a change in the direction of the NHS. The constraints of the “free market”, the escalated paying of the rich through privatisation, the drive towards mergers and conglomerations through the pretext of opposing “waste and inefficiency”, the focus on the “financial sustainability” of hospitals – these have all become blocks to reversing the direction of the NHS. Privatisation is an assertion that monopoly right prevails, whether through direct control of hospitals by the private sector, the interest payments on PFI, the implementation of EU directives and the refusal of the government to fund the people’s health care as of right. Privatisation is based on the demand of the monopolies for the maximum portion of value that the social economy produces, including the provision of health care.

The struggle is one against those that directly profit from the privatisation of the NHS, as well as one of fighting for a health service in which public health is at the centre of decision-making. Using every means to block private interests from seizing ever-more control of the health service is crucial. At stake is truly the future of the NHS.

The Trust Special Administrator (TSA) regime was brought in under the Labour government enabling the Health Secretary to directly appoint an administrator of “failing” Trusts. This has been viewed as a god-send by the Coalition government, formalising and attempting to give legitimacy to the intervention by the state on behalf of the monopolies under the pretext of addressing “financial failure” and “bankruptcy” of NHS Trusts. The government were defeated over the judicial review in the Lewisham campaign, but are bringing in an amendment to the Care Bill in order to rectify this set-back. Of course, it will not be “retrospective”, but will give legality to all future schemes to wreck the health service in favour of private interests. Such moves, as with the passing of the Section 75 regulations as part of the whole Health and Social Care Act, demonstrate the importance of opposing the dictate of the Coalition government. Important measures in this respect include the demand for a moratorium on PFI debt payments, and the demand for a public inquiry into the profits that the private sector has made from its involvement in the health service, with the aim of the restitution of the siphoned-off funds to the public treasury

The new society

Democratic renewal is required to end the marginalisation of the people from decision-making. This future is embodied in the here-and-now by the slogan Whose NHS? Our NHS! The path to get there is embodied in the slogan We are the Opposition!

The goal of democratic renewal is not to end all the problems, but that the people must be sovereign and consciously participate in the solving of the problems. It is to release the human factor/social consciousness. It puts the sovereign people at the centre of all considerations.

In the here-and-now, the voice of the people must be listened to, and mechanisms fought for which involves them in setting the agenda. The old arrangements have had their day, and to oppose monopoly right new arrangements must be fought for. Capital-centred assumptions must be opposed, with the focus that these do not constitute the alternative, but will only exacerbate the crisis. Instead, there must be a militant programme of laying the claims. The government must be held to account, and it must guarantee the right to health care. Those that refuse have no place in modern government.

The fight for a change in the direction of the NHS is a necessary battle in the line of march towards bringing into being a new society.

Article Index


Workers' Movement

Battle Lines Drawn as GKN Provoke
a Dispute on the Isle of Wight

Rtuc’s Blog *

On Friday, GKN management prematurely brought into effect its arbitrary measures against its long-standing workforce. The new terms and conditions include longer hours and cuts to overtime pay. In doing so the company have thrown the workers into the battle arena without explanation as to why they are doing such a thing. Even before the recent situation, after the cooling off period, the employers were not transparent about the economic factors and strategic problems they were faced with as a company. They have only indicated closure and the sacking of 300-plus staff to offset market problems, which they have no idea how to solve. They have not consulted with the workers and their unions about any rescue ideas or negotiated any measures to deal with situation in a civilised fashion.

Instead, the company’s local management has responded to unexpected resistance from its normally quiet workforce. Disturbing the peace, they launched into a panic attack, lashing out in all directions like rabid dogs. The cause of the problem has been the management who have by their unprofessional actions thrown a grenade into relations. The effect has been to create chaos. They should calm down and negotiate properly.

Now reciprocal action has become the order of the day by workers and unions. Consultations, discussions and meetings have taken place, including an off-site mass meeting, which is due at the weekend. United actions will also be contemplated. So it is that the workers at the East Cowes factory are preparing their strategy and tactics as they are forced into a corner by the company.

The workers and their shop stewards have invoked their union to conduct the struggle as it has now broken out.

The management tactics have been to blatantly interfere with the workers ballot by organising for 60 staff and managers to be given votes in order to sway the result. Unite regional organiser Pat Breslin said that the union had been prevented from conducting a fourth ballot at the factory, and would now have to ballot workers properly at home.

He said, “GKN may think it has an agreement but clearly it does not, because the previous ballot was flawed. We will not accept changes being forced upon us. We will conduct a fresh ballot, to make sure it is fair, and present the result to GKN. I hope the company will be reasonable and accept it.”

Another tactic the workers have had to overcome is the attempt to sow divisions in the workers’ opposition. New starters, those on temporary contracts and semi-skilled workers are being sectionally singled out. They are being targeted to try and weaken the workers’ resistance. Workers are responding by strengthening their unity and are considering firmer united action so that together they will respond head on.

Workers on the shop floor are on overtime shifts anyway and have so much to lose money-wise with the full frontal attack on pay by the management.

The third aspect of the attack is through punitive disciplinary action on those individuals or groups that refuse the management proposals and so it is conducive for workers to face them head on and together as one.

The workers are being put into a set of circumstances where they have no choice. Much of the workforce is highly skilled, experienced and mature. The attitude of the management is clearly an affront to them.

The crude tactics of the company have to be challenged by opposite tactics of the workforce that are not only equal but also better. They want to clamp down on union activity so that worse conditions can be imposed in the future. The misplaced management bullying and intimidation will not be allowed to pass.

The management clearly have no answers to the present volatility in the aerospace marketplace. They are faced with overproduction and quality issues. Even though profits are high, there is no guarantee for future shareholder dividends. At stake is the future employment of highly skilled, experienced and productive workers. If they threaten closure of the factory, destroy the productive forces, and carry these things out, the danger is that training new skills elsewhere is a long term and expensive investment. Once lost the skills and their use on the Isle of Wight could be lost forever. Are the GKN management prepared to carry out such a wrecking programme? The loss would be permanent damage both to the industry as well as to the Island.

Destruction and wrecking of the local economy and industry cannot be allowed to succeed.

The wrecking activity has brought the management to the attention of us all and causes us to question their competence. They clearly have no adequate responses or answers to the problems in the market. The only decision making is currently made internally by the management concentrating on productivity. Yet the responses are poor and crude. The way forward is by consulting with the workforce who can come up with proper decision-making proposals.

Once again, by instigating property and management rights, a big monopoly is jeopardising the industry it controls. But the company do not know what to do. Old fashioned bosses strutting around threatening exploitative “solutions” like lengthening the working day or cutting pay and wielding the big stick is no solution. It will not solve the problem now or ever. The answer is to work smarter. If the problem is one of investment and funding then it should be brought out into the open and the necessary outside agencies should be involved in a transparent, open and honest but proper way.

The workers know the answers of old but they are not put into a position to discuss or implement decisions. Workers have to assert themselves in reaction to the employers’ hopeless kneejerk responses.

In this way, it becomes a political question because the situation highlights the inadequacy of the capitalist relations of production. Workers have to have more say and participation in the direction of production and exchange of the products. This is the problem in all manufacturing affecting all workers and management everywhere at present.

In the first place, the workers at GKN are demanding that the company backs off and stops its attack on the workers and their conditions. The requirement is that the status quo is returned to.

Secondly, the company should sit down properly and negotiate an agreement as is the norm. That agreement should have the interests of the local factory, local community, local industry, jobs and the local economy as its priority.

* Rtuc’s Blog is the weblog of Ryde Trades Union Council, Isle of Wight

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Co-ordinated Strike Action by University Staff and Students, October 31

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