Workers' Weekly On-Line
Volume 50 Number 25, July 4, 2020 ARCHIVE HOME JBCENTRE SUBSCRIBE

72nd Anniversary of the NHS:

Taking Forward the Vision of Health Care As a Right

Workers' Weekly Internet Edition: Article Index : ShareThis

72nd Anniversary of the NHS:
Taking Forward the Vision of Health Care As a Right

Keep The Heartbeat Going! Let Us Make This A Turning Point In Our Favour For The NHS

The Rights of Teachers and Pupils:
Problems that Teaching Staff Are Faced With

Interview with a primary school teacher

Workers' Forum:
Defending the Rights and Interests of Jaguar Land Rover Workers

For Your Information:
Major Redundancies Expected in the West Midlands Aerospace Industry

Workers' Forum:
Unison Staff to Strike after Tower Hamlets Council Contract Talks Collapse

Taking a Stand against British Imperialism:
Signs of Change in Ireland

72nd Anniversary of the NHS:

Taking Forward the Vision of Health Care As a Right

When the NHS Was Founded It Was Inspired by the Possibility of a New Direction for Society.
Let Us Take Up This Vision and Inspiration. It Can Be Done, It Must Be Done!

This weekend people will be marking the 72nd anniversary of the NHS with many events highlighting the the huge contribution made by health and care workers in the coronavirus pandemic. At the same time, those campaigns that have been involved in the fight to save hospital and health care services, those involved in trade unions, and staff associations that have been fighting to defend health workers during the crisis are also organising events to continue their fight.

The question that has been brought into sharp relief by the coronavirus pandemic is what is needed for a modern health service which provides health care as of right to all sections of the population at the highest level without discrimination. This right exists because we are human and has nothing to do with our status as a citizen, or any other consideration that government tries to impose such as their criminal policy of making "immigrants" and visitors pay for health care as a path to introduce payment of health care more and more for all.

It should be a sine qua non of any modern society worthy of the name that there is never any question of "under-funding" or "balancing the books" in meeting all these needs for health care. There should be investment in the health service without quibble. One way is to stop the spending on military projects. Another way is for the monopolies to pay for the value crystallised in a healthy workforce. At present the monopolies pay nothing for the value that health and care workers create in bringing their workforces into the world and keeping them healthy throughout their life and in old age. Instead the monopolies consume this as their profits and are provided with a healthy work force paid for by people themselves! The government's talks of "build, build, build" at present to get the economy out of the crisis allegedly caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Yet it is the opposite - the pandemic has actually laid bare and exposed the fault lines in the economy, fault lines which stem from the control of the economy by vested private interests, which go to paying the rich at ever-exorbitant rates, while the public economy is starved of funds and investments.

The reality is that a vibrant and funded health service is the pre-requisite of a healthy economy. The government is recklessly ignoring this fundamental truth, handing over billions of pounds to monopolies and financial consultants, who fail to meet even World Health Organisation standards in providing protective equipment for health and care workers, carrying out testing, and implementing tracking and tracing needed to fight the pandemic. In the course of this, tens of thousands of lives have been lost. The hypocrisy of those in power clapping the NHS and front-line workers is sickening to behold. By their works shall ye know them!

The sentiment of the people is at odds with this, and their hearts are with the NHS and its self-sacrificing workers. This includes care workers and all who care for the physical, mental and social health and well-being of the population. It includes focusing on preventative health care, on eliminating the social inequalities which give rise to health problems, and providing the health service with a vision which comes from health workers, professionals and concerned people being in control of decision-making.

Local campaigns are resisting the uncaring acts of those in authority which by-pass the concerns of the people. All power to these campaigns! They point the way to the future, to a new direction for society. All of them fight shoulder to shoulder in the sense that their cause is to ensure that the people's concerns are listened to and acted on. Their converging point is a health service taken away from the grip of those in authority who espouse the old perspective of paying the rich. The chronic and serious problems exposed by the coronavirus pandemic must be overcome in the new situation.

When the NHS was founded in the aftermath of WWII, the working class and people were inspired by the possibilities of a new direction for society. In marking the anniversary of the NHS, let us take up this vision and inspiration. It can be done, it must be done!

Article Index

72nd Anniversary of the NHS:

Keep The Heartbeat Going!
Let Us Make This A Turning Point In Our Favour For The NHS

Statement of the Save South Tyneside Hospital Campaign

July 5, 2020 marks the 72nd anniversary of the founding of the NHS. Whilst everyone knows how the health and care workers have played an outstanding role in saving lives during the coronavirus pandemic, people should also reflect on the fight to save hospital and community services over the last 4 years and many decades before that. Campaigns like our SSTHC, trade union activists and those in wider circles have played a vital role in this fight to organise the NHS in our favour. It is our hospital, our NHS and we should decide.

This is also a reflection of what is happening in every part of the country. Although we haven't been able to save all the vital services in every area, our collective resistance has significantly delayed the implementation of further closures. In South Tyneside, those in control, under the plans of government wanted to close by 2017 hundreds more hospital beds and acute services at our District General hospital. This would have meant even less-safe access to vital urgent and acute services by redirecting local patients to already overcrowded services at Sunderland and elsewhere. Because the people resisted these changes, the services were still open and available with the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. The hospital is largely still here for us because of the fight people have undertaken to save its services over the last 4 years and decades before that. Through this fight, more people have become involved, extending the fight to other services, such as end of life palliative care when St Clare's Hospice in South Tyneside was closed last year.

Then during the the coronavirus pandemic it became clear that our fight here and throughout the country could be transformed into an asset for the people by us taking up the battle against the government and authorities over their handling of this virus outbreak. We have been fighting the refusal to provide the right protection equipment in the quantity needed, as well as their refusal to test staff in health and care homes for Covid19 in a timely manner. We continue to support all those health workers and those in our trade union circles in that fight as well as helping to keep everyone safe in our communities.

We have also raised people's awareness of the Trade Bill presently being rushed through Parliament by the government and it is essential that we oppose this Trade Bill from becoming law certainly in its present form. There is a huge resistance with over 2.3 million people signing petitions against the NHS being put up for sale and our food standards being deregulated by international agreements that will be enabled by the Bill. We should decide as a people what industries and public services we have and what we trade abroad and not an international network of companies that can use the Trade Bill to privatise our NHS and public services and vital industries, and for companies here to take control from the people of other countries of their same public services and vital industries. That is what the Trade Bill will enable in international trade agreements in a nutshell.

So, our assessment must be today that with this experience we have had, particularly over the last 4 years together, that we must keep speaking out in our name and keep the fight going. We must fight to get an outcome that favours the people and where we make the decisions to make health care a right for all that is guaranteed in South Tyneside and everywhere else. Keep the heartbeat going, let us strive to make this a turning point in our favour for the NHS. It is our hospital, our NHS and we should decide!

Save South Tyneside Hospital Campaign

July 4, 2020

Article Index

The Rights of Teachers and Pupils

Problems that Teaching Staff Are Faced With

With the likelihood of a "second wave" in Britain of the coronavirus pandemic, there is serious concern among teaching staff as to what the future holds. These concerns are being voiced in the context of what should be the direction of the economy. The economy cannot be based on favouring the rich and the oligarchs. Education must be geared not to fulfilling the vested interests of those in power who claim class privilege, but rather it must be geared to taking responsibility for the future of society where the rights of all are recognised by virtue of their humanity.

In education, the old direction presupposes training children as in a race to get on in life, rather than showing how to take up responsibility for the future of society. So the issue is presented as some children "falling behind". This is introducing a kind of panic when schools have been closed, education has been online, and the poor and vulnerable have suffered when there is a lack of resources. It is being asked by the teaching profession and in society at large as to what education children as a whole are missing out on.

The government published new guidelines for schools, for further and higher education, as well as local authority children's services and other edicts, as of July 2. In a press statement from the Department of Education and Education Secretary Gavin Williamson, the government explains that current restrictions on group sizes are to be lifted. It is proposing to expand the "bubbles" from 15 children to class or year-group numbers. A year group could be anything from 240 to 300. How does one maintain a "bubble" of 300 and does it have any meaning? Problems posed by this are huge. How can independent classes be maintained, where classes of children come to the teacher be taught?

The press releases says that "Covid-19 secure measures will remain in place to reduce the risk of transmission", and that where "there is a positive case in a school or college, the Public Health England local health protection team will advise on the appropriate action, which could include small groups of young people and staff being asked to self-isolate for up to 14 days. Where there are two or more confirmed cases in a two-week period, health protection teams may ask a larger number of other children or young people to self-isolate at home as a precautionary measure."

This raises the whole question of testing and transmission via children. The guidelines put forward a whole rigmarole for what to do if there is a positive case in a school or college, which bears little or no relation to the schools' realities. And the implication is that if there is more than one positive test in a "bubble" of 300, all children and teachers should isolate for 14 days! Not only this, but schools "will be expected to have plans in place to offer remote education to pupils who are self-isolating".

Included in the guidelines are exhortations to constant cleaning, social distancing, minimising contact and reducing the use of frequently-shared items. This does not take into account that there are neither funds nor resources for many schools, especially state schools, to follow these guidelines and provide, for example, portaloos, facilities for all children to wash their hands in these conditions, and so on. Social distancing rules imply the use of makeshift classrooms and portakabins.

All the announcements of the government are random, made without consultation. Many schools are saying they have not the time nor resources to implement what may or may not look good on paper but teachers would have to be superhuman to carry out. In other words, the guidelines are not based on actual objective conditions. And there is a growing divide between state and independent schools, which have more space and resources, though the independent schools are also finding it difficult to make sense of guidelines which are made divorced from the needs and advice of teachers and support staff. Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the National Education Union (NEU) has on more than one occasion said that the government is incoherent.

This situation also raises the issue of the rights of the people who do the work. There is no escape from the fact that teachers' working conditions are the pupils' learning conditions. In the state sector, whole schools have been furloughed. After end of furlough in August, schools are to pay 60% of wages and the government 40%. Independent schools are laying off staff and also closing, and it is being said that this represents the thin end of the wedge. In other words, there is a crisis, with portions of school system based on profit, and parents asking in these circumstances what they are getting for their money. In the state sector, staff are also being pressured to return to work, and blamed for children falling behind or not getting the education they need, and the accusation is unjustly levelled at teachers that they are not shouldering their responsibility. Far from it. The teachers are the ones who are acting responsibly and attempting to resolve the problems which are endemic in the education system.

The government portrays that the issue is simply how many children go back to school and when. However, take the issue of online lessons, which is built on the premise that everybody should have computers and access to internet. Many schools do not even have resources to provide equipment to staff let alone children. A socially responsible education system cannot just make edicts but has to provide what is necessary, such as computers, adequate bandwidth, and so on. Talk of "bubbles" is not making sense, but is in fact creating a divide, and asking people to fend for themselves.

Amid all this, the government has announced that GCSE exams are going ahead, delayed probably until the end of July. They would normally have been held in mid-May. Now teachers are being asked to stay teaching the GCSE year-group until the end of July 2021 and give up holidays to mark, re-mark and supervise results.

Teachers have already spent Easter holidays in preparing, in cleaning classrooms, and so on. This has been exhausting for the whole profession, especially those with small children at home. Now there is even a suggestion of summer catch-up lessons, especially for years 11 and 13. On top of this, there is a proposal to also have a year 14, for those pupils who need an extra year for their A levels.

Teachers and their unions are raising that the government is asking schools to follow a programme which assumes just business as usual only more so, in order that children do not "miss out". It is raising the question among the teaching profession and among many parents as to what kind of education is required in society, post-pandemic. Teachers and their unions are asking, can we not use this as an opportunity to assess what is taught and how, and question all these educational tests? Why would you not use this time to re-assess what teachers do as a body, what values should be inculcated in the young, how to responsibly give to the next generation? Is it not the case that  SATs or Ofsted tests are not there for the pupils, but to "regulate" teaching staff and provide league tables that just serve big business?

There are not a few other issues which are being raised at this time, as teachers fight to make their voice heard and be heeded. For instance, it appears that under cover of the pandemic a number of schools have withdrawn from the state-funded Teachers' Pension Scheme (TPS), and are expecting teachers to subscribe to a private pension scheme.

There are extra difficulties facing peripatetic teachers, impacting lives of so many, especially after furlough ends at end of August. Such teachers will have to reconsider their situation since they are excluded, because of coming into contact with different schools, from the government's conception of "bubbles".

The pastoral aspect of a teacher's role has also come to the fore in this crisis, a role that is often overlooked and gets to the heart of the educational values that should be prevalent.

In short, the crisis and the teachers' responsible response to it have put on the agenda the issue of a future where education for all is a right, alongside health and culture, and that society should be considering this question. In fighting for their rights and to make their voices heard as they are exhorted to run even faster with even fewer resources, teachers are raising that post-Covid-19, there cannot be the same aims and content as before. There is a necessity for change, for which teachers are speaking out.

Article Index

The Rights of Teachers and Pupils

Interview with a primary school teacher

Could you tell me something about your work as a primary school teacher prior to the Covid-19 pandemic?

I work in a multicultural, inner city school. There is a high level of deprivation, with a significant number of pupils with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) and those for whom English is an additional language (EAL). The needs of our pupils are complex and it goes without saying that the teaching staff face a massive challenge in trying to get most of our pupils to reach age-related expectations. I am proud to be part of a team that goes above and beyond to support our pupils and families. We are led by an exceptional headteacher who has a very good understanding of the school community and who puts the pupils' educational, social and emotional well-being at the heart of all decisions. To work in this type of school you have to have a big heart and tough skin. Teachers face extremely challenging behaviour most days and are stretched to meet the vast academic range in the classroom.

How has the pandemic affected your work?

When the threat of Covid-19 was imminent, it was frightening as I have an underlying health condition and avoiding the coughs, sneezes and maybe not so thoroughly washed hands of young children was impossible. I felt it was my duty to "Keep Calm and Carry On" so that the pupils in my care had reassurance and a sense of comfort. As the flood of ever-changing government updates was pouring in, it became apparent that I had to jump ship and stay home as I was a member of the vulnerable group. This caused me great anguish as I had an overwhelming sense of guilt that I was letting my colleagues and the pupils down. It was fortunate that the open dialogue with the head teacher and her continued support helped to alleviate some of the strain.

What problems have you faced in the new situation and how have these been addressed?

The next hurdle was then upon me. How could I support my team to ensure we provided high quality home learning opportunities? This was before the government launched any online provision. But in true teacher style, I liaised with other colleagues and we very quickly responded with home learning grids. As the uncertainty continued and the pupils had now missed months of school, the stakes were raised. The government put out flashy adverts on how teachers were using Microsoft Teams to educate pupils remotely. In fact, we were given some brief virtual training and then expected to meet those standards. With an ongoing duty of care to the students and working from home, I tried tirelessly to master the software. Ongoing discussions with colleagues led me to realise I was not alone. We were all very adept in our computing skills but the brief 45 minutes training session was not enough. With a sense of failure, this was discussed with the headteacher and a compromise was reached. So long as the pupils had online tutorials, and could see and hear their class teacher, we were no longer required to use the Microsoft program that the government had so heavily invested in.

What are your views on the government's call to reopen primary schools?

The flurry of government updates continues and we are informed that individuals from minority backgrounds are at a higher risk of Covid-19 mortality. A report was commissioned and one might have expected the findings from the report would be published with recommendations on how employers could best support and protect these individuals, but NO! Again, my head teacher in the absence of government guidance was left to manage the risk for this group. She made the courageous and remarkable decision to remove the minority workforce from the frontline until further government advice was given.

The end of term is closely upon us and I think it is imperative that children get back to school. At this point we need clear, practical and informative guidance on how best to keep our pupils, staff and wider community safe. Again, with my wishful thinking, perhaps this may happen before the end of July so we have time to put the plans into action for September 2020.

Thank you

Article Index

Workers' Forum

Defending the Rights and Interests of Jaguar Land Rover Workers

The future of Jaguar is under threat, it is reported. India-based parent company Tata Motors is considering the future of its so-called loss-making subsidiary, Jaguar Land Rover (JLR). It is suspected that Tata will make announcements this month [1].

This is the latest development in what the company described last year as "difficult times". Eighteen months ago, in January 2019, JLR announced the loss of 4,500 jobs, mainly from its British workforce which then stood at 40,000, to take place over a period of two years. This itself came on the back of cuts in agency staff of over 1,000 in 2017.

The problems leading to a reported "loss" at that time were cited as collapsing demand, especially for diesel cars, and particularly in the key markets of China and India, and uncertainty over Brexit.

Also at that time, plans were being carried out to transfer production of the Land Rover Discovery to Slovakia, with unions demanding to know whether JLR was permanently scaling back production in Britain.

Reports began to surface that Tata was considering selling the business. Yet in March that year, it was reported that the company was planning major investment in Britain. The economic situation in China was talked up as JLR stepped up attempts to improve relations with its Chinese dealer network.

Nevertheless, despite this upbeat news, JLR shut down production for a week in April citing Brexit uncertainty.

In mid-October, Tata went on record to say that it would not be selling JLR, though it did say "partnerships" would not be ruled out. Early November was also set aside for another JLR shutdown.

On October 25, JLR posted a profit before tax of £156 million for July to September 2019. Revenue was 8% higher at £6.1 billion, due in part to improved sales in China. Three months on, and these figures had risen to a profit of £318 million and revenue of £6.4 billion for October to December.

However, by the beginning of this year, with the coronavirus pandemic impacting the Chinese market, sales of Jaguar cars fell 42% from January to March. Land Rover sales fell 25% over the same quarter. Total sales for the 2019-2020 financial year were down 12% at just over 5 million vehicles on the previous year. The net result of all this was that in the financial year ending on March 31 this year, JLR reported pre-tax losses of £422 million, after reporting losses of £3.6 billion the previous year.

JLR began to resume production in Britain from May 18 as the Covid-19 partial lockdown began to be relaxed; its plants had been closed since the end of March, beginning with its sites in Solihull and Wolverhampton.

A week later, at a time when 18,000 (approximately half) of its British workforce remained furloughed, it transpired that the business had been in talks for a number of weeks with the government in an attempt to obtain a loan speculated to be up to £2 billion (a figure disputed by the company). The Covid Corporate Financing Facility provided jointly by the Treasury and the Bank of England is only provided to companies with an investment grade as determined by the powerful credit rating agencies. JLR is currently rated significantly below this level (B by Standard and Poor's, B+ by Fitch) at what is known as "highly speculative" grade (aka "junk" rating).

By the middle of June, it was reported that Tata is deciding what to do with JLR, with an announcement expected this month.

At the same time, JLR announced the loss of 1,100 agency jobs.

Commenting on this situation, Unite national officer Des Quinn said: "This is a painful blow for a loyal workforce. Given the unprecedented drop in demand due to the Covid-19 pandemic it was all but inevitable that job losses would be announced. It is another devastating blow for our auto sector and the communities that rely on them for jobs."

"We urge the government to get on with delivering the urgently needed sector support package, as other countries such as France and Germany have done, so that we can stem the tide of redundancies," he said.

Speculations are rife over whether JLR will switch to become all-electric, who might be a potential buyer, or whether Jaguar might continue on a much smaller scale, serving a niche market. If the company were sold, it would not be for the first time. Jaguar, for example, has changed hands various times since its inception, having passed from its original private owners to the state under British Leyland, and then to privatisation as Jaguar Cars. Ford acquired Jaguar in 1989 and Land Rover from BMW in 2000. Tata has owned Jaguar Land Rover since 2008, purchasing the firm from Ford. Owners come and go but the workers who are the car producers remain.

The past year has shown that "profit" one month turns into "loss" the next and vice-versa. Speculation exists as decision-makers and commentators alike have no idea how things will pan out. Through all this, the workers have been transferring old value and creating new value into billions of pounds-worth of social product. How come that JLR is designated "sub-grade", "junk", a problem to be got rid of? Is it a result of the short-sighted, narrow perspective of competing private interests that are incapable of seeing the whole? Or might it be that sections of the financial oligarchy are positioning themselves to make a killing?

JLR is a component of the entire automotive sector, itself part of the socialised economy. As the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), the prime spokespeople for the industry, tell us:

"The UK automotive industry is a vital part of the UK economy worth more than £82 billion turnover and adding £18.6 billion value to the UK economy. With some 168,000 people employed directly in manufacturing and in excess of 823,000 across the wider automotive industry, it accounts for 14.4% of total UK export of goods, worth £44 billion, and invests £3.75 billion each year in automotive R&D. More than 30 manufacturers build in excess of 70 models of vehicle in the UK supported by 2,500 component providers and some of the world's most skilled engineers. Over 1.3 million cars, 78,270 commercial vehicles and 2.5 million engines were built in the UK in 2019." [2]

In this whole sector, the £18.6 billion quoted above is an estimate of the new value the workers produced and was realised in sales last year. New value is claimed by workers, for example as wages, and to the owners of capital as debt and equity payments. The other major claim is made by the government as tax, much of which is also put to the service of the owners of capital.

The narrow perspective of the "bottom line profit and loss" ignores all claimants apart from the owners of the company's equity. This is balanced on such a knife-edge that it is subject to all of the fluctuations of the market. The claims of the workers, the very source of this new value, is denigrated and branded a cost to be cut. Likewise, the use of the value by the government for social programmes is viewed as a cost to be cut with no sense of social responsibility. The state of mutual competition means the claims of other sections of capital are also viewed as costs, even when the ownership of companies and their debt and equity is itself a highly interconnected matter amongst the capitalist class.

It is also the case that, during the pandemic lockdown, car manufacturing output fell -95.4% in May with a mere 5,314 vehicles rolling off production lines [3]. JLR, which is a major component of the sector, cannot be seen in isolation.

Tata had tried to create a passive atmosphere about its plans during the pandemic. Like other large manufacturers in the car industry it has tried to blame other factors to coerce the workers into productivity measures, job cuts and accept some closing of capacity. To slash costs and shorten development times usually means labour as well as machinery and plant through cuts or re-deployment.

One moment, the outlook is optimistic; then the wind changes and JLR is presented as a sinking ship. At some point, all could be abandoned due to the company's self-interested logic. The ship could be allowed to sink with all on board except those who have abandoned it, if in their view it is deemed worthless. All is confusion.

Workers cannot accept that the solution, as they are being told, is that they themselves have to pull out all the stops to work flexibly to get costs down and increase productivity. The fact is that the oligarchs who own these industries have no responsibility for the fate of the economy, for its needs and its direction, nor for the workers, their livelihoods or their communities.

There is a necessity for change, a different direction for the economy, for limiting the power of the monopolies to impose their will and their dictate. The workers themselves need the decisive say in decision-making. The question poses itself as to how to counter the anti-social control exercised by those who are using the lockdown to try and pacify the workers and block their resistance. This is a crucial question facing the Jaguar Land Rover workers and the working class as a whole as they develop their organised momentum to assert their rights and interests.


[1] Neil Winton, "Jaguar Future at Risk as Owner Tata Motors Ponders JLR Recovery Plan", Forbes, Jun 28, 2020

[2] SMMT, "Industry Topics: UK Automotive"

[3] SMMT, "UK car production falls -37.6% in March as coronavirus halts automotive manufacturing", April 30, 2020

Article Index

For Your Information

Major Redundancies Expected in the West Midlands Aerospace Industry

The Express & Star announced that up to 61,000 jobs have been lost in the West Midlands during lockdown - with thousands more hanging in the balance.

A recent report from the New Economics Foundation, written jointly with the Trades Union Congress, aviation unions and climate action charity Possible, calls on the government to expand its existing coronavirus job retention scheme to include specific help for aviation industry workers. Up to 124,000 jobs in Britain's aviation industry and its supply chains are at risk of disappearing in just three months because of the coronavirus, according to this research, reports The Independent.

Airlines including BA, Ryanair and easyJet have announced thousands of redundancies despite benefitting from huge government backed loans.

Collins Aerospace have announced plans for several hundred redundancies at their plants in Wolverhampton, Birmingham Marston Green and Banbury in Oxfordshire citing significantly reduced demand for commercial aviation products due to the impact of Covid-19. Unite regional co-ordinating officer Andy Taylor said, "The announcement of the job losses at Collins Aerospace is a bitter blow to the West Midlands which simply can't afford to lose this type of well paid, highly skilled job. This announcement is premature. With the jobs retention scheme continuing until October, Collins should reassess its decision until support for the sector from the government is agreed."

Unite has put forward a number of demands:

Meanwhile Dunlop Aircraft Tyres in Erdington, Birmingham have announced a redundancy consultation, proposing up to 200 job losses, nearly half of the total workforce. Again the employer cites the impact of Covid-19. Their chief executive, Gordon Roper, said they could not afford the current level of staffing while the airline industry was being so dramatically hit by the lockdown.

GMB Organiser Rebecca Mitchell said: "We're incredibly disappointed to see proposed job cuts at Dunlop. We've arranged emergency talks with the company this Friday and will be in a better position to respond to the proposals after this. Whatever happens, we will continue to fight for our members' jobs."

Article Index

Workers' Forum

Unison Staff to Strike after Tower Hamlets Council Contract Talks Collapse

Thousands of Tower Hamlets Council staff are to strike next month [July] after managers vowed to push ahead with a plan to sack and re-employ staff on inferior contracts, says Unison [on June 30].

Strikes opposing the council's Tower Rewards Package, which could see 4,000 workers potentially worse off as a result of plans which include cuts to travel allowances and out of hours payments, will take place on Friday July 3, Monday July 6 and Tuesday July 7.

The very same staff who have worked tirelessly throughout this crisis now face fears over job security, with severance pay also being slashed, says Unison.

Unison says the changes will have a disproportionate effect on Black and women workers, and is critical of the local authority's failure to undertake a thorough equality impact assessment of its plans.

Staff originally voted overwhelmingly to strike in late March and early April but workers suspended the action as the Covid-19 pandemic hit so they could provide vital public services through the peak of the crisis.

Despite hopes of avoiding strike action, the council's determination to force through its plans have left staff with no option but to do all they can to protect their livelihoods, says Unison.

Staff will observe social distancing rules while demonstrating outside the main council sites still operating. Those working from home will withdraw their labour.

Tower Hamlets Unison assistant branch secretary Kerie Anne said: "It's shocking that a Labour council would resort to sacking and re-engaging staff in order to force through unpopular and unfair contract changes. It beggars belief that workers who've put their health on the line to deliver critical services throughout the pandemic are being treated in this way."

Tower Hamlets Unison branch secretary John Mcloughlin said: "Tower Rewards is a fundamentally flawed programme that increases the pay of the top earners while penalising the bulk of the workforce. The council needs to listen to staff concerns and reverse its decision."

Publicity leaflet can be found here

(Unison, June 30, 2020)

Article Index

Taking a Stand against British Imperialism

Signs of Change in Ireland

Citizens' committees are removing or renaming British imperialist figures and institutions in Ireland as part of the movement for empowerment and against British colonialism.

Streets surrounding Belfast City Hall including May Street and Donegall Square were renamed after three Irish patriots, the hunger strikers - Joe McDonnell, Bobby Sands and Kieran Doherty - who laid down their lives inside the H-blocks of Long Kesh internment camp in 1981 for the rights of political prisoners and the cause of Irish freedom. Another street honours James Connolly, the Communist leader at the centre of the 1916 Rising for independence. Queen's University was renamed "Mairead Farrell University Belfast" with signage erected across its prominent front gates after the former student and IRA volunteer, killed in Gibraltar on active service in 1988. The names also serve as an important reminder of the ruthless brutality of the British government in Ireland under the leadership of then-prime minister Margaret Thatcher.

For years there has been sharp criticism of the way the colonial period is remembered in the Republic of Ireland. Some statues have been removed officially and others "unofficially". One such case was the statue of Horatio Nelson, built in the centre of what was then Sackville Street (later renamed O'Connell Street) in Dublin. Erected in 1809 when Ireland was forced to be part of the United Kingdom, it survived for more than 40 years until March 1966. It was frequently pointed out that a statue to the British admiral had no place in Dublin after Irish independence was achieved and signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty in 1921 which divided the island. After years of inconclusive discussion the issue was dealt with when the statue was finally toppled with gelignite, as was that of a large statue of George II and his horse brought to ground at Stephen's Green in 1937. Nelson's remnants were later destroyed by the Irish Army but its head is preserved in a museum.

The Statue of the British Admiral which had no place in Ireland toppled with gelignite in March 1966

Recently campaigns have been underway in Ireland, like that in Cork, to remove the name Queen Victoria, known as the "Famine Queen", from street signs. That her main statue at Leinster House in Dublin survived until 1948 (26 years after the creation of the Free State) is something of a miracle. She was monarch when Ireland was beset by a famine organised by filthy-rich landowners, and millions starved or emigrated. After gathering dust in Ireland for some years, Victoria got a trip to Sydney, Australia, to be "planted" outside the Queen Victoria Building despite some bids from Canadian buyers. Writing in the Irish Times the following month, Myles na gCopaleen (Brian O'Nolan/Flann O'Brien) was not overly bothered with its removal - her statutes were more harmful than her statues, as he put it. "Besides, look at it this way," he wrote. "Time has given the mere Irish their revenge. The fact is that Victoria has turned green. Of hue she approaches our decent Irish letterbox. And it is the price of her."

George II and his horse brought to the ground at Stephen's Green in 1937
In Belfast, the spokesperson for the current committee changing street and place signs in Belfast, Pól Torbóid, said their list of place names from across the city featured "prominent individuals responsible for historic abuses in Ireland".

"Belfast's streets, littered with the poverty of its people, its homeless and jobless; are also littered with the names of those whose attitude to Ireland was one of subjugation, and who, by force of arms, forced a political and economic system upon our people, which became the foundation for partition, and for the current economic struggles faced by the Irish people, Torbóid said. "These street names, monuments to those who delivered misery across our nation in one form or another, also serve as monuments to the political and economic system that they helped to build in Ireland."

"These street names, the symbols of oppression, hate and servitude, must be stripped away." he emphasised. "They must be replaced with the names of those who sought to build a better Ireland, the names of those who fought against oppression, against hate and against servitude. They must be replaced with the names of heroes: of normal people. Not lords. Not kings or queens; but rather those who weren't the heirs to vast riches. Those whose only inheritance was that which they tried to carve out of a political system that railed against them. It is our inheritance as Republicans to end the oppression immortalised in these street names and statues. It is our duty to end colonialism, to end the normalisation of imperialism and, consequently, the political and economic system that maintains it."

(TML Weekly, June 27, 2020)

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