Workers' Weekly On-Line
Volume 51 Number 13, April 17, 2021 ARCHIVE HOME JBCENTRE SUBSCRIBE

Dangerous military confrontations with Russia in the Ukraine and Black Sea:

All Anglo-US Forces Must be Withdrawn Immediately

Workers' Weekly Internet Edition: Article Index : ShareThis

Dangerous military confrontations with Russia in the Ukraine and Black Sea:
All Anglo-US Forces Must be Withdrawn Immediately

Fire and Re-Hire:
Bus Drivers' Strike and Actions Continue

Workers' Forum:
Cleaners Fight Cuts in Working Time at Lewisham Hospital

Coronavirus Pandemic:
Keep Our NHS Public (KONP) Hosts People's Covid Inquiry

In the News:
The Royal Consort

Dangerous military confrontations with Russia in the Ukraine and Black Sea:

All Anglo-US Forces Must be Withdrawn Immediately

The US and NATO are once again increasing their dangerous military confrontations with Russia in the Ukraine and Black Sea. Britain is also directly contributing to the situation in Ukraine with reports that six RAF Typhoon jets are "bolstering" Ukraine's forces and a "small number" of British and US special forces are "monitoring the situation". On April 14, Russia warned the US and NATO over their activity in the Black Sea and Ukraine. Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev in a session on the security of Crimea in Sevastopol said, "Stepped-up military activity by the NATO bloc, and the US in particular, in close proximity to Russia's borders in the Black Sea region has been determined." He noted that the US and its allies are "pushing Ukraine to stage provocations against Crimea, and NATO has ramped up its activities in direct proximity to Russia's borders in the Black Sea region". Russia had also said that the report of two US warships deploying to the Black Sea was "an unfriendly provocation". Later the same day, there was a confirmed report from Reuters that Turkish diplomatic sources had said, "The United States has cancelled the deployment of two warships to the Black Sea".

In the Ukraine, US-led imperialism is confronting Russia. The US-led camp, as well as the countries of "old Europe" and especially Britain, are sensing that they can make gains and lay waste to the vast plains of Ukraine and Russia even if that means, as one commentator put it, "launching these people not only into a suicidal war against Donetsk and Luhansk but also Russia herself". They have no concern for the Ukrainian and Russian people but are driven in part by the prospect of the access to and control over huge energy resources for the monopolies and oligopolies that they represent.

As some commentators have pointed out, the Anglo-US forces and NATO may not in fact be planning to attack Russia at this time but they are certainly unleashing the Ukrainian neo-Nazi forces against the Donbass, Luhansk and Crimea there by "punishing" both the Ukraine and Russia at the expense of the peoples of the region. This is at the heart of these provocations that prompted Russia to say it "will not stand aside" if it believes hostilities could lead to "mass civilian casualties" in East Ukraine.

On May 2, 2014, amongst many other crimes, fascists set fire to a trade union building in Odessa killing around 50 people.

The fascists and neo-Nazis [1] have certainly been used to foment violence in Ukraine and have taken up key positions of state. The Ukrainian "Orange Revolution" in 2004 had imposed a coalition of neo-fascists and neo-liberals, instigated and propped up by the George W Bush administration, which seized power in Kiev through mass demonstrations in the city's central Maidan Square. Ten years later in 2014, under the Obama administration, another coup took place along many of the same lines using these neo-fascists and neo-liberals to overthrow the government. Since then, many of these neo-fascists have been incorporated into Ukrainian armed forces and trained by US and British forces to be used against their own countrymen in the Donbass and Lugansk. On May 2, 2014, amongst many other crimes, these fascists set fire to a trade union building in Odessa killing around 50 people.

This is the old world of imperialism and the same Nazi "might makes right" that is being tragically played out in Ukraine by the US and NATO. These neo-liberal powers have caused huge loss of life with thousands being killed. This is a huge tragedy for the Ukrainian people who have contributed so much to the world's people in building the world's first socialist state, the Soviet Union, that made so many sacrifices in the defeat of Nazi Germany in World War II. The working class and people of Britain must play their part, alongside those of the US, and indeed around the world, in ending the intervention of Britain and the US in the region, their confrontation with Russia, and the use of force to settle international differences, which is causing such tragedies for the people.

As a justification for intervention, there is also never-ending talk of the "annexing" of the Crimea by Russia in 2014 when the referendum of the people of Crimea united them with the Russian Federation [2]. It should be noted that the ruling elite does not apply the same word of "annexation" to the north of Ireland's being part of the United Kingdom, or even offer a referendum to the people of northern Ireland on the question of a United Ireland.

For the peoples, the burning issue is how the equality of countries and the sovereign rights of nations and peoples, irrespective of their ethnic make-up, can be established or re-established. The question is how these rights can be realised and given a meaningful guarantee under the prevailing conditions.

The working class and people here in Britain must condemn the government for their direct interference and dangerous military confrontations in the Ukraine and demand that all Anglo-US armed forces of land, air and sea be withdrawn from Ukraine and the Black Sea immediately.

1. These are the heirs of the massacres at Babi Yar, which, as is common knowledge, were the tip of the iceberg of the Nazi extermination of millions of Jewish people, Roma, communists and others considered as less than human.
2. In the referendum of March 16, 2014, citizens of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and of the city of Sevastopol voted to secede from Ukraine and join the Russian Federation. The final voting figures were reported to be 96.77% in favour of joining the Russian Federation on a turnout of 83.1% of the eligible voters. Despite the media and government hysteria in Britain, Europe and North America, the 135 international observers from 23 countries reported that there was neither voting under pressure nor any violations of voting rules.

Article Index

Fire and Re-Hire

Bus Drivers' Strike and Actions Continue

In what is becoming a significant battle against the use of "fire and rehire", over 400 drivers in Manchester, members of Unite, have been on continuous strike since February 28, standing their ground against a campaign of intimidation on the one hand and misinformation on the other. On April 5, to mark what was then five weeks on strike, drivers held a cavalcade through the streets surrounding the Go North West depot to cheering support.

The belligerent stand of the company, which is refusing to accommodate the interests and demands of its workers to any degree, and seeks simply to impose its dictate, is disrupting relations and creating an impasse. As a result, talks aimed at reaching a truce broke down on April 1.

Go North West is part of the multi-billion pound Go Ahead group. Under its plans, the drivers it employs, who earn on average £24,000, will be forced to accept a change in their contracted conditions meaning that they will be required to work longer for no additional pay.

Through this productivity drive, working time will be increased by what Unite has calculated as some 130 hours over the course of a year. The extra new value created by the drivers through this extended work time and realised in bus fares will not result in an additional claim of reproduced-value (wages, benefits or pensions) by the drivers, but will directly be additionally expropriated as added-value, or profit, by the company and other owners of capital such as the holders of its debt. Unite has estimated that the amount of additional unpaid work equates to £2,500 per year per driver.

Furthermore, existing sick pay policy, being revised, means a 67% cut in sick pay for workers with over five years' service. This is at a time during the pandemic which has highlighted the need for improvements for all workers, so that they can self-isolate when necessary, without loss to their right to a livelihood.

To achieve this blatant violation of the claims of its workers, the employer is tearing up long-agreed contracts of employment under the increasingly prevalent method of "fire and rehire". Even while negotiations were taking place, Go North West threatened to arbitrarily close the Queens Road Depot, placing the union under duress to accept the changes. This would result in the immediate closure of its 30 bus routes which serve Bury, Manchester, Oldham, Rochdale, Salford, Trafford and Warrington.

Adding to the atmosphere of intimidation, management had earlier installed a new system of surveillance cameras intended to crack down on workers for the slightest transgression of rules [1].

In this context, the successful organisation of a political motor cavalcade, in which more than 40 vehicles took part, had the significance of upholding the independent outlook of the workers and raised the consciousness in the community. It was supported by other workers and the community at large who lined the streets, and finished with a rally near the depot.

Unite branch secretary Pat Gleave said: "This was a really inspiring event. I believe most of Manchester realise this fight was a fight for Manchester and possibly the country as fire and rehire is an abhorrent act and is not acceptable at any time."

Four days after the event, Manchester Council voted that any company using "fire and rehire" will not be eligible for franchises to operate buses.

Unite North West regional secretary Ritchie James said:

"Unite has tried to resolve this dispute through negotiations and put forward over £1.3 million of savings proposals, but Go North West deemed this insufficient. As a result of the failure of the talks Unite will be stepping up its campaign to ensure that Go North West drops its plans to fire and rehire its loyal workers.

"Bus drivers who have kept working throughout the pandemic, risking their health and that of their families, deserve better than this. Manchester's passengers deserve better than this, Go North West is forcing them to use its dangerous rogue bus service, where the risk of Covid transmission is greatly increased and where numerous other regulations are breached or ignored."

Turning truth on its head, Go North West managing director Nigel Featham called Unite's "fire and rehire" claims "misleading".

But workers and their unions have identified "fire and rehire" for what it is: workers being re-contracted on unfavourable terms under threat of termination of employment, or in other cases forced to re-apply for their positions. Like the overt rule by police powers, transferred to the workplace, it has become a widespread phenomenon. Denigrating the right of workers to negotiate collective agreements is an attempt to render workers and their unions powerless to resist.

Imposing "fire and rehire" is part and parcel of the anti-social offensive. A general disequilibrium exists in the social relation between those who work and those who employ them, the owners and controllers of business and the economy as a whole. Exposing the company's intent to do away with any such equilibrium, the Go North West managing director also asserted that the company is losing nearly £2m annually due to what he labelled "outdated working practices". Instead, Go Ahead aim for unrestricted control over workers' conditions. This cannot be allowed to pass!

A powerful oligarchy of huge global monopolies has organised its anti-social offensive to restructure all arrangements from the level of the state down to individual workplaces. They tear up civil society arrangements and increasingly exercise control through direct imposition such as in law and governance. It is the right of all workers to have control over their conditions, and, in particular, they have a right to negotiate collective agreements as a starting point.

The need is to bring into being a new coherence and arrangements amongst the people, the socialised economy and the state. Workers must be able to maintain their current free collective bargaining arrangements. What is required is for working people to constitute a new kind of authority where they speak in their own name and are empowered to restrict the rights of the monopolies, allowing them to set the terms in establishing an equilibrium in their favour and in favour of society. To achieve this requires strengthening the workers' independent outlook and organisation, as part of building their resistance.

1."Go Ahead Spy on Striking Manchester Bus Drivers", Workers' Weekly, March 6, 2021

Article Index

Workers' Forum

Cleaners Fight Cuts in Working Time at Lewisham Hospital

On April 12, the GMB union organised a protest outside Lewisham Hospital in South East London in support of the hospital cleaners. The cleaners are opposed to plans by private contractor ISS to cut 495 hours from its cleaning contract with Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust. At the lively protest, hospital cleaners were joined by GMB members and Save Lewisham Hospital Campaign supporters, as well as by members of the local community.

The attempt by ISS to cut the hours worked by the cleaners would be the second hours and jobs cull that it has introduced since it took over the contract in February 2020. There is increasing unrest in the hospital around the risk of cross-infection, as cleaners are already struggling with impossible workloads, and the company is advising "spot cleaning" rather than thorough cleaning in some areas of the hospital. GMB has pointed out that patients themselves could be at increased risk of Covid-19 due to cuts in the cleaning services.

Helen O'Connor, GMB regional organiser, speaking at the protest, said: "From day one, ISS have been failing the staff and the patients in Lewisham hospital. Patients have been moved over from having fresh food to cook-chill food, while workers are consistently not being paid for hours they have worked. GMB members are angry because ISS are constantly making detrimental changes that are cutting the quality of the services in the hospital. Many of our members have been seriously unwell with corona virus themselves and they are very concerned that cuts to cleaning during a pandemic will kill hospital patients who are already unwell and very vulnerable. GMB members will not stand by and allow a private company raking in huge profits to put patients at risk."

Olivia O'Sullivan, Secretary of the Save Lewisham Hospital Campaign, spoke in support of the hospital cleaners, saying that they had the full backing of the Campaign, and she denounced the privatisation of health care.

This struggle of the Lewisham hospital cleaners demonstrates yet again that the privatisation of the NHS which the government is relentless pursuing puts private interests before the healthcare needs of the people.

Support the Lewisham Hospital Cleaners!
Healthcare Is a Right!

Article Index

Coronavirus Pandemic

Keep Our NHS Public (KONP) Hosts People's Covid Inquiry

Keep Our NHS Public (KNOP) is hosting a People's Covid Inquiry, chaired by the renowned barrister Michael Mansfield who has fought for people's rights on many occasions, including the Lewisham People's Commission of Enquiry into the proposals to close Lewisham hospital's A&E, maternity and children's services in 2013.

The People's Covid Inquiry issued a statement pointing out: "With more than 100,000 deaths from Covid-19 we believe the public deserves to know how and why this has happened. ... Learning the right lessons is urgent if lives are to be saved. Our 'People's Covid Inquiry' will examine what has happened and how well the NHS was prepared. A powerful body of work will be developed to help understand how best to restore the NHS, public health and social care to the quality public services essential to look after people and keep them safe, both now and in the future."

Dr John Puntis, co-chair of KONP, said: "We believe an inquiry into the handling of the pandemic is needed now. The virus continues to spread and mutate and will not be stopped quickly by vaccine roll out. A change of course is needed if further loss of life is to be reduced. Since Government won't do this until it's too late, it falls upon campaigners and ordinary people to take this into their own hands.

"We support the many demands for a full public investigation. Our initiative isn't a substitute for this, but a way to draw attention to the pressing nature of the situation and provide a body of work that will give weight to calls for an official inquiry into what has been done right and what actions might have led to better outcomes.

We will focus on how our NHS could have been better prepared to deal with the scale of this pandemic. By also scrutinising government policies before and during the crisis we aim to make recommendations on how a strengthened NHS could care for us and keep us safe in the future. We hope you'll tell us your stories, attend the inquiry sessions and invite others to come along too."

The Inquiry is being held in eight fortnightly zoom sessions, four of which have already been held. All proceedings of the sessions which have been held are on the KONP YouTube channel (Keep Our NHS Public - YouTube)

The eight sessions are:

For more details, and how to register to participate, see the website of the People's Covid Inquiry:

Article Index

In the News

The Royal Consort

A Poem by John Maharg

The royal consort
Parasite par excellence
Drone in excelsis
Ersatz Royal to royalty beyond
Its sell-by-date
Was guilty
Of two gross impertinences
Among the many
With which he insults the working people
In reference to the need to produce
He invited the producer to
"Get your finger out"
The other was
To the effect
That no one in the country is owed a job
From one who draws the royal dole
In return for walking with his hands behind his back
Behind her majesty's behind
Faux pas arrogance in either hand
With a smile and a merry quip
As if to say
Lucky you
That I should be around
To do for you what I do for a living
Is what one might call rich in the rich
If one was being kind
As there is nothing more unkind
Than the rich to those who make them rich
Allow me the right to retaliate in kind
That is to declare the royal pimp
Should stick to pimping
And leave the world
To those who make the world go round
Their right to work
Should be a right
His right not to work
And to denigrate those who do
By claiming they don't work hard enough
Or that those with no work have no right to work
Should not be a right
For such as he
Given social prominence by a system
That relegates the millions
To deprivation
All that lives must die
But of all that lives none deserve
To live as do the few
Who would perpetuate privilege
And none that lives deserve to live
As he does
Yet laugh at his impertinence
Salute the worker

(From a substantial collection of verses by communist working class poet John Maharg published in 1998 on the occasion of his 80th birthday)

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