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Volume 51 Number 16, May 8, 2021 ARCHIVE HOME JBCENTRE SUBSCRIBE

UK Carrier Strike Group in its "final test ahead of deployment":

Deployment of UK Carrier Strike Group
Is Not in Our Name and Must Be Opposed!

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UK Carrier Strike Group in its "final test ahead of deployment"
Deployment of UK Carrier Strike Group Is Not in Our Name and Must Be Opposed!

For Your Information:
HMS Queen Elizabeth is to lead an armed flotilla on a 28-week cruise more than halfway around the world

May Day 2021:
Tens of thousands take to the streets to say "No More Police Powers" on May 1 in 46 locations across Britain

Workers' Forum:
Banbury coffee workers whip up pressure in "fire and rehire" row with May 1 demo and 24-hour strike
and Norwich City council workers vote for strike action over broken promises on pay and conditions

UK Carrier Strike Group in its "final test ahead of deployment":

Deployment of UK Carrier Strike Group Is Not in Our Name and Must Be Opposed!

On May 1, the UK Carrier Strike Group [1], set sail from Portsmouth to take part in its "final test ahead of deployment" to "the Mediterranean, Indian Ocean and Asia Pacific", later in May. The Group will take part in "Exercise Strike Warrior" in the waters off north-west Scotland which reports say will involve more than 20 warships, three submarines and 150 aircraft from 11 nations and "is a final test for the Carrier Strike Group ahead of its first operational deployment".

In a statement harking back to the days of Britain's colonial empire and "gun-boat diplomacy" but with the same sinister global and warmongering ambitions Defence Secretary Ben Wallace claimed: "When our Carrier Strike Group sets sail next month, it will be flying the flag for Global Britain - projecting our influence, signalling our power, engaging with our friends and reaffirming our commitment to addressing the security challenges of today and tomorrow ... the UK is not stepping back but sailing forth to play an active role in shaping the international system of the 21st Century."

In claiming that Britain is "projecting our influence, signalling our power" and "shaping the international system of the 21st Century" with this UK Carrier Strike Group, Ben Wallace is not speaking for the interests of the people of Britain, or anywhere else in the world. On the contrary, he is representing the bankrupt warmongering interests of those in power, the dominance of Britain's militarised economy, and in support of saving the decaying imperialist system of states that are trying to continue their domination across the globe. It is astonishing that the British government and their armed state still think that they can fool the people into thinking that this is not the same criminal and racist outlook of colonial annexation and slavery claimed in the 19th century to be bringing "civilisation and democracy" and that this was the "white man's burden", and so on.

It was the same narrative at the G7 this week in Cornwall, where Britain claimed to be "at the head the most prominent group of democratic countries", accusing China and others of being "against democracy". Yet at the same time, Britain is sending its Carrier Strike Group around the world alongside the US "projecting our influence, signalling our power", a Strike Group that has no international mandate from all the countries of the United Nations, yet claims it "represents the democratic countries". The Strike Group is clearly being used to unite hostile opposition and make threats against the sovereignty and rights of the people of Iran, Russia, China, the DPRK and many other countries, countries which have different political systems and constitutions that the imperialists declare de facto as "undemocratic" and "abusing" human rights. Of course, the Anglo-US powers declare themselves as the "democracies", yet they continue to arm and support Israel in their brutal suppression of the Palestinians, Saudi Arabia in their war in Yemen, and they continue to occupy and directly interfere in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Africa and so many countries all over the world. Even at home, the British government and state is imposing its police powers and Police and Crime Bill that is at this time trying to deny the rights of the people to speak out and demonstrate, and with it to further marginalise people from decision-making power.

HMS Queen Elizabeth, Glenmallan Scotland prior to deployment to the Pacific

Today, in the century following the foundation of the United Nations, that came after the huge tragedies of two world wars where millions died, who would believe Britain's continued gun-boat diplomacy is the way to conduct international relations in the modern world? Britain is not being threatened by any country, or any power and so how can it give itself the right to send out around the world such a strike group that contains potentially much greater lethal destructive power than any used in the two world wars [2]. Not only that, it is sending a battle fleet to Asia for the first time since the start of the Korean War in 1950. Such a hostile move by Britain, which will also give its support to NATO operations in the Black Sea, shows that the task group is intent on provocations that will dangerously increase military tensions with Russia and also, in entering the South China Sea, act as a further provocation and increase dangerous military tensions with China.

Whilst humanity faces the huge consequences to lives and livelihood of the peoples across the world from the coronavirus pandemic, and the priority is to keep people safe and produce for their needs, such exercises are not only provocations against the people of Russia, China and other countries, but provocations against the peace and well-being of all countries and peoples of the world.

The deployment of the UK Carrier Strike Group is Not In Our Name and must be opposed! People all over the world demand an end to Britain's participation in global warmongering alongside the US. In Britain, the necessity is to end Britain's participation in such warmongering and bring about an anti-war government that develops friendly and peaceful relations with all the countries and peoples of the world.

1. UK Carrier Strike Group - "Joining HMS Queen Elizabeth on her maiden deployment are destroyers HMS Diamond and Defender; frigates HMS Richmond and Kent; an Astute-class submarine in support below the waves; and Royal Fleet Auxiliary support ships RFA Fort Victoria and RFA Tidespring.
"More than 30 aircraft will also embark across the task group including F-35 jets from 617 Squadron, the Dambusters, and the US Marine Corps' VMFA-211; Wildcat helicopters from 815 Naval Air Squadron and Merlin helicopters from 820 and 845 Naval Air Squadrons. Royal Marines from 42 Commando will also deploy with the carrier.
"Dutch frigate HNLMS Evertsen and American Arleigh Burke destroyer USS The Sullivans are also part of the strike group."

2. The NATO-backed mission is being led by Britain's new £3.2 billion aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth, on its first operational deployment. The carrier, the navy's largest and most powerful warship ever, was launched in October 2017 and has been involved in sea trials and operational training since. It is described by the Navy as being "able to strike from the sea at a time and place of our choosing..." One Astute-class submarine would have 38 Cruise missiles with a range of 1,000 miles and Spearfish torpedoes . Whilst it has not, and would be unlikely to be revealed that the Strike Group is going to carry nuclear weapons such a Group has that potential which would make it far more destructive than all the weapons used in both world wars.
No Royal Navy force has been mobilised on such a scale since the 1982 Falklands/Malvinas war. The Ministry of Defence (MoD) said it would be the "largest concentration of maritime and air power to leave the UK in a generation". The Spectator noted the significance of the Royal Navy sending a "battle fleet to Asia for the first time since the start of the Korean War in 1950".

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For Your Information

HMS Queen Elizabeth is to lead an armed flotilla on a 28-week cruise more than halfway around the world

The mission's purpose, which will involve stopovers at more than 100 ports, is to show that Britain is still a global power to be reckoned with. In the words of Defence Secretary Ben Wallace, the aim is "projecting our influence, signalling our power".

The carrier strike group's mission will be Britain's biggest deployment of UK naval and aerial military firepower since the Falklands war in 1982. It will include a squadron of 10 US Marine Corps F35 jets, an attack submarine armed with Tomahawk missiles, two destroyers, a number of other battleships and the greatest quantity of helicopters assigned to a single UK Task Group in a decade.

What the Ministry of Defence is describing as the "largest concentration of maritime and air power to leave the UK in a generation" will visit more than 40 countries for more than 70 engagements, including an exercise marking the 50th anniversary of the Five Power Defence Arrangements with Malaysia, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand.

The last leg of the voyage will take the strike group into the South China Seas, close to Taiwan and end with military exercises with Japan. As the MoD admits, the deployment has been organised as part of the "UK's tilt to the Indo-Pacific region" to "bolster deep defence partnerships" in the region. In other words, a central part of the operation is to back the US's increasingly hostile posture towards China.

The aircraft carrier and its sister ship HMS Prince of Wales cost more than £6bn, but with all the connected operating costs and support the total price will be in the tens of billions. This is an extraordinary allocation of resources at a time when public services are in such a desperate state and the NHS is at breaking point.

Stop the War is working with the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament to protest against this futile and dangerous exercise. Please get on board with our campaign.

(Chris Nineham, Stop the War, April 26, 2021)

Article Index

May Day 2021

Tens of thousands take to the streets to say "No More Police Powers" on May 1 in 46 locations across Britain

London May Day

Tens of thousands took part in militant May Day demonstrations in many cities and towns across Britain. The main focus of the demonstrations was opposition to the Police, Crime, Courts and Sentencing Bill 2021, at present going through Parliament, which gives police and ministers further powers to ban demonstrations on arbitrary grounds, such as causing annoyance or being too loud. The demonstrations demanded "No More Police Powers", and the movement against the Bill has been growing around the hashtag #KillTheBill, focusing on the criminalisation of protest that the Bill enshrines.

It has been pointed out in the course of the protests how the Bill will also drastically impact the lives of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller (GRT) communities, as it threatens to criminalise trespass in a state where 92% of the land is privately owned. The May Day demonstrations were the latest in the protests against the use and abuse of police powers. A coalition of over 40 activist groups have joined forces since March against the Bill, which is due to resume its path through Parliament this month. More than 600 civil society and protest groups have called for the government to drop the legislation, and a planned quick passage through parliament has already been delayed.

In London, in a Mayday Day of Action, thousands gathered in Trafalgar Square at noon. An estimated 10,000 people attended the London demonstrations, and a rally was held featuring speakers from Sisters Uncut, the youth empowerment organisation The 4FRONT Project, anti-school exclusions campaign group No More Exclusions, Gypsy, Roma and Traveller Socialists, Women of Colour and Sex Worker Advocacy and Resistance Movement (SWARM). The diverse range of organisations represented included the trade unions UVW, IWGB, UCU, RMT and Unison. This broad swathe of organisations was reflected in the demonstration itself, with speakers pointing out, "We're here for everybody!"

Manchester May Day

After gathering in Trafalgar Square from midday, protesters marched past Buckingham Palace amidst red and purple smoke flares, then through Victoria, past the Department for Education and the Home Office, and finally across the river to Vauxhall Gardens.

Outside the Home Office, speeches were given from atop a double decker bus, including students from Pimlico Academy who recently walked out of school in protest of racist school uniform policies. Activists expressed solidarity with Osime Brown, a young autistic Black man currently facing deportation to Jamaica.

As police helicopters flew overhead, a militant march took place to Vauxhall Gardens with the focus on how to intervene in police Stop and Searches, how to resist evictions and how to stop immigration raids.

Opposition to the Bill has been growing also because of the exercise of police violence against peaceful demonstrations during the Covid-19 lockdown, as well as the revelations of endemic police corruption, racism, and connection with neo-Nazi organisations. The state has also had to hold the Mitting Inquiry, initiated after the racist murder of Stephen Lawrence on April 22, 1993, which indicated endemic racism throughout the police. The use of under-cover policing since the Anti-Vietnam War demonstrations, and before, has also demonstrated both the immorality and provocateur nature of the police powers. In this light, demonstrators on May Day also upheld the slogan, "Whose Streets? Our Streets!"

Sheffield May Day

Among the cities where protests were held were Sheffield, Manchester and Newcastle. In Manchester, a large contingent also marched to the Go North West bus garage where drivers have been on strike. After ten weeks of industrial action, the threat of fire and rehire has been removed, and the fire and rehire contract made null and void. Two drivers who were sacked are to be reinstated, though the bus drivers have remained on strike and will do so until a new contract is signed.

In Tyne & Wear an online May Day Rally was successfully held at which, amongst other speakers, the Chair of Newcastle Stop the War spoke on the importance of joining the anti-war movement. The rally was organised by the Tyne & Wear May Day Committee, part of Newcastle Trades Union Council.

Bristol was also a prominent city of protest, where demonstrators have come under attack from police right from the first of eleven demonstrations since March. Bristol is the city where the statue of slave-trader Edward Colston was torn down and dumped in the tidal river, a just action which has come under attack from the government who have also linked the increase in police powers with the state ideology which defends the history of Empire.

Oxford May Day

In Truro in Cornwall, protesters gathered on Lemon Quay and marched through the city. A statement from organisers prior to the event said: "We're taking to the streets again on a day of national action to Kill the Bill. Cornwall has shown we are rising to each and every occasion. Let's make Mayday bigger and more spectacular than any of our protests so far. Cornwall is rising! We have shown that we have a vibrant protest movement here. We need to grow that momentum. We need to Kill The Bill."

Other towns where demonstrations were held included Bath, Brighton, Doncaster, Hastings, Luton, Margate, Oxford, and Aberystwyth in Wales.

Pragna Patel, director of Southall Black Sisters, said in London: "The bill represents a massive assault on civil liberties and it's part of a wider trend on the part of the government to shut down free speech, shut down protest, shut down dissenting voices. In a sense it's an attack on a fundamental democratic value, which is the right to raise our voice in criticism, in protest, in dissent.

"We are really, really alarmed by the government's thrust towards authoritarianism. This represents one in a long line of draconian laws which the government is bringing in which will impact on our fundamental rights."

L: Bath R: Brighton

London May Day

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Workers' Forum

Banbury coffee workers whip up pressure in "fire and rehire" row with May 1 demo and 24-hour strike

Unite the Union, April 28

Workers at JDE (Jacobs Douwe Egberts) in Banbury are ramping up pressure in the "fire and rehire" dispute with a protest on May 1, followed up with a 24-hour strike on 8/9 May.

A continuous overtime ban will started on May 1 because of the decision by the Dutch-owned company to issue notice of dismissal and engagement for 291 employees. More strikes are on the cards for June.

The demo, following strict Covid-19 protocols, was held outside JDE's Ruscote Avenue site, Banbury on May 1. The 24-hour strike was held between 07:00 on Saturday, May 8 and 07.00 on Sunday, May 9.

Increased pressure on the highly profitable firm comes as Unite launched a national campaign this week to end the "bully boy" "fire and rehire" tactics being used by a growing number of unscrupulous employers across the UK.

The JDE bosses are currently embroiled in a row that they are banning summer holidays for workers in a bid to thwart industrial action -- already the site relies on overtime to keep production running smoothly.

The company also faces allegations that it used inducements of £750 to some workers so they would accept lower pay and inferior employment conditions -- these claims have been referred by Unite to the conciliation service Acas.

Unite said that the company is trying to intimidate its members into signing contracts through aggressive one-to-one interviews and some workers, male and female, have been reduced to tears by bullying bosses.

The union has also notified the Health and Safety Executive over allegations that the company is preparing to use unskilled labour for work on ammonia pipes and boilers as part of contingency plans to undermine the forthcoming industrial action.

Unite national officer for the food industry Joe Clarke said: "We are ratcheting up the pressure on the management by holding this Covid-secure protest on Saturday and also staging a 24-hour strike in the first week of May.

"There is real anger amongst our members and in the Oxfordshire community about the dogmatic and hardline attitude of the local management that could be a body blow to the regional economy.

"We are not going to allow our hardworking members at this very profitable company to be steamrollered into accepting lower pay and inferior conditions, especially as they have worked flat-out during the pandemic to meet the soaring demand for coffee from UK consumers.

"We won't be giving into bully boy tactics, more reminiscent of the 1930s, that have seen some of our members reduced to tears following aggressive one-to-one interviews to get them to accept these new contracts.

"If these contracts are allowed to be introduced, the substantial cut in pay could mean some of our members losing their homes as they will no longer be able to afford their mortgage or rent payments. Such a scenario would be a disgrace.

"Unless the management enters into a constructive dialogue with Unite, mounting industrial action during the summer will hit the production of top coffee products, such as Tassimo, Kenco and L'OR Coffee."

Unite has repeatedly raised the alarm over an outbreak of "fire and rehire" disputes across the UK as unscrupulous employers look to exploit workers using Covid-19 as an excuse.

Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said: "Fire and rehire" is ripping through our workplaces like a disease. Weak law lets bad bosses force through brutal changes to contracts, sometimes taking thousands of pounds off wages that families need to get by.

"It's a disgraceful practice that's outlawed in much of Europe and should be here.

"Unite is fighting for UK workers to be treated with the same decency. We won't stop until the law is changed to protect working people from attack."

* Slightly edited for timing.

Norwich City council workers vote for strike action over broken promises on pay and conditions

Unite the Union, May 5

Workers who carry out vital services for Norwich City Council have overwhelmingly voted for industrial action.

In the Unite ballot 83% of the workers backed industrial action on a 90% turnout and UNISON members voted 81% in favour of strike action on a turnout of 84%.

Unite and UNISON will now begin preparations to announce strike dates at the council's new arm's length company called Norwich City Services Ltd (NCSL) in a dispute over pay and conditions.

The unions have been in discussions since 2018 with Norwich City Council (NCC) regarding the formation of the new arm's length company NCSL. The company has been set up to bring services, including ground maintenance and street cleaning which had been outsourced to Norse, back in-house.

But management is not delivering on commitments the City Council made to union members to harmonise their pay, terms and conditions with their council colleagues. The workers transferring in have some of the lowest pay rates & terms of employment; much worse than any council worker. The company's offer on pay, sickness and holidays falls well short of what is required to make progress on equality, plus new managers are being recruited on superior terms and conditions compared to existing staff.

The trade unions remain open to discussions, but are warning that their members' overwhelming support for action should be a signal to NCSL that it needs to significantly improve its offer to avoid disruption in the city. The workers carry out vital services including street cleaning, and the maintenance of the parks and gardens.

Unite regional officer, Adam Oakes said: "Our members have sent a clear message to their employer that they are not prepared to accept terms and conditions that are inferior to their directly employed Norwich City Council colleagues.

"The council needs to honour the commitments it has made to these workers who are low paid, who do not get company sick pay and are not part of the local government pension scheme.

"These men and women work outside in all weather conditions keeping the city and its parks and gardens clean.

"Members of both Unite and Unison are overwhelmingly united in their support for industrial action. We urge management to get around the negotiating table to agree a fair deal for the staff."

UNISON Norfolk Branch Secretary Jonathan Dunning adds: "None of our members want to take strike action, after all they deliver important services that the public rely upon. However they are not prepared to accept a pay deal that sells them short and reneges on commitments they were given by the City Council. They are being treated as second class workers by NCSL and the City Council. All they seek is equality with their council colleagues. Their reasonable pay claim is merely a first step to achieving this."

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