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Volume 51 Number 27, November 27, 2021 ARCHIVE HOME JBCENTRE SUBSCRIBE

Health and Care Bill:

Building Resistance to the Corporate and Capital-Centred Direction for the NHS

Workers' Weekly Internet Edition: Article Index : ShareThis

Health and Care Bill: Building Resistance to the Corporate and Capital-Centred Direction for the NHS

Workers' Forum:
Wincanton Lorry Drivers Win Above-Inflation Pay Rise

Republic of Barbados:
Well Done, Barbados!

International News:
Congratulations to Venezuela on the Successful Completion of Regional and Municipal Elections

Health and Care Bill:

Building Resistance to the Corporate and Capital-Centred Direction for the NHS

On Monday November 22, NHS workers, trade unions and health campaign organisations across England joined MPs in presenting petitions signed by over 300,000 people against the Health and Care Bill on the day that the Bill was being presented to Parliament in the Report stage. This was followed by a rally in the evening at Richmond Terrace, Whitehall, attended by hundreds of people in which many from the movement to safeguard the future of the NHS spoke. During the Report stage, a large number of MPs voted against the Bill, which included a number of MPs on the government benches opposing the government amendment to the "cap on care costs for charging purposes" [1], reducing their majority from 82 to 26. Despite this opposition and its reflection in Parliament, the government pushed through the Bill the following day with the completion of its Report stage and its Third Reading. The Bill has now been passed to the House of Lords and will have its Second Reading in the Lords on December 7. Opposition to the Bill continues and is building.

Speaking at the rally in the evening of November 22, Dr Louise Irvine said: "Health Campaigns Together and Keep Our NHS Public are planning a joint campaign bringing together NHS staff and unions this winter to fight for the NHS. We will continue to oppose the Bill and also demand an immediate cash injection for the NHS, fair pay for NHS staff, an end to privatisation, cronyism and corruption and an urgent and effective enquiry into Covid deaths." She continued by emphasising that "the tide is turning and people are angry and they want to know what they can do to save their precious NHS. We can show the way by working together to build the strongest possible united national movement to defend our NHS. Save our NHS!"

Zarah Sultan MP

Tony O'Sullivan, a retired paediatrician Consultant, and co-chair of KONP told the rally: "This Bill is a dangerous bill and it is being brought at a dangerous time. It does not stop private interests, it de-regulates the awarding of most contracts. It assumes private interests will be in the mix and it allows them to be in partnership on boards and committees and it reduces the power of public authorities and the public to challenge NHS management plans. It threatens to de-regulate clinical staff too and de-skill the professions. It gives the parasite of private interest pride of place in the NHS." He went on to say that at this time of unprecedented crisis in the NHS, "we say scrap the NHS Care Bill and come together now more than ever to save the NHS!" Many other speakers addressed the rally, including the former leader of the Labour Party Jeremy Corbyn and those organisations that had helped organise it including Unite the Union, KONP, Just Treatment, We Own It and Your NHS Needs You.

Prior to the protest action, Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: "Our members in the NHS and social care are coping with unacceptable conditions. Staffing levels are dangerously low, waiting lists are at unprecedented highs, and morale is rock bottom. Ministers want to impose real-terms pay cuts. The Health and Care Bill is being used to further run down the NHS and to bring in more privatisation by the back door. It will also lay the path for lower standards of care and further attacks on the pay and conditions of NHS staff. We will ramp up resources to defend our health sector members and oppose these unnecessary attacks."

Unite poster opposing the Health and Care Bill

Also prior to the protest, a new We Own It poll [2], conducted by Survation, found that "7 out of 10 of us are concerned that the Bill will mean NHS contracts being handed out to private companies without adequate scrutiny. This includes 70% of Conservative voters and 82% of Labour voters." The We Own It director, Cat Hobbs, said: "This new polling shows the public, including the majority of Conservative voters, is rightly very concerned about the likes of Richard Branson getting contracts in our NHS by the back door. The NHS needs proper funding and it needs to be reinstated as a fully public service. Instead, the government is undermining it by opening it up further to corporate interests. We're calling on all MPs to take a stand now for our NHS and stop this Bill from damaging our health service."

As Workers' Weekly [3] pointed out prior to this present stage of the passage of the Bill: "The Health and Care Bill is continuing the wrong direction for a system of health and social care in England. It is the wrong direction towards a corporate-led and privatised system of health and social care being rolled out on the back of the present health crisis. The new legislation is designed as a new corporate-led model of handing out contracts with their new ICBs and ICPs, covering in some cases some 2 million people with no accountability to those communities, cities and towns. These bodies will have no statutory duty even to make their decisions in public, but are said to be tasked with 'overcoming the bureaucracy' of the regulatory systems of 'procurement and market bureaucracy'."

What this latest protest shows is that the resistance of the people to the attacks on health services is building, as is the growing and overwhelming realisation of the people that with the Bill the government is trying to consolidate this corporate and capital-centred thinking and direction for the NHS. What is also being further revealed is the necessity for a new direction for the NHS which is human-centred, where public authorities involve health staff, and the people in the communities they serve, to speak directly about their needs and participate in making the decisions. A fully funded public health and social care system which is free to all humans as of right is the requirement of a modern society.

1. Amendment NC59, introduced by the Secretary of State for Health, Savid Javid
Previously, the Dilnot Commission had proposed that the overall costs to the local authority of meeting the person's eligible care needs should count towards the cap set at £86,000. This would have protected the savings of less-well-off pensioners who had to pay for their care. However, the government has announced that only the amount that the individual contributes towards these costs will count towards the cap on care costs, so that the less well-off will not have their savings protected.
2. We Own It poll finds 7/10 worried about more NHS privatisation
3. The Pay-the-Rich Direction of the Government in the NHS Continues to be Opposed, Workers' Weekly, November 13, 2021

Article Index

Workers' Forum

Wincanton Lorry Drivers Win Above-Inflation Pay Rise

Workers and their union have forced a highly significant pay rise. Over 450 lorry drivers, employed by Wincanton on the Morrisons distribution contract across northern England and the Midlands, have secured a large pay increase with workers receiving rises between 18 and 24.4%, reports Unite the Union. These drivers operate across the north of England but have made an important breakthrough of significance for the entire working class in Britain.

Workers, affected by price increases of essential commodities such as gas, have needed to break through the pay restraint policies that businesses and successive Westminster cartel parties in government have maintained, in one form or another, since the 1970s. The government has frothed much claptrap about "levelling up", but in reality, the workers' opposition is confronting the main issue, the long-running offensive against them, head on. This is the real issue of relations. In many cases workers have faced pay cuts and still are doing so by profit-seeking employers. Annual pay rises have been kept below inflation, where not frozen altogether, for years.

According to the Office of National Statistics, inflation on all measures is rising. The Consumer Prices Index (CPI) for October 2021 was 4.2%, up from 3.1% in the 12 months to September. When housing costs are included (the CPIH rate), the October rate stood at 3.8%, compared to 2.9% in September. The Retail Prices Index (RPI) was 6.0% in October 2021, up from 4.9% in September. In other words, October annual inflation statistics are 20 to 30% higher than those a month previously.

Contrary to the messages fed to workers, wage increases do not directly affect prices. Gas prices have been fixed by the oligopoly cartels, while both wages and profits are claims on the product, the new value created by workers. To break down pay restraint has a significant effect on the morale and struggle of the entire working class. Fighting for their rightful claim is a trend in favour of the working class developing a counter-offensive to the anti-social offensive of the rich and their government. It is a product of the effort to solve the problem of social relations, developing an independent voice for workers and moving towards effective, coherent, and real opposition.

The Wincanton drivers operate from distribution centres at Gadbrook in Cheshire, Stockton-on-Tees, and Wakefield. They recorded a 98% yes vote for strike action, Unite reports. As a result, fresh negotiations were held with management, who immediately proposed new pay terms. Workers know that their dignity lies in their fight for their rights. They develop their tactics in line with the conditions of a shortage of skilled labour, particularly drivers, in the economy, affecting trade, food and other commodities in the supply chain. The government and business are aware of the political consequences of strikes, where serious shortages have recently been highlighted, both of labour and goods on the shelves of supermarkets including Morrisons.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: "By standing together in unity our members employed by Wincanton on the Morrisons contract have secured an exceptional pay increase. This deal further demonstrated how Unite as a union protects and enhances its members' jobs, pay and conditions."

It is true that the union makes the workers strong and united in action, enabling the workers to put the full weight of their organisation behind their struggle and consciousness. Their action creates favourable conditions to steel the workers and make their opposition coherent. It is also true that it inspires the working class to make an exceptional victory the rule.

According to Unite, the negotiated agreement was not only for an 18% pay increase on basic pay and all allowances, for the drivers at Gadbrook and Wakefield, and 24.4% for those based at Stockton-on-Tees (in order to bring their pay rates in line with workers on the rest of the contract), but also for accomplishing back pay to August, for the drivers at Gadbrook and Wakefield, and from July for the drivers based at Stockton-on-Tees. As a result, following a ballot of members, the drivers accepted the offer and cancelled the potential industrial action, said the union.

There are many workers' pay struggles in the pipeline and workers will be closely looking at these developments when making their decisions for their own actions in the coming months. It is the outcomes of such struggles, still ongoing amongst lorry drivers, that provide a lead as workers attempt to influence the direction of the economy and take their own interests into account. Congratulations to the Wincanton lorry drivers, and success to all lorry drivers in their struggles.

(Sources: Unite, ONS)

Article Index

Republic of Barbados

Well Done, Barbados!

Newly-elected president, Dame Sandra Mason

On November 30, the 55th anniversary of Barbados' independence from Britain, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II will cease to be the head of state of Barbados. As reported, the word "royal" will be removed from the names of institutions and they will no longer bear the insignia of the British Queen. This is a tremendous achievement for the people of Barbados in their aspirations for self-determination and settling scores with the 400 years of colonial history. The head of state will be the newly-elected president, Dame Sandra Mason, casting off the colonial legacy of having the Queen of England, who remains head of state of Australia and Canada, as a continuing symbol of the most inhuman form of slavery and colonial ties.

The republic of Barbados will be declared at a ceremony which begins late in the evening on November 29 at the National Heroes Square in Bridgetown.

Vice-chancellor of The University of the West Indies Professor Sir Hilary Beckles said, "This is the end of the story of colonial exploitation of the mind and body," adding that this was a historic moment for Barbados, the Caribbean and all post-colonial societies. "The people of this island have struggled, not only for freedom and justice, but to remove themselves from the tyranny of imperial and colonial authority," the Barbadian historian and chairman of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Reparations Commission said. Beckles noted that Barbados was "Britain's colonial site of the first 'black slave society', the most systemically violent, brutal and racially inhumane society of modernity".

Between 1627 and 1833, it is estimated that 600,000 enslaved Africans were brutally and inhumanly transported to Barbados, being put to work in the sugar plantations, and earning fabulous ill-gotten fortunes for the English owners. This is a sizeable proportion of the more than 10 million human beings from Africa who, between the 15th and 19th centuries, if they survived the brutal voyage, ended up beaten and toiling on the plantations. "Barbados under English colonial rules became the laboratory for plantation societies in the Caribbean," said Richard Drayton, a professor of imperial and global history at Kings College, London, who lived in Barbados as a child. "It becomes the laboratory for slave society, which is then exported to Jamaica and the Carolinas and Georgia after that."

Writing in Open Democracy, Kareem Smith, a young journalist with Barbados Today, said: "Many of my fellow young Barbadians view November 30 as the start of a new national journey. In fact, many of us are not content with the simple tokenism of having a Barbadian head of state. Instead, we see the need to move on from a centuries-old order that vested tremendous power in a concept of hereditary sovereignty that was never consistent with our identity. As sovereign, the British monarch owns all state lands, buildings, equipment, state-owned companies, the copyright on government publications and employs all government staff."

The Slave Trade and Sugar

The Emancipation Statue standing in Bridgetown, Barbados, symbolising the breaking of the chains of slavery at the moment of emancipation

Kareem Smith continues: "Most Barbadians between the ages of 18 and 35 are aware of the key details of the transatlantic slave trade. Our ancestors toiled after being kidnapped from their West African homes, stripped of their dignity and forced to work on sugar plantations under backbreaking conditions as the property of Britain's bourgeoisie.

"This barbaric and brutal form of human trafficking, murder, torture, and rape made rich men of the perpetrators of these heinous crimes. They amassed huge fortunes, which laid the foundations for multi-generational wealth. Young Barbadians now know that over time, those ill-gotten fortunes were considered so glorious by the slavers that the island was commonly referred to as 'Little England' and regarded as an almost perfect model for the trade.

"That was just the start of a period of unspoken atrocities, which lasted for more than 300 years. It continued well beyond the 1807 abolition of the transatlantic slave trade and the formal abolition of slavery by colonial assemblies in the Caribbean in 1838.

"The slave trade was, of course, endorsed by the British royal family. Along with other wealthy British families, British royalty played its part in this most despicable form of capitalism. The Barbadian, a Bridgetown newspaper that was published from 1822 to 1861, reported an 1824 proclamation by King George IV, asserting that the 'Slave Population...will be undeserving of Our Protection if they shall fail to render entire Submission to the Laws, as well as dutiful Obedience to their Masters'.

"Slavery's legacy is underdevelopment and dependency. This dependence ran so deep that when Britain responded to the diminishing returns from its colonial project with the 'gift' of independence, Barbados was compelled to accept the British monarch as their own. We also inherited the Westminster system of governance, the British Privy Council as the final Court of Appeal and many old laws, including the criminalisation of same-sex relationships.

"After gaining independence, Barbados created systems that could help to lift up the average Black citizen, who was invariably descended from slave ancestors. Everyone was given access to education, healthcare and free school meals. A social security scheme was established under the first prime minister, Errol Barrow.

"Even so, Barbados retained some admiration for the British royal family in the years immediately after independence. That has now diminished, as young Barbadians learn about their history and that of the West Indies. In fact, many have even questioned Prime Minister Mia Mottley's decision to invite Prince Charles to be guest of honour at our republic celebrations. A young lawyer tweeted: 'Is he coming with reparations?'

We Barbadians stand up for reparations from the Royal Family.

"What the British royal family represents is uppermost in the minds of Barbados's youth as they think about real self-determination. Fifty years on from independence, a more educated and aware class of Barbadians is able to identify the glaring deficiencies of a society that suffered 400 years of oppression.

"There is an overwhelming acceptance that now is the time to begin a process of deeper social reform, to write a new constitution and enshrine a system of governance and social order that reflects who we are as a people and addresses the historical struggles that define us.

"That is why the ten-point plan outlined by the CARICOM Reparations Commission makes sense. It offers a 'path to reconciliation, truth and justice' for victims of the slave trade, beginning with a full, formal apology from various European governments. It also suggests plans for psychological rehabilitation, debt cancellation, the eradication of illiteracy and the transfer of technology from the Caribbean's former slave masters."

Lalu Hanuman, of the 13th June 1980 Movement, said: "A lot of people don't realise the linkages between the Royal Family and slavery. Their hands are mired in it. And a substantial amount of their wealth came from it. Kensington Palace was directly built off of the slave trade by King William III. Before that Elizabeth I granted a royal charter to Sir John Hawkins and provided him with ships for the slave trade. She also gave him his own coat of arms, which depicted a chained African person." An English ship claimed Barbados for King James I in 1625.

Now, 55 years to the day since Barbados declared independence, its people have finally removed Queen Elizabeth II as head of state and proclaimed Barbados a republic. Demonstrations will meet Prince Charles as he arrives in Barbados on Monday, demanding an apology and reparations from the royals and the government of the "United Kingdom", which could run into hundreds of millions of pounds. Buckingham Palace has said that the issue of proclaiming a republic is a matter for the people of Barbados...

Well done, Barbados!

Article Index

International News

Congratulations to Venezuela on the Successful Completion of Regional and Municipal Elections

VSC Statement on Venezuela's 2021 Elections

National Electoral Council (CNE - Consejo Nacional Electoral). It is the institution that has the responsibility of overseeing and guaranteeing the transparency of all elections and referendums in Venezuela at the local, regional, and national levels.

Venezuelans voted on Sunday, November 21, to choose representatives for 3,082 elected positions: state governors, mayors, regional legislators and local councillors. Over 70,000 candidates from 111 political parties took part, illustrating how extensive the competition was for each post.

The entire electoral process from start to finish was overseen by the National Electoral Council (CNE). Venezuela has an automated system that is the most audited in the world. In all, 17 audits of the process were conducted from beginning to end, in the presence of representatives from participating political parties. Coupled with biometric identification being required to vote and automated voting throughout, this means that rigging election results is technically impossible in the Venezuelan election system.

International observers were present for the election, including teams from the Carter Centre, the European Union, the Council of Latin American Electoral Experts (CEELA), the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the African Union. The election day went smoothly, with biosecurity measures in place at all polling stations.

Results from the elections for governors show the PSUV winning 20 governorships and opposition parties three. Full results will be announced by the CNE for more local contests in the following days.

The successful conclusion to the process represents an important victory for the policy of peace, dialogue and of seeking to resolve political differences through transparent elections. Once again, despite negative propaganda from abroad, Venezuelan citizens have shown their commitment to democracy and exercised their right to determine their own future.

The Venezuela Solidarity Campaign calls on the UK and US governments to abandon their policy of non-recognition of the Venezuelan government and engage in constructive dialogue with President Maduro.

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