National News

New rules for the jobless

NEW GOVERNMENT rules imposed on unemployment benefit claimants came into force on Monday this week. Now, anyone who has been unemployed for two years or more will be forced to sign on at a job centre every day or accept an unpaid job. If they fail to comply they will have their benefits cut.

The Government says the new scheme — called Help to Work — is “absolutely not” intended to punish jobless people. But that is exactly what it will do.

Those who fail to take part could lose jobless benefits for fixed periods. Jobseeker’s allowance (JSA) can be suspended for four weeks for their first failure, then 13 weeks for a second failure.

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MFE meets a hole in the road

by New Worker correspondent

THE PEOPLE of Brighton came out of their homes last Sunday in hundreds if not thousands to once again make it clear to the rag-bag of fascists, racists, hooligans and thugs who call themselves “The March for England” (MFE) that they are not wanted in Brighton and should go away.

And if you were superstitious you could believe other powers were also opposed to the march: two days before the event a great hole opened up in the middle of the road along the sea front where the march was to take place and it poured with rain throughout the march but cleared up after it finished.

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TU message to Qatar on Workers’ Memorial Day

ON INTERNATIONAL Workers’ Memorial Day (28 April 2014), workers and trade unionists handed in a letter of protest to the Qatari embassy in London to demand an end to the deaths and exploitation of migrant workers involved in the construction of sites for the 2022 Qatar World Cup.

Unite activists unveiled a banner outside the Qatar embassy reading: “No Workers Rights No World Cup — Qatar 2022.”

The ITUC estimates that 4,000 construction workers will perish in Qatar before a single ball is kicked. Last year alone 200 Nepalese and 241 Indian construction workers lost their lives suffering heat exhaustion, fatal injury or death from falls.

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Tories cut workplace safety inspections by 93 per cent

THE TUC last Monday — Workers’ Memorial Day — said that the Government’s persistent ideological attacks on key health and safety legislation threaten even more accidents, injuries and deaths at work.

In a new report, [Toxic, Corrosive and Hazardous: The Government’s record on health and safety], the TUC reveals that in the last four years the Government has drastically cut Health and Safety Executive (HSE) inspections, cut funding to the HSE by 40 per cent, blocked new regulations and removed vital existing protections, prevented improved European regulation on health and safety, cut support for employers and health and safety reps, seen local authorities reduce their workplace inspections by 93 per cent, and made it much harder for workers to claim compensation if they are injured or made ill at work following employer negligence.

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Tax workers balloted for strikes

AROUND 50,000 tax workers are being balloted on a wide-ranging programme of industrial action in a dispute over job cuts, PCS announces. The ballot, of all the union’s members in HM Revenue and Customs opened last Monday and forms part of the union’s ongoing national campaign among its 250,000 civil service members against cuts to jobs and public services.

The union has sought high-level talks in HMRC on a range of key issues linked to jobs in a department that has cut more than 30,000 posts in the last decade and plans to cut thousands more by next year.

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TNT privatised mail disaster

THE PRIVATISATION of the Royal Mail and the opening up of mail delivery to a competitive market has led to disaster for some residents in north London.

The Information Commissioner’s Office has been called in after Hendon MP Matthew Offord found a large sack of TNT post at the bottom of the Silk Stream River in Colindale.

The bulk of the mail was confidential benefits information sent from Barnet Council to residents, as well as statements from Barclays Bank.

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Taking over the asylum

SERVICE users of a Cambridge NHS mental health clinic, “Lifeworks”, have been occupying its Tenison Road building for nearly eight weeks, in a defiant battle to stop its closure. The service has been offering vital support for those with Personality Disorder and Borderline Personality Disorder for the past 12 years. But the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Foundation Trust now plans to close it as part of a wider service redesign.

According to both NHS England and local MP Julian Huppert: “The health system in Cambridgeshire is one of the worst funded in the country” but its trust is facing a further £6.5 million budget cut next year.

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Protest at neo-Nazi clothes shop

by New Worker correspondent

ANTI-FASCISTS gathered in Ballards Lane, Finchley in north London last Friday night to protest at the opening of the “Thor Viking” clothes shop which sells the “Thor Steiner brand of clothing favoured by neo-Nazis.

Finchley is at the heart of London’s Jewish community and the Thor Steiner store there calls itself the Thor Viking Shop.

Jewish and Islamic groups in the multicultural suburb have expressed concerns that the shop will attract far-right supporters and inflame tensions, but there are additional fears shoppers may be oblivious of its rightwing roots.

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Remembering Bob Crow and carrying on the fight

Review by Theo Russell

Plundering London Underground: New Labour, private capital and public service 1997- 2010, by Janine Booth, with a foreword by Bob Crow; Merlin Press, December 2013, £13.95.

HOUSMANS Bookshop in London hosted a meeting last week which combined a remembrance for RMT general secretary Bob Crow with a talk by Janine Booth on her new book, Plundering London Underground.

Janine, an ex-RMT colleague of Bob Crow, recalled: “One of the first things he did when he became general secretary was to introduce reviews of books on working class history into the RMT magazine. He was open to criticism and generous to his friends and colleagues. When I left my RMT job his gift was a candle in the likeness of Joseph Stalin.”

Peter Pinkney, RMT President (an ex-Tyneside shipyard worker), said Crow was nothing like the image portrayed in the media, but “a kind and loving man who was able to persuade even right wingers on the executive round to his point of view. But the RMT was not just Bob Crow; it was and is made up of all its members.

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International News

The fight against hunger in Latin America

by Juan Leandro

ARGENTINIAN economist Raúl Benítez, head of the FAO, the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations office for Latin America and the Caribbean, has gone on record saying that “although our South American continent has made great strides against hunger, it is still the most unequal region in the world”.

Of the nearly 900 million hungry people on the planet, 50 million are in Latin America and in the Caribbean.” Benítez told this to the global news agency, the IPS, at the 38th FAO Conference in Rome last summer.

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American hypocrisy and flagrant violation of international law

by Steven Walker

LISTENING to Vice President Biden of the USA lecture Russia about national sovereignty, non-interference in adjacent countries’ affairs and the right to self-determination must rank among the most breath-taking load of cant this century. Let’s just take a small step back in time to see how American policy compares with Russia’s current activity. In Latin America the USA has plenty of form in dealing with democratic governments that do not conform to what capitalism wants.

Essentially the post Second World War foreign policy of the USA has been to ensure that American business is free to trade on its terms anywhere in the capitalist world. The government’s job is to use military and economic measures to enable unfettered access to raw materials, food and especially oil. In practice this has meant supporting right-wing dictatorships hostile to left-wing parties trying to establish fairer distribution of wealth and greater democracy.

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Friends from around the world celebrate May Day in Cuba

by Susana Lee

AROUND 1,700 participants from organisations and social movements from 68 countries will march in solidarity with the Cuban people on May Day. Many will also attend the International Solidarity Meeting on 2nd May.

And 1,691 union leaders and representatives of social and solidarity movements from 68 countries have confirmed their participation in the May Day celebrations in Cuba.

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US bosses hoard $2 trillion overseas

by Chris Fry

HUNDREDS of US corporations’ profits, which are held in overseas bank accounts, nearly doubled between 2008 and 2013 when the total came to $2.1 trillion, reported Audit Analytics’ blog on 1st April.

Conglomerate General Electric had the biggest pile of money abroad, at $110 billion. Next is Microsoft at $76.4 billion, followed by drug makers Pfizer at $79 billion and Merck & Co at $57.1 billion. Hightech Apple’s offshore stockpile is $54.4 billion. Google’s stash has climbed to $38.9 billion from $17.5 billion in 2010.

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Mass hunger strike launched by interned Palestinians

by an An Phoblacht Special Correspondent

A MASS HUNGER STRIKE of Palestinian prisoners, detained without trial, has begun in three Israeli prisons as a protest against the use of administrative detention — internment without charge or trial.

There are currently 183 Palestinians held in administrative detention, including nine members of the Palestinian Legislative Council.

The number of people interned in this manner has been increasing steadily over the past year. Since the beginning of 2014, Israel has used administrative detention against 142 Palestinians, which includes renewing and extending existing orders.

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Portugal: The Carnation Revolution 40 years on

by Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey

THE TWENTY-fifth of April 1974. The Portuguese Revolution was heralded by the transmission of the country’s Eurovision entry Depois do Adeus (And After Goodbye) and then the folksong Grândola, Vila Morena, an indication that a military coup was under way to oust the Estado Novo (New State) corporatist political regime, paving the path for change. Today the strategists may be satisfied, the idealists horrified.

It is as difficult to pack the last four decades of Portuguese history into an easy-to-read article as it is easy to fall to the temptation to take matters out of context and ignore socio-economic, political and contextual vectors which provide a fuller understanding of the broader picture.

Broadly speaking, the Portuguese Revolution of 25th April 1974 was a complete success in that it fulfilled its two immediate objectives: ending the colonial war which Portugal had been waging in Mozambique, Angola and Guinea-Bissau since 1961 and changing a repressive political regime which had banned the only opposition party based in Portugal (the Portuguese Communist Party, led by álvaro Cunhal) and which to all intents and purposes, made anti-regime political activity a crime, punishment being carried out by the political police, PIDE — Polícia Internacional e de Defesa do Estado (1945 to 1969) and then DGS — DirecçÃo-Geral de Segurança (1969- 1974).

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