The New Worker

The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain

Week commencing 1st November 1996

1) Lead story - Tories pass the buck on classroom problems.
2) Editorial - Musical Chairs. & All talk and no do.
3) International news - Biggest mass action in Canada's history!
4) Feature - No joy for the unemployed in mini-boom
5) British news - Teleworking dream turns to nightmare.

1) Lead story

Tories pass the buck on classroom problems

THE CONFLICTING policies in the government's Education Bill, introduced to Parliament last Wednesday, will worsen the very problems it says it wants to resolve.

It promises a consultative document on moral guidance for schools drawn up by the same authority that oversees the National Curriculum.

In recent weeks the Tories have had a great deal to say about badly behaved and disruptive pupils in some of the country's schools and the recent well publicised cases where disputes have occurred over the exclusion of children.

This includes the reactionary and backward suggestion from Education Secretary Gillian Shephard that schools should be allowed to return to inflicting corporal punishment -- an idea rejected by John Majorand thankfully not included in the Bill.

Yet in the very same Fxlucation Bill as the exhortation for moral teaching, the Tories propose giving schools more opportunity to select pupils and will also open the door to more grammarschools. Both proposals will worsen the very problems the government claims it is trying to address.

The number ofexclusions and expulsions has risen sharply -coinciding with the measures already introduced to allow schools limited selection and the return of grammar schools -- all made easier by the publication of school league tables .

The trend is towards a two-tier system of state education. Children with behavioural or learning difficulties are becoming concentrated in some schools while schools in well-heeled neighbourhoods pick and choose from among the more socially advantaged children.

The Education Bill will in practice make for more selection, more problems for the unfavoured schools, which lessons in morals and govemt-nent directives will not solve.

At the same time spending cuts have led to less provision for special needs education. Many children with special needs and children with emotional problems are not getting the help they should have. Too many class teachers in mainstream schools are trying to cope with disturbed children in classes that are growing all the time.

Inequality in education is grow ing all the time under this government. It starts early with the introduction of nursery voucher schemes which not only syphon public money into the private sector but disadvantages children whose parents cannot top up the vouchers to fully cover the cost of a nursery place. The scheme does nothing to increase the number of state-owned nursery schools.

Now there is talk of introducing school tests for children as young as five years old -- ostensibly to provide a benchmark for individual progress but in reality it would be another step along the road to a two-tier system.

The Tories are passing the buck Everyone, it seems, has got to pull their socks up except the Tory government -- which has after all been in power continuously for nearly 18 years. Surely their stewardship of state education must have something to do with the problems. Surely the signs ofwidersocial distress must have something to do with their long years in office.


Only the other week thousands of teachers, parents and pupils marched through London to protest at the years of under-funding in the education service.

One London teacher told the New Worker that "teachers are working longer hours overall but having less time to spend in the classroom with the children. This is the result of an increase in paperwork."

The government has privatised the schools inspectorate and made teachers' lives a misery with the draconian Ofsted visits. And yet the seriousness of the difficulties in some schools has had to be highlighted by the teaching unions.

What is needed is an increase in funding so that special needs education can be fully restored, school buildings brought up to decent standards, class sizes reduced and support services put in place.

Selection and grammar schools must be done away with and equality of opportunity restored.

Beating children, lecturing heads and teachers and forcing parents to sign behaviour contracts are no answers at all.

2) Editorial

Musical Chairs

SUFFERING the relentless year-upon-year cutbacks in NHS funding, state education, local government and other public services is rather like being made to take part in a national game of musical chairs.

We all go round and round while every so often the govemment stops the music and takes something away. When spending budgets are squeezed it's like losing the next chair, and every time that happens another group of people lose out.

As we all know this has been going on for years. None of the chairs ever gets put back and no one is told where it will all end.

We do know that if the government is to meet the terms laid down in the Maastricht Treaty for going into a European single currency, either taxes would have to go up or public spending would have to come down. We also know from our experience of the past 1 7 years that a Tory government would, without a doubt, choose to cut spending rather than raise taxes.

If the govemment does opt to meet the terms of Maastricht by cutting public spending it would have to reduce the government's borrowing deficit from six per cent to three per cent of the Gross Domestic Product -- that's around £18 billion.

Those cuts would probably be spread over a wide range of services, but to give an idea of the scale of the cuts £18 billion is the equivalent of the total budget for all primary and secondary schools or nearly two thirds of all NHS expenditure.

It is clear that we need to stop the attacks on our public services now. And that means making sure the Tories don't get re-elected for another five years, which can only be achieved by voting Labour at the next election.

It also means opposing Britain's membership of the European single currency. It means campaigning to end the waste of public money on the Trident nuclear weapons system. And it means stepping up the pressure for a policy of progressive taxation which would increase direct taxes on the wealthiest sector and lifting the burden on the working class.

All talk and no do

IN AN effort to try and justify a policy of public spending cuts, the Tories used to say that problems were not solved by "simply throwing money at them".

Now, as the rising levels of suffering and stress in our society become daily more obvious, the government think we'll quietly accept its continuing tight-fisted policies it throws us a lot of words instead.

And so they exhort us -- more Christian teaching, mon emphasis on "family values", more teaching of morals in our schools. Education secretary Gillian Shephard even said we need to bring back the cane!

How can anyone really think that giving a child a walloping will teach it that violence is wrong? Are, we to believe that a few more prayers in the school assembly will remove the fear and despair from young people facing an uncertain, jobless future?

And in isn't it all an insult to our teachers who have always regarded social education as part of their job anyway?

And how can the Tories have the nerve to talk about "family values"?

They have presided over the sell-off of Council Housing stocks and allowed the situation to continue where homeles families spend periods oftime in cramped Bed and Breakfas hostels. They have removed Income Support from 16-17 yea olds and cut student grants.

And what would our young people learn if they took the government as a model?

That it's OK to drop bombs on Iraqi civilians. That it's OK to blockade other countries and cause abject misery for their people.

They would learn that it's good for the rich to get richer when their stocks and shares have gone up but it's wrong fo working people to make a stand for a raise in their pay packet. That freedom is a good thing when it's for the bosses but bad if you're a member of a trade union.

It really would be better if the Tories just shut up about the moral high ground altogether.

What we want is not a lot a words but jobs for our young people, resources for our schools, decent homes for our families and a future for our children.

3) International

Biggest mass action in Canada's history!

IT WAS the largest demonstration ever and a massive, historic display of opposition to the neo-conservative government of Premier Mike Harris over last weekend, by 250,000 protesters who marched past the Ontario Tories' Convention and into Queen's Park.

They felt this moment as the huge march gathered in the early morning hours at the Canadian National Exhibition grounds. They were propelled in wave after wave of humanity up University Avenue, where they quickly overflowed the Legislature grounds into the side streets, backing up as far south as Dundas Street before the two hour parade finally arrived to be entertained by Canadian Bruce Cockbum and Britain's Billy Bragg.

Metro Days of Action (MDA) co-chairs linda Torney and Margaret Hancock declared both last Friday's shutdown and the Saturday demonstration a huge success, as did the teachers' unions who brought more than 100,000 teachers to the Saturday rally from all parts of Ontario.

Malcolm Buchanan, general secretary of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation said: "It was outstanding! The number of people that attended and the number of people against the government the sense of unity and solidarity that is developing as a result is fantastic!

"The movement is growing against the Harris agenda and it will continue to grow until the government backs off," he said. 'If the government doesn't get the message today...If we have to escalate to province-wide action...Then so be it!" said Labour Council president and MDA co-chair.

At a rally of 15,000 outside the Toronto Stock Exchange last Friday, Linda Torney said: "We've achieved what we set out to do. We have shut down this city, and Mike Harris knowsit. The Tories can't keep ignoring us."

The city streets were virtually empty everywhere. With union and non-union mass pickets, despite management injunctions, they crippled city transport. Thousands rallied at the Ministry of Education, North York City Hall. City of York and in East York Civic Centre. Many schools, universities, colleges, public services and businesses were closed for the day.

Canadian car workers president Buzz Hargrove said the Friday shutdown was: "a wonderful expression of democracy for us." He said: "People are out saying. 'We do not accept that democracy means voting once every four years and turning over the responsibility for the social, economic and political agenda of this province to a group of 82 people."'

Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL) president Gord Wilson added: "Many of those people who are annoyed today, I suspect a year from now will probably be on the street with us."

Helen Kennedy, chairperson of North York Fights Back! said: "The display of unity in action we've seen in these Days of Action has to translate now into building blocks for province wide action."

Communist Party of Canada organiser Hassan Husseini said: "The momentum and the unity built here must not be squandered...We need to escalate our activity...led by the same partnership of labour and the Social Justice Coalition that has been so successful right from the beginning."

Previous protests in London, Hamilton, Kitchener-Waterloo and Peterborough were unsettling enough for the Tories and big business. But to bring mass protest, including widespread work stoppages, to Toronto -- the "citadel" of monopoly Canadian and transnational capital -- was entirely another matter.

What's more, the Tories and the corporate establishment were keenly aware that the "Metro Days" signified a marked escalation in the fightback, and that its success would lay the basis for generalised, province-wide action. It therefore became vital for Tories and big business alike to isolate, divide and disperse the gathering stonn of protest.

Billboards, radio, the Press and the law were used in an attempt to undermine Metro Days of Action plans. Chairman of Metro Toronto Allan Tonks added to the hysteria by equating the "Days of Action" to a natural emergency (like an earthquake) and even set up a central command post ('the bunker") full of television monitors, police and emergency personnel.

The Communist Party of Canada and its paper People's Voice were accused by right-wing elements of undue influence -old-style "red-baiting" has made an ugly re-appearance.

Premier Mike Harris himself derided the historic rnass rally on 26 October as having been made up only of the labour movement "communist parties...and Iranians and Iraqis." But this had a limited impact.

The broad labour-community unity built up around the MDA held fast in the face of these efforts to split, divide and marginalise the "Metro Days".

There has been sweeping public opposition to the Harris government's gutting of public and post-secondary education, hospitals, healthcare, day care and environmental protection.

But Harris has a weak point. interfering with the investment climate, and with corporate profit making on Friday 25 October enraged the Bay Street boardrooms and resulted in threats of injunctions, suits and all sorts of litigation and retribution. That was one day in one city.

Just imagine what they'd do if labour and the people's movements jointly struck and demonstrated for one day, across the whole province. What if they took action for two days? Or three?

Will the public support such action, some will ask.

The answer is in the streets: a quarter of a million-strong on Saturday 26 October, despite massive intimidation and threats. Amighty and unstoppable movement for Jobs and Justice is surely soon to be born. People 's Voice, Communist Party of Canada.

4) Feature

No joy for the unemployed in mini-boom

by Daphne Liddle

THE TORIES are so pleased with the way the economy is picking up -- as it seems to have a curious knack of doing in the run-up to a general election -- that Chancellor Kenneth Clarke last Wednesday added a quarter of a per cent to interest rates in case it all gets out of hand.

And the government is boasting there will be one and a half million new jobs created in the next ten years.

But in reality the feel-good factor is not likely to trickle down very far into the working class - the number of proper jobs will continue to fall.

Business Strategies, an independent consultancy, has warned that half of these new jobs will be part-time and the rest will arise from self-employment -- workers selling themselves to provide services but without the benefit of holidays, sick pay or any kind of security or protection.

And unemployment is likely to remain at about two million -according to official figures -even if there is a change of government.

Business Strategies research director Neil Blake said:"Nothing in official Labour Party policy would lead us to change ourview of the unemployment outlook".

Obviously he was not taking into account any changes in Labour policy that might be brought about by mass working class pressure.

And he went on to say that the proportion of total employment held by male full-timers is forecast to continue falling, reaching 35 per cent by 2006, compared with 49 per cent in 1981.

'With employers creating almost no extra full-time jobs, 790,000 more people will opt for self-employment between now and 2006," said Mr Blake.

His consultancy predicts the creation of 770,000 jobs by 2006 but that nearly all of them will be part-time and in personal services. Around 80 per cent of these jobs are expected to be taken by women.

The director of Business Strategies, Richard Holt, said: "The extra jobs will do little to bring down the number of people registered as unemployed, which we forecast will fall by just 131,000 between now and 2006, to a figure of 1.99 million.

"The number of professional jobs will rise by over a quarter, but few people registered as unemployed will benefit directly from these opportunities."

And estimating the real jobless total will remain as difficult as it is today, if the Tories have their way.

Last week the government decided not to implement a new monthly measure of unemployment based on a household survey of people out of work and consistent with international standards.

The government will continue to base unemployment figures on those signing on for benefit -now the Job Seekers' Allowance. This will exclude all 16 and 17year-olds looking for work, all on compulsory government training schemes and all who have dropped out and given up hope of finding work and are being supported by their families.

Unemployment figures derived this way are subject to changes in benefit rules and give a misleadingly low total.

The proposed new method of counting would have been based on the government's Labour Force Survey, published guarterly but which is more comprehensive.

Meanwhile Kenneth Clarke's rise in interest rates, bringing the Bank of England lending rate to six percent, is perhaps the first of more to come. The governor of the Bank of England has been pressing for such measures for a long time, to avert any tendency to inflation.

The move will hit home buyers and small businesses.

5) British News

Teleworking dream turns to nightmare

TELEWORKING -- doing office work from your own home using a computer and a telephone line -- appeals to many workers who find commuting a nightmare and long to be able to spend more time with their families.

But, without union protection and carefully drawn up contracts, it can become a nightmare according to a report lastweekfrorn the Institute for Employment Studies.

This independent consultancy studied the working practices of translators across Europe who use information and communications to work from home.

It found that teleworking did lead to a break down of traditional gender roles, allowing men to take on more domestic chores and community tasks while more women could take on the role of bread-winner.

But the study also showed that: "Far from being their own boss -- one of the main reasons people chose to take up teleworking -- most of these self-employed teleworkers find their working times externally driven by employers' deadlines.

"Periods without work were times of hardship and anxiety for the source of the next job.

"Many teleworkers feel obliged to keep working instead of taking breaks with their families, running up exceptionally long hours."

Out of 197 translators covered in the study, nine per cent worked more than 70 hours a week, 12 per cent for 60 or more and 20 per cent for over 50 hours.

One third of the men and 40per cent of the women had too much work "very often" or "quite often" and the great majority did occasionally.