New Worker Online Archive
Week of 20th December 1996


1) Editorial -Time for change. &  Signs of fear.

2) Lead story - Glacier engineers fight on for jobs.
    Sacked workers to sit in over Christmas.

3) Feature article - Casualty units carry burden of homeless sick.

4) International story - Greek farmers' action joined by more strikes.

5) British news item - Solidarity with the Liverpool dockers.

1) Editorial

Time for change

LAST week's cheating row in the House of Commons underlines the knife-edge position of
the Tories now that they have no overall majority.

 The support of the Ulster Unionist MPs might enable them to survive a vote of no
confidence, which, if it were lost, could bring the government down. But the Tories will still
have increasing difficulty winning Common's votes on a day-to-day basis.

 The government's weak position has also allowed the "Euro-sceptic" right wing of the Tory
party to exert a degree of pressure on John Major which is out of proportion to this faction's
actual size and strength.

 Much of the media seems pre-occupied with the divisions over Europe going on inside the
Tory party. But this apparently intemal problem has only assumed large proportions because
the Tories' widespread unpopularity has pushed their parliamentary majority down and down
until now it doesn't exist at all.

 The largely pro-Tory press prefers not to spell it out, but the problems facing the government
are not primarily caused by the rows over the Single European Currency but reflect the
government's fast-fading support at the polling booths and the rejection of the Tories
throughout the length and breadth of Britain.

 We larry there will be a general election next year. We have to seize that opportunity to
make sure 1997 is the year when the long run of Tory rule is finally brought to an end. Then
is only one way to achieve this and that's by voting in a Labour government.

 The Labour Party has its best chance of winning office for 18 years. It is vital for the working
class to do more than just squeezing Tony Blair into number 10 Downing Street -- the Tories
have to be soundly defeated.

 We can all see the problems of a numerically weak govemment. Not that we're bothered by
John Major's problems bur we certainly don't want an incoming Labour government to have
the same experience.

 A weak Labour government with a small majority could only serve the interests of the
bosses and the Tory opposition who would be able to keep that government on the run. The
right wing of the Labour Party would have a ready-made excuse to reject the demands of the
left and the organised working class.

 Change is long overdue. It is now time to work for a massive Labour victory for 1997 and put
that government under pressure to act in the interests of the majority of the people - the
working class.


Signs of fear


THE persecution of citizens from the former German Democratic Republic in Germany's
Constitutional Court shows there is unease in the German ruling class.

 Like the trial of the late GDR leader Eric Honecker, they are both political and vengeful.

 The German capitalist class made certain obvious gains from the counter-revolution in the
former Soviet Union and eastern Europe. Principally it enabled the capitalist Wesl German
state to take overthe territory and assets of the former GDR.

 But this also brought the German capitalist class a unique problem -- 17 million new citizens
who had experienced life in a socialist society.

 Of course there were a number of former GDR citizens who imagined the grass in the West
would be much greener than that in the East. But imagination is not the same as reality and it
was not long before disillusion set in.

 East Germans suffer a disproportionate share of unemployment which did not exist at all in
the GDR -- and those who are working find they are on average in lower paid jobs than their
west German colleagues.

 Now the German government is, like other European states, cutting public spending and
squeezing the working class overall. Discontent is rising among former West Germar citizens
as well.

 The east German-based Social Democratic Party (PDS) has not only survived but is now
beginning to make gains in the West.

 It is not a communist threat, but it does put the right wing govemment under pressure.

 There is a fear in the German ruling class -- that millions of people may remember the
socialist society they once had and want to return to it.

 And so the former leaders and officials of that socialist society ate being criminalised -- it is
a travesty of justice and we condemn it.

                                                *********************************

2) Lead story.

Glacier engineers fight on for jobs.
Sacked workers to sit in over Christmas.

SACKED WORKERS at the Glacier RPB engineering plant in Glasgow are fully prepared to
spend Christmas fighting to get their jobs back.

 Alex McIntyre from the engineering union's (AEEU) Glasgow office told the New Worker that
the round-the-clock sit-in, now into its sixth week, was continuing and this meant workers
could be spending Christmas Day at the factory.

 But they will not be alone or forgotten. Families of the sacked men are expected to be
joining them at the plant on Christmas Day.

 The factory, which is part of the giant T&N motor parts firm, sacked the 103 skilled workers
last month when they objected to the introduction of unsafe working practices and changes in
their contracts, which included a reduction in their wages.

Feeling strong

 Feeling is strong about the sackings and last Sunday workers from the Glacier plant were
joined by around three thousand people in a demonstration of solidarity in Glasgow.

 Banners at the demonstration showed support from the AEEU itself as well as many other
unions, political parties and Clydebank and Edinburgh tndes councils.

 There were many messages of support read out at the demonstration including those frum
Tony Benn MP, Arlhur Scargill, firefighters' leader Ken Cameron and local councillors.

 Bill Spiers, assistant general secretary of the STUC said: "This is a workforce which has
been delivering millions of pounds per year in profit for the company -- it is nothing less than
naked greed on the part of Turner and Newall which has led to them being dismissed".

 The firm is "trying to break the trade unions", said Labour MP Mike Watson, "it is a matter
for the whole trade union movement to resist", he went on.

 So far there has been no positive response from T&N. And the sacked workers are
determined to fight on foras long as it takes.

The scene looks set for a long struggle and furthermore it is taking place at the onset of
winter.

 The STUC has called for suppott and has set up a Glacier Families Hardship Fund.

                                            ********************************

3 Feature article.


Casualty units carry burden of homeless sick

by Caroline Colebrook

HOMELESS people in London find it very difficult to register with a general practitioner. So
when they are ill -- and their life-style renders them much more vulnerable to ill health than
most. More often than not they end up in the casualty units of the capital's hospitals.

  And, according to a report entitled "Go home and rest?", released last Monday by the
housing pressure group Shelter, this is a very expensive way of dealing with their health
problems -costing the NHS around three times as much as it would to provide regular GP
care for the homeless.

  The report was compiled after examining 51,000clinical records at the Accident and
Emergency (A&E) unit at London's University College Hospital.

  It found that while nearly all people with homes are registered with a doctor, 70 per cent of
the homeless are not.

  Shelter director Chris Holmes said: "This denial of basic health care is costing just one
hospital thousands of pounds -- across the nation as a whole it could be millions."

  The Shelter report said 57 per cent of homeless people report to casualty units with non-
urgent conditions simply because they have no where else to go. Homeless people are four
times more likely to be assaulted than others; twice as likely to have asthma, chest infections
or bronchitis and four times more likely to suffer epilepsy.

  Homeless people are also more likely to turn to a casualty department when suffering a
psychiatric crisis. The report found that among homeless people with mental illness, seven
out of ten had no contact with mental health workers.

  It said that the cost to University College hospital of treating these non-urgent cases was
around 90,000, compared to a bill of around 30,000 if they had been dealt with by a GP.

  Furthermore, if GP care were available at an early stage, many of the conditions would not
develop into emergency cases.

  And casualty units cannot give the same aftercare as GPs. This shows up in the fact that
homeless people treated for injuries are far more likely to develop an infection of the wound
than people who have a home in which to test and recover.

Many homeless people find GPs very reluctant to take them on their register, often because
they look scruffy and their health problems can involve drug or alcohol addiction.

  The system puts a heavy strain on the staff at casualty units. One of the report's authors is
a UCH nurse, Christopher North. He says: "You can't do any preventive work in A&E. You
can only deal with acute need at the time.

 "You can get good healthcare in A&E but it's not a substitute for primary healthcare."

  He says this has a direct impact on staff. "At one level, it is a matter of minor fiustration of
having to re-set a plaster cast for the fourth time because a homeless person cannot keep it
dry.

  "It can get a bit annoying, and I'm sure that rubs off onto the patients. They may get a bad
name in A&E for being a recurrent attendee who can't or won't register with a GP, with poor
selfcare, perhaps alcohol abuse and poor compliance with previously recommended
treatment.

  "All this means they don't always get a very sympathetic hearing."

  The report makes some positive proposals and cites the London hostel Arlington House as
an example of how to get it right.

  It provides primary health care in the form of doctors and nurses at the hostel and at day
centres associated with it -- even though this is not the same as the 24hour-a-day, seven-
day-a-week care offered by a proper GP service.

                                           ***********************************

4) International story

Greek farmers' action joined by more strikes

by Steve Lawton

THOUSANDS of farmers continue to paralyse road and rail links across Greece protesting at
government austerity measures and the European Union (EU) which may wreck half of the
farmers' livelihoods.

 Prime Minister Costas Simitis vows that to agree to farmers' demands "would be a step
backwards." But he has been forced to recognise the damage the farmers' action is causing
which follows close on the November austerity budget. Despite his appeals to PASOK-voting
farmers, they too are taking action.

 There are signs of fuel and food shortages and at least one airport and port has been
blockaded. Industrialists' and exporters' organisations have attacked the farmers actions and
some local prosecutors have taken legal action against farmers.

 The protests began on 28 November when 5,000 tractors severed Greece in half at Larissa,
and now there are 10,000 or more tractors across the country. Athens is entirely cut off.

 Farmers constitute 20 per cent of the country's active population which is twice the EU
average. They are demanding a restructuring of debts, tax concessions, cheaper fuel and
production incentives. They want lower VAT on farm equipment.

 As the farmers' demands are refused, Simitis is being bombarded by action from the
General Federation of Greek Workers. Thousands of civil servants, doctors and teachers
struck on Tuesday to join striking seamen and diplomats.

 Production of cotton in Greece is the largest in the EU, and these farmers have been at the
forefront in protesting at the drastic decline in prices.

 Land prices have been cut by 30-40 per cent following foreclosures. And many farmers
complain that the EU deliberately favours countries like Turkey and the US for agricultural
imports.

                                            ***********************************

5) British news item

Solidarity with the Liverpool dockers

SEVERAL thousand protesters marched through London from Hyde Park to Holborn last
Saturday to demonstrate solidarity with the 500 Liverpool dockers who have been fighting for
re-instatement for over a year.

 The dockers were sacked in September 1995 for refusing to cross a picket line. The
picketers were employed by a small subsidiary of the Mersey Docks and Harbour Company
and were striking against attempts to impose terms and conditions that would in effect
casualise their jobs.

 Last Saturday's march also included representatives of other workers currently in struggle:
the Hillingdon Hospital workers, Magnet workers from Darlington and the Glacier workers
from Glasgow who are preparing for a Christmas sit-in.

 And protesters from the Reclaim the Streets campaign brought along a huge red dragon.

 A rally at the end of the march completely filled the Conway Hall.

 The dockers' leader, Jimmy Nolan, told the rally of their successful efforts to win
intemational solidarity from other dockers around the world, who have boycotted ships bound
for Liverpool.

 This has led to shipping lines threatening to pull out of the port and put enormous pressure
on the employers to resolve the dispute.

 And he called on other sections of the working class to build similar international alliances.

 Irene Campbell of Women of the Waterfront spoke about the solidarity campaign among the
families and friends of the dockers and said it is for the bosses to turn, not the workers.

 Malkiat Bilku spoke on behalf of the Hillingdon Hospital workers who have also been in
dispute for over a year for refusing to accept a 20 per cent pay cut and worsening conditions.

 She said: "We are taking a stand for the whole working class, against the attacks on the
NHS and privatisation."

 Other speakers included left wing journalist John Pilger ane Labour MPs Tony Benn and
Jeremy Corbyn.

 Jeremy Corbyn spoke abou the impact of anti-union laws or the dockers' dispute and called
on an incoming Labour government to repeal all the Tories anti-union legislation.

 "You don't defeat anti-trade union legislation by co-operating with it," he said, "you defeat it
by opposing it."

 The striking dockers will meet this Friday to consider an offer that the Mersey Docks and
Harbour Company has described as the "ultimate closing offer".

 The dockers will be offered the chance to apply for one of 40 jobs in the port with a 25,000
severance package for those who do not take up a post.

 But it excludes those employees of the subsidiary company who were involved in the
original dispute.

 Early in 1996, the dockers turned down a similar package, which was not half so generous
as the employers claimed when the small print was examined closely.


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