The New Worker

The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain

Week commencing 21st November, 1997

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Editorial - Where's the money?
Lead Story - Workers win damages for privatisation.
Feature - A poor deal on air pollution.
International - Stand-off in the Gulf.
British News - Anti-fascist unity in Dover.


 Where's the money?

 PRESIDENT Clinton's recent call for another military onslaught against Iraq met with a cool response from most of Washington's former coalition "partners". But Britain's Labour government was the exception. Tony Blair, with all the panting eagerness of a well-trained puppy, immediately sprang up and ran to heel.

 Blair even agreed to be used as the mouthpiece for Washington's threats of war. There can be no doubt that in the event of a United States-led military attack, British troops would once again be setting off for the Gulf and British jets would be raining death from the skies onto the beleagured people of Iraq.

 As usual, the British people have not been consulted about this craven and barbarous policy. But we can and should protest loudly against these renewed threats of war and demand an end to the inhuman sanctions imposed against Iraq and other countries targeted by the imperialist camp.

 It is interesting to note the things the government did not say -- no qualms were expressed about the cost of a military attack on the Gulf -- Ministry of Defence officials did not have to go cap in hand to the Treasury to be told to wait until next year's budget for their war

 But then money for the imperialist war machine never seems in short supply, unlike money for NHS treatments such as hip and knee replacements or decent pay for nurses and other hospital workers.

 Within days of threatening war it was reported that waiting times for so-called "non-urgent" treatment on the NHS had lengthened. The government has still not kept its election pledge to shorten the NHS queues because, it says, there is not enough money in the public purse.

 But just a few weeks ago the government found millions of pounds in that same public purse to pay for Trident nuclear missiles to be upgraded. There is apparently enough money to bomb Baghdad and to send warships, planes and troops to advance the oil interests of the United States!

 For years we have been told again and again that the country cannot afford this and cannot afford that. The welfare state has been steadily eroded and cuts have been made in every area of social provision.

 This attack on the social wage reflects the continuing crisis of capitalism that affects the entire capitalist world. In Britain the real economy is relatively weak, our manufacturing industry has declined over the years so that it now represents just 30 per cent of the economy.

 The crisis has led to higher levels of unemployment. This means more people are forced to claim state benefits and less are earning enough to pay income tax. Public spending has risen as a direct result of capitalism's inability, and unwillingness, to create a sufficient number of decent, full time jobs.

 Because capitalism is in crisis all over the world, the measures to try and solve the crisis at the expense of the working class are evident in every capitalist country.

 The European Union is no exception and it has written into the Maastricht Treaty on the conditions for achieving European Monetary Union that countries must reduce public spending to a common (and very low) level.

 The fight for decent universal health care, education, pensions, benefits and other forms of local and national social provision centres around three main demands; raising direct income tax on the rich minority and reversing the huge taxation bonanza this sector has enjoyed since 1979; rejecting the Maastricht Treaty and the European Union and; redirecting money from weapons of mass destruction such as Trident and imperialist warmongering nto socially useful spending.

 A military attack on Iraq would be a criminal act that would shame our country. It would also harm the interests of working people in Britain as resources would be wasted on further military spending and our essential public services, already seriously underfunded, would be squeezed even tighter.

 The struggle for peace and the fight to defend the interests of the working class nationally and internationally are one and the same fight.

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Lead Story

Workers win damages for privatisation.

By Daphne Liddle
TRADE unions representing public sector workers won a major court victory last week on behalf of thousands who suffered pay and conditions cuts when their jobs were privatised under the Tory government.

 The victory came when the current Labour government decided not to contest a case brought by the TGWU general union on behalf of Doncaster refuse collector David Bradley.

 He and all his workmates suffered when in 1991 Doncaster Metropolitan Council transferred it's refuse disposal system to the private sector -- under pressure from Tory compulsory cotnpetitive tendering laws.

 The transfer led to eight workers being sacked and the re-engagement of 59 others on reduced terms and conditions.

 David Bradley's pay was cut from £185 a week to £540 a month, equivalent to a reduction of around £60 a week -- 33 per cent.

 His holiday entitlement was cut from 25 days to 15, his sick pay entitlement was abolished, he was forced to leave the local government pension scheme but not provided with an occupational pension, he was compelled to do overtime work and his union was de-recognised.

 The High Court ruled last Tuesday that this breached European Employment laws under the 1 977 transfer of undertakings regulations (Tupe) and that the Tory government knowingly broke the Euro laws by failing to protect workers.

 Throughout the 1980s thousands of workers lost jobs and wages through privatisations.

 Then in 1993 the TGWU won a test case on behalf of Eastbourne refuse collectors which forced the Tories to change the laws in Britain to conform with the European job protection regulations.

 But the Tories continued to ignore the plight of those who had already suffered.

 But last week the High Court was told that, in legal actions brought by the TGWU, GMB and Unison unions, the govern ment was advised 10 times betveen 1983 and 1992 that it was breaking the law.

 And last week the Trade and Industry Department accepted that the British government had breached the 1977 Tupe directive.

 This ruling will open the way for 1,500 local government and health service employees who suffered sacking or wage cuts as a result of the privatisation of their jobs.

 Roger Poole, assistant general secretary of the public sector union Unison, said: "Today's landmark ruling is a posthumous page in the last government's book of injustice."

 And TGWU national secretary Jack Dromey said: "For 10 years, Tory ministers deliberately broke the law because they wanted to promote a Dutch auction of those who could pay the least to the fewest, in the privatisation of public services.

 "Let's hope Mr Bradley and other members will now get the Christmas present they deserve after six bitter years."

 If the Tupe regulations had been enforced by the Tory government, the whole privatisation policy could not have worked.

 Private firms tendering to do public sector work, more cheaply than it was already being done, could only accomplish this and make a profit for themselves by slashing jobs and wages.

 The privatisations were a money-making bonanza for cheapskate bosses like Pall Mall cleaning service -- which dismissed the Hillingdon strikers for refusing to accept pay and conditions cuts.

And the fight against this abuse must continue. The Tupe regulations on their own did not defend the workers -- it took long-term persistent union action to do that.

 And there are thousands of other workers still out there in the cold in need of union solidarity. As the Hillingdon strikers and Liverpool dockers point out, compensation is no substitute for getting the jobs back on the original terms and conditions.

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A poor deal on air pollution.

By Caroline Colebrook

THE POORER people of London are forced to endure higher levels of air pollution thin the rest of the population according to a report, Poor Show, released earlier this month by the transport campaign group ALARM and the Greenwich anti-pollution groups Gasp.

 The report is based mainly on south-east London but its findings apply to all large towns and cities.

 It found that poor people are more likely to suffer because they are more likely to live on or near to main roads.

 Gasp secretary Phillip Connolly said that neatly half the households in the London Borough of Greenwich do not own a car but they have to live with the problems caused by others.

 "These are the poorest people. They do not contribute to air and noise pollution hut they are constantly faced with policies favouring car owners."

 He said that more afflluent people campaign for traffic calming measures in residential streets and councils respond to their complaints.

 "This means that even more traffic is re-routed onto main roads affecting poor people even more.

 And Dr Barry Gray, a campaigner who is also a consultant in respiratory diseases at Kings College, said: "When the transport department considers making roads they choose the line of least resistance -- parks and poor residential areas. If there is any fuss from middle class people they drop the project."

 He went on say that asthma and respiratory diseases are increasing and while it has not been delinitely proven that traffic pollution causes these diseases it certainly aggravates them.

 The main pollutant gases that form a brown haze across the Thames valley on calm, windless days are nitrogen dioxide, ozone, sulphur dioxide, benzene, butadiene and tiny particles.

 These are all irritants and some cause cancer at high enough concentrations.

 More than a million cars enter London every day. each giving off exhaust fumes. Nearly half of these are just passing through the capital.

 The number of trips of two miles or less by car has increased by 45 percent in London over the past few years. while journeys by bicycle, foot and bus have declined.

 But counterposing the needs of the poorest workers against those who live in the better off areas, further out of town, is not the answer.

 Those who campaign effectively against traffic pollution in their own residential areas should be seen as an example.

 Those workers who can afford them, use their cars to commute because public transport is so abystnal, expensive and unreliable.

 The Fares Fair policy implemented by the Greater London Council in the 1970s showed that making public transport cheaper led to a dramatic fall in car use, less congestion and so better time-keeping by buses.

 And a large proportion of the pollution is caused not by cars but by heavy lorries. South-east London is currently divided by a ban on heavy lorries using the roads through the centre of historic Greenwich.

 This has brought relief for those who live along that route but pushed the problem onto Blackheath and Deptford.


 This cannot be a permanent solution. The only answer is to get most of the heavy freight onto the railways -- or back onto river barges. The Thames is now nearly empty of traffic.

 ALARM UK and Gasp are calling on the Blair government to take decisive action on the findings of the 1994 Royal Commission into environmental pollution which was ignored by the Tories.

 Dr Gray said: "We had silence from the Tories for three years and now seven months' silence from Labour.

 "The Transport Secretary, John Prescott, now has a supplementary report and we're calling on him to do something about it."

  Residents of Clitheroe, is Lancashire, are having their lives blighted by pollution from a giant cement factory, Castle Cement, owned by the Scandinavian Scancem group.

 Hazardous fumes hang so thick in the air they penetrate the wards of a local hospital where elderly people are treated for lung complaints.

 Environment Agency investigators found air pollution levels on three wards at the Clitheroe Hospital to be well over the government`s recommended "healthy" limits. Pollution on one ward was nearly three times the limit.

 The company has denied that it is responsible for the air pollution. But it was fined £6,500 last month with £2,000 costs for four separate pollution incidents.

 Such fines are very small flea bites to such a big company.

 Local residents are suffering heart, liver and breathing problems arising from the pollution and asthma cases in local schools have risen to abnormal levels.

 A Health and Safety Executive inspection found that pipes and storage tanks are badly corroded and there have been several leaks and spills at the plant.

 One hospital spokesperson commented:  "How can we treat patients  for respiratory problems when the wards are full of pollution?"

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Stand-off in the Gulf.

By our Middle East affairs correspondent
ANGLO-AMERICAN warships and strike aircraft are pouring into the Gulf while diplomatic moves to end the crisis focus on Russian efforts to broker a compromise between Iraq and the United States.

 In Geneva, Foreign Minister Robin Cook, together with his American and French counterparts, will hear a report from Russian Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov about his talks with the Iraqis and Russian ideas for a peaceful resolution of the UN inspection teams' dispute.

 Britain and the United States are beefing up their war-machine to confront Iraq. US B-52 bombers and Stealth fighters have joined the US task-force in Arabian water; and the Royal Navy's aircraft carrier Invincible is steaming to the Gulf.

 American military pundits openly speculate on Washington's military options in the media -- dutifully repeated by Tony Blair in London who is talking tough to impress his American allies.

 "We must reserve the option of force if diplomatic means fail," Blair told the BBC, adding "Saddam Hussein should get the message and get it clear and straight -- these UN resolutions are there to protect the world. We are not allowing you to develop weapons of mass destruction".

 But this time round "the world" is having second thoughts and opposition to Anglo-American aggression is growing, not least in Paris, Moscow and Beijing.

 So for the first time British and American diplomats are hinting that if Iraq backs down and accepts the return of the American "experts" in the UN disarmament teams, they would consider easing the crippling blockade.

 But US National Security Adviser Samuel Berger's offer of "modest adjustments" to the current oil-for-food agreements was dismissed by Iraqi Foreign Minister Muhammad Said al-Sahaf as "Berger's crumbs". "It has nothing to do with this issue," Said al-Sahal said stressing that Iraq wants a firm date for the end of the sanctions which have caused the deaths of over a million Iraqi children over the past seven years.

 Al-Sahaf did not rule out the return of the Americans on the weapon inspection teams if the make-up was restructured in a "fair, objective and scientific manner".

Iraq maintains that the US experts have been deliberately stalling on orders from Washington to prolong the sanctions indefinitely to bring down the Iraqi government -- a view at last gaining ground in the rest of the Arab world which decisively spurned American efforts to woo them into a new anti-Iraq coalition last week.

 And the Arabs struck a further blow to American pretensions in the Middle East with the whole sale boycott of the Doha conference set up by the United States as an instrument to allow Israel to establish diplomatic and economic links with the entire Arab world.

 Last week, US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright toured the Gulf to drum up support for American reprisals against Iraq and to ensure their attendance at the Doha "Middle East and North Africa Economic Conference" in the oil-rich Gulf stale of Qatar. She found that there were no takers on either count.

 The Saudi Arabian king and the rest of the oil-sheikhs, including even the puppet Emir of Kuwait, publicly refused to back an American attack on Iraq. And most of them backed-off from the Doha conference in protest at Israel's refusal to honour the Oslo peace accords with the Palestinians ensuring that it would flop, much to Washington's embarrassment.

 At the same time the Iraqis launched a diplomatic offensive of their own, sending their foreign minister to Moscow and deputy premier Tariq Aziz on a lightning tour offiive Arab countries -- Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya and Egypt -- to seek support for Baghdad's position in the ongoing crisis with US and British imperialism.

 Iraqi President Saddam Hussein has stated that Iraq does not want another conflict with the United States. Addressing his cabinet last Sunday, Saddam said Iraq was ready to address the problem of implementing the UN resolutions through dialogue, while stressing that Iraq will not accept any other solutions to the current crisis.

 The Iraqi leader expressing his satisfaction at the stand taken by the international community and the Arab world in particular towards the stand-off between the United States and Iraq. He urged all parties concerned to take the same stand on the issue and seek a political solution to the crisis.

 The fact that even the most pro-American Arab regimes, which include Egypt and Saudi Arabia, are now counselling conciliation and concessions to Iraq is a sign of how low American and British prestige has sunk in the Arab world. The reason is, as always, Palestine.

 The "peace process" is virtually dead. Israel's Netanyahu government refuses to honour the Oslo agreements let alone move forward to a final settlement -all with the tacit support of the Americans who are happy to ignore UN resolutions on Palestine but are ever eager to reach for their missiles and Stealth bombers when it comes to Iraq or any other Arab country that dares to defy them.


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British News

Anti-fascist unity in Dover.
by New Worker correspondents
 HUNDREDS of anti-fascists from different organisations, including a number of trade unions, rallied in Dover last Saturday and succecded in preventing a march against gypsy refugees, organised by the fascist National Front.

 Police heavily outnumbered both fascists and anti-fascists and tried to keep the anti-fascists confined in a cordoned off area while the fascists marched along the esplanade.

 But a number of anti-fascists, mainly from the public sector Unison and the Anti-Nazi League, were able to reach the planned march route and confront the fascists.

 Only 40 or so fascists turned out at all. They were recognisable as being a mixed bunch from the NF, British National Party and Combat 18. They only succeeded in matching for a few hundred yards before the police opted to bundle them back into their coach and whisk them away.

 Some of the fascists, ever opportunists and trying desperately to pick up support on any issue, had the cheek to wear red poppies and others sported the yellow ribbons of the Louise Woodward support campaign.

 They were unable to distribute the large bundles of propaganda they had brought with them.

 The police presence included two helicopters, a boat at sea and riot police with dogs that were unleashed. A number of people were bitten. There were two teams of police photographers, snapping everyone there.

 The police attacked some anti-fascists who had positioned themselves to defend the bed-and-breakfast accommodation where the refugee gypsies, from the former Czechoslovakia. were staying.

 The appearance of the fascists, many of them skinheads, was calculated to be especially threatening to the gypsies who have fled a terror campaign against them in their own country, involving over 30 murders and many arson attacks, carried out by Czech and Slovak fascist skinheads.

 After the fascists had departed, the anti-fascists held an impromptu meeting on the esplanade that was good humoured and well received. An ANL speaker pointed out that the homelessness, poverty and unemployment currently afflicting the Dover area were not created by the gypsies who have done nothing to hurt or offend anyone.

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