The New Worker

The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain

Week commencing 5th February, 1999

Workers of all countries, unite!

Welcome To Our Weekly Digest Edition

Please feel free to use this material provided the New Worker is informed and credited.

Editorial - Brown budges on pay.
Lead Story - Jam for a few - but not enough.
Feature - London firefighters face new cuts.
International - Iraqi skies ablaze again.
British News - Police racism intolerable.


Brown budges on pay

  THE freeze on public sector workers' pay, annouced only last year by Chancellor Gordon Brown, was  clearly breached in last week's pay round. And some of the awards, like the recommended offer of 11.5 per cent for nursing recruits, are well above the rate of inflation.

  This small shift in the government's position is a response to mounting concern over the desperate shortage  of NHS nurses. It's a crisis caused by rotten pay and increasingly difficult working conditions, including, a rising number of assaults upon nurses and other NHS staff,unsocial shift patterns, and having to cope every day  and every night with the effects of under-staffing and under-funding.

  The extra money for nursing recruits is to be welcomed -- it's certainly a better deal than anything the Tory government offered or would have made if it was still in  office.

  Even so, the vast majority of public sector workers are only being offered between 3.5 and 4.5 per cent -- far too  little for workers who've had their pay pegged down for years.

  This pay round also demonstrates the continuing efforts to divide workers by singling out some groups of workers for higher pay while leaving others -- the majority -- out  in the cold.

  Nurses, while they don't begrudge the higher starting  pay, are nonetheless angry that experienced staff are once again expected to put up with a derisory offer. What's more they say, the recommended deal will do nothing to attract back into the NHS those nurses who left the job to seek better paid work with better conditions.

  Teachers are also angry at the divisive nature of the pay offers -- around 3.5 per cent for most classroom teachers while the minority -- head teachers -- will get up to 9.5 per cent.

  And it's not just the different treatment that has angered  them -- they are even more concerned that once again the government is trying to impose a glorified productivity deal by talk of cuts in holiday periods and longer working hours.

  This all comes on top of government proposals for performance related pay and, most recently, a system of extra pay for excellence, in other words, the creation of super teachers and super nurses.

  It is hard to imagine anything more divisive in the workplace and is especially worrying since schools and hospitals both need to be places where people can work together in an atmosphere of harmony and co-operation, not rivalry and resentment.

  All of these schemes are part of a wider campaign by  bosses in both the public and private sector to destroy what remains of national collective pay bargaining, to undermine the principle of the rate for the job, to weaken trade  unionism by making some workers more privileged than others and to encourage individualism.

  The ultimate purpose of course is to stifle effective opposition, put wages under attack and cut labour costs at our expense. It is in fact a strategy to increase the level of exploitation still further.

  It is therefore vital that all trade unionists vigorously oppose attempts to impose "super" worker schemes in which an elite few get more while everyone else gets peanuts. We need to oppose divisive pay awards and demand a return to national collective bargaining.

  And we need to use our own organising ability to counter anti-union, divide and rule campaigns by the bosses. An important step forward would be to work for a policy of industrial unionism -- one union for each industry.

  This would assist national collective pay bargaining, it would help workers to overcome some of the obstacles  created by the Tories' anti-union laws and would make the  trade unions very much stronger.

  At the end of the day it is the fight we put up that decides how well we will be able to defend the interests of the working class -- not how reasonably we appeal to the  government for fair treatment. And that means being  organised, standing together and, when necessary, taking  industrial action.

 To have our forces divided among several unions in the same industry is to fight a battle using only one flank at a time -- we need to bring all out forces together in common struggles for the benefit of all.

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Lead Story

Jam for a few - but not enough

by Daphne Liddle
 THE GOVERNMENT has finally come up with a better pay deal for newly-qualified nurses. But it is allocated in a divisive way. Most nurses will only be a little better off.

 And other public sector workers are still left with the same old tiny pay rise linked to productivity strings.

 The whole package of public sector pay awards is very complex and divisive.

 Newly qualified nurses will get 12 per cent, taking their pay from £12,855 a year to £14,400. This is still hardly a decent wage for a highly skilled job and after three year's training. But percentage rises are like that, if the wage is very small to begin with, even a large percentage is not very much.

 One New Worker correspondent recently confined to a west London hospital reported that news of the pay awards had "not led to any dancing in the wards" and that overall the nurses were angry there had been no decent across-the-board pay rise.

 Some nurses felt that the 12 per cent could put some newly qualified nurses in an awkward position. One of them said: "Some older nurses may feel resentful after giving their best years to nursing" when they only get 4.7 per cent.

 Another older, highly qualified nurse said of the 4.7 per cent: "It's hardly worth bothering about. They give it to you with one hand and take it back with the other. The tax man is the one who always wins."

 Other health workers' fortunes are very varied: doctors get between 3.5 and 4.3 per cent while some therapists get some long overdue recognition with 8.6 per cent.

 The extra money for some nurses will be funded partly from the emergency allocation given to the NHS last year to alleviate the coming winter crisis and partly from some extra cash that Health Secretary Frank Dobson found in his budgetary "back pocket".

 Teaching is a nother profession with a recruitment crisis with junior head teachers getting 9.5 per cent while most other teachers will get only 3.5 per cent.

 A recent survey found that senior secretaries are paid on average £300 a week while primary school teachers get £297.

 And teachers will have to submit an annual dossier on the performance of their pupils in national examinations and even classroom tests to get any rise at all, under proposals for a new pay structure outlined last week.

 There is a threat that teachers who "under-perform" could see their pay docked -- though many of the factors governing pupils' performances in exams (for instance Ievels of poverty, deprivation, illness and soon) are well beyond the control of teachers. And exams results are only a very superficial barometer of the quality of teaching.

 The National Union of Teachers is conducting a consultative exercise among members on pay levels. One activist asked the New Worker to remind any NUT members reading this article to fill in their questionnaires as quickly as possible.

 Top civil servants will have their pay capped at 2.8 per cent while judges will do nicely with between five and six per cent -- on top of salaries that are already very handsome.

 Army officers will be restricted to 3.5 per cent and elected officials like MPs to 4.3 per cent.

 This public sector pay package is better than any from the Tories. But it is nowhere near adequate to make up for year upon year of pay freezes and falling behind.

 Chancellor Gordon Brown does have more money than he is spending and he could have plenty if he would only adopt a socially just taxation system.

 And the government must address the problems brought about by year on year of staff cuts throughout the public sector, leaving those still in jobs with punishing workloads.

 The longer people are expected to work under this sort of pressure, trying to accomplish the impossible with too few staff, the more will go sick, become burnt out or quit altogether, leaving the situation even worse for those left behind.

 No worker should be under pressure to make themselves ill with overwork. Pay is not the only issue.

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London firefighters face new cuts
by Caroline Colebrook
 MEMBERS of the Fire Brigades Union were out last Saturday in shopping centres across London collecting petition signatures against yet another round of proposed cuts from the London Fire and Civil Defence Authority.

 This comes barely six months after a fierce battle by firefighters and local communities failed to prevent the closure of the fire stations at Shooters' Hill and the Barbican.

Now the LFCDA is planning to cut a further 116 firefighters' jobs and five fire engines. The decision will be made when the LFCDA budget is set in February.

 If this is allowed to go through there will almost certainly be yet more cuts in future years. The LFCDA is due to be abolished in 2000 and replaced by the Greater London Authority -- it was set up in 1986 when the Tories abolished the Greater London Council

 The Chief Fire Officer has said that in his "professional judgement" the Home Office minimum standards could be achieved and still 31 more stations could be closed and another 1,955 firefighters' jobs and 75 fire engines cut.

increase firefighters

 This would bring the total London establishment of firefighters down to under 4,000. Last year, at a mass FBU lobby of the LFCDA, Ken Livingstone MP told those assembled, that when he was leader of the GLC the very minimum requirement was estimated at 7,000.

 He said then that he could not see any changes to London that could cause a fall in that estimate. Indeed, with worsening traffic slowing down emergency vehicles, and with the coming millennium celebrations, the need has risen.

 But the LFCDA chiefs have been shifting the goalposts by reducing the amount of the Greater London area that is considered at A (maximum) risk from three to two per cent, the amount at B risk from 30 to 12 per cent while the low C and D risk areas now cover 86 per cent of the capital.

 The FBU has responded to calls by local London communities saying they would be willing to pay an extra eight pence a week more in council tax to prevent the cuts.

 Dick Blackler, south London FBU chairperson, said: "We know from what the public tell us when we're out fighting fires that they'd be willing to pay a little more council tax to ensure their homes and families retain the best possible protection from fire.

 "Now we want the people who run London's fire brigade to see the proof."

 Recent Home Office fipnres show that The number of Londoners who died in household fires rose by a third between 1996 and 1998, from 67 to 89.

 During that time, 12 fire engines were cut and 300 firefighters' jobs axed.

 Dick Blackler continued: "These figures prove what firefighters have always said -- that cuts cost lives.

 "The cost of preventing more deaths in the capital is just a few pence every week for every household. The public are prepared to pay the money. The people in power must listen to them."

 The LFCDA claims that in order to prevent the cuts, rises in council tax of around £4 a year for houses banded B to D.

more money needed

 There would of course be another way to prevent the cuts -- for central government to allocate more money to local authotity spending -- and Chancellor Gordon Brown has some surplus in his budget from more income tax revenues than he expected.

 And of course he could also raise taxes on the very wealthy. This is not a poor country and there is no logic to year upon year of spending cuts on the fire service or any other essential service -- except to spare the rich from paying taxes.

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Iraqi skies ablaze again
By Our Middle East Affairs Correspondent
ANGLO-AMERICAN warplanes are continuing to hit Iraq in a continuous struggle with Iraqi air and ground defence units in the northern and southern "no-fly" zones. Baghdad has accused Saudi Arabia of joining in the confrontation with the defiant Arab country.

 And as a US envoy tours the Gulf to drum up support for a new "topple Saddam" campaign the Iraqi government offered bounties to its servicemen for the downing of warplanes and the capture of enemy pilots.

 Iraq's determination to challenge British and US imperialism's domination of their airspace is leading to daily clashes with the US air-force and the RAF. Now Iraq says that the feudal Saudis have ordered their airforce to join the fray at the behest of their American masters.

 Anglo-American jets attacked Iraqi positions in the north and south of the country throughout the week from their bases in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Turkey. Iraqi missile defences have forced some raiders to flee. Others have hit military and civilian targets including a food supply centre in the southern Iraqi province of Najaf. And Iraqi bomb disposal units have disarmed two US Tomohawk Cruise missiles which crashed near Basra in the south and Kirkuk in northern Iraq. Baghdad has so far given no details on Saudi involvement In the battle for control of Iraqi skies it follows a tour of the region by US assistant secretary of state Martin Indyk who is openly touting for oil-prince support for US "covert action" to overthrow the government of Saddam Hussein.

 He called on Iran to join in the campaign and the US envoy made blatant threats on Kuwaiti television warning that the continued threat of military force against Baghdad would continue "until this regime is changed".

 But this was instantly rebuffed by the Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi who called on Britain and the United States to stop using force against Iraq and work to reach a regional consensus for ending the crisis.

 On the UN front Iraq has rejected the latest Western intrigues to prolong the blockade by other means. The Security Council proposals are for three panels to assess Iraq's relations with the United Nations covering disarmament, the condition of the people under sanctions and the reparations and look into Kuwaiti and otherclaims of people still "missing" since the 1991 Gulf War.

 "The work of the three panels on Iraq set up by the Security Council will take months and will mean nothing but procrastination and maintaining the unjust embargo on Iraq," was the response from Baghdad in a statement which called for the unconditional and immediate end to the blockade.

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British News

Police racism intolerable
by Renee Sams
 "WE MUST NOT tolerate racism or a police force in which racism exists," Michael Mansfield QC stressed at a meeting in Tottenham, north London last Thursday, organised by the Michael Menson family campaign for the second anniversary of the murder of their son, Michael.

 Mr Mansfield recalled that over the past 30 years there has been a long list of black people who have suffered death at the hands of racists.

 Among them are Cynthia Jarret, Joy Gardiner, Blair Peach and the most recent -- Roger Sylvester, he said.

 Each was an isolated case but Michael Mansfield told the meeting he was sure there is now a different situation.

 The tenacity of Neville and Doreen Lawrence in leaving no stone unturned in the effort to see justice done for their murdered son Stephen has proved a turning point.

 People are not just turning up at meetings, they are coming together in solidarity. Roger Sylvester's family will be given support and solidarity.

 Members of the Menson family were visibly upset as they recounted the story of finding out about the attack on Michael and the attitude of police officers to this horrendous incident and Michael's painful death from burns 15 days later.

callous police

 Ricky Reel's mother Sukhdev also broke down as she told of her son's murder by racists and the callous attitude of the police officers who came to notify her of the finding of the body in the Thames after a week.

 Both families spoke of their shock and dismay at finding out that the authorities they had thought were there to help and protect them in emergencies turned out to be indifferent, unhelpful and positively antagonistic.

 The police are still not putting any effort into tracing the murderers.

 The Mensons and the Reels made a moving appeal to anybody who knows anything about the deaths of Ricky and Michael and asked for any help they can give in keeping their campaign running and their quest for justice for their loved ones.

 But they are not just grieving nowadays. They are following the example of the Lawrence family who have still not given up and are carrying on determined to fight until Stephen's murderers are brought to justice.

 The formation of the new Race and Violent Crimes task force was given a cautious welcome by the bereaved Families but they are far from convinced that the police have had any change of heart towards the victims of racism.

 Suresh Grover of the Lawrence Family campaign called for a "bold and courageous civil rights movement". Michael Mansfield backed this call, for a movement of ordinary people for a change to a society in which "we do not tolerate racism".

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