New Worker Online Archive
Week of 8th November 1996

1) Lead story - Tory union bashing sinks to a new low.
2) Editorial - Land of the free?
3) International news - US elections: Right consolidates against the people.
4) British news - Workfare pilot schemes.
5) Feature -  Daddy, we hardly know you.

1) Lead story

Tory union bashing sinks to a new low

THE TUC last week slammed a leaked government paper which threatens a new round of
attacks on the trade unions and further undermines the right to strike. It shows, said the TUC,
that the Tories are "plumbing new depths" in union bashing.

 According to the document the period of notice for strike action after union members have
taken a vote could be doubled to two weeks and unions could face claims for damages if a
strike is deemed too effective. Presumably it'd be OK for workers to make small gestures
which have little impact on the bosses.

 Other proposals include making strike ballots here the backing of a majority ofthose entitled
to vote, rather than a majority of those actually voting. And in a long-running dispute fresh
ballots would have to be held evety three months.

 Unions would also be handicapped at the negotiating table by restrictions limiting the unions'
right to company information for collective bargaining.

 Trade union activists would also lose the rightto have time off for canying out their union

 Anti-union laws imposed by successive Tory governments have already shackled the unions
and created a legal minefield for them to negotiate in any dispute.

 Now they hope to tighten the chains and outlaw strikes altogether. But they will not be able
to stop industrial actions. There would inevitably be an increase in unofficial disputes, wildcat
strikes and a resurgence of the fight to repeal the anti-union laws.

 There was no mention of these proposals in the Queen's Speech. So these plans are not
likely to come into force this side of the general election.

 But it is expected the Tories will use this green paper to put the Labour Party under pressure
to respond with anti-strike proposals of their own. It is therefore vital that trade unionists and
Labour Party members exert plenty of pressure of their own to make sure the Labour leaders
are not tempted to take the bait.

 TUC general secretary John Monks said the Tories had misjudged the mood of the country.
"People are more concerned over job security than recent public sector strikes", he said.

 Last weekend it was reported that a TUC poll showed four out of five voters thought the Tory
plans were just electioneering. Most people polled thought underfunding of public services
was far more important than attacking unions.

This is not 1979, when an orchestrated media campaign against the unions helped to put
Lady Thatcher in number ten.

 Today there are more people unemployed and more of the people in work are being pushed
around by muscular mnnagements demanding longer working hours with less protection.

 There has not been a public outcry at the series of strikes this summer -- apart that is from
the government and the Tory press.

 Many workers sympathise with striking transport, postal and other workers. More and more it
is the employers who are seen as unreasonable and many workers identify with those on
strike because they are suffering too.

 The Tories know their days could be numbered. They want Labour to take over their rotten
legacy of bashing the unions. That will certainly be bitterly opposed by the trade unionists
who are affiliated to the Labour Party and many other rank and file members.

 We need to speak up now and make it clear to the Tones and the Labour leaders that this is
a plan too far. And we need to step up the struggle against all the antiunion laws of the past
17 years.


2) Editorial

Land of the free?

THE United States Presidential election with its drawnout campaigns and showbizzy hype
has filled countless pages of newsprint in every corner of the world and been watched by
billions of the world's people on TV.

 This reflects the position of the US as the foremost imperialist power. But it is also projected
to the four comers of the earth as a means of showcasmg US-style democracy.

 It's hard to see why the US leaders always appear so puffed up about their so-called
democratic process.

 After all,just over half the citizens of the US didn't use their vote at all in this election and in
all Presidential elections the only candidates to stand a realistic chance of winning are those
with millions of dollars behind them.

 Of course there has been criticism of the role of money in US elections and there are now
imposed spending limits on candidates. But in practice this restriction has been overcome by
directing money into negative campaigning -- instead of buying advertising to promote your
own candidate, which is subject to the limits, you buy advertising to attack your opponent. At
the end of the day big money still counts.

 It is therefore not very surprising that half of America -- for the most part the poorest and
most disadvantaged sector -- are not inspired to vote for any of the rich candidates vying for
their support.

 Of course there were still many working class Americans who did cast their vote, either for
the Democrats or for the smaller parties of the left -- not because they expect very much
from Bill Clinton but largely because they feared a Republican president would introduce
such swingeing public spending cuts the people would end up with no welfare safety net at

 In all capitalist societies there is class struggle. It is a struggle inherent in the capitalist
system and exists whether people consciously seek it or not.

 Since capital is only invested for the purpose of making private profits, and since those
profits are created by the exploitation of labour there is bound to be struggle.

 Capital will seek to increase the rate of exploitation and labour will resist that. And similarly
labour's efforts to raise worldng people's standard of living are resisted by capital.

 Capitalist political parties all support capital in the class struggle both at home and abroad.
They differ in that they may reflect different sectional interests within the ruling capitalist
class and they may differ in the extent to which they art: prepared to make concessions to
working class pressure.

 In all capitalist countries, including our own, the electoral system enables the govemment to
be changed. But it is not a means to allow the mass of the people to change the system -- to
overthrow capitalism.

 For as long as the ruling capitalist class holds state power in its grasp the system of
capitalism will remain -- whatever govemment is elected.

 The class which holds state power has at its disposal the strength of the armed forces,
armed militias and the police. These "bands of armed men", as Lenin called them, enable the
ruling class to hold power -- at the last resort by coercion and force.

 No ruling class puts all of this up for grabs every five years at election time. Bourgeoise
elections and Parliament were designed by the ruling class. In the beginning working class
people didn't even have a vote. Women have only had the vote since just after the Fist
World War and in the US many black people have only been able to vote since the Civil
Rights movement of the 1960s.

 Having extended the franchise to the working class the ruling class is able to give a
semblance of democracy to cover the mailed fist inside the velvet glove.

 The parliamentary system creates other illusions in some people's minds -- that capitalism
can be ended through the ballot box. It cannot -- if there was any real possibility of that the
ballot box would quickly be taken away -- much more quickly than it was given.

 Ending the system of capitalism and creating a socialist society necessitates a revolution in
which state poweris seized by the working class.

 That does not mean we should ignore bourgeoise democracy and refuse to vote in elections.

It won't bring us state power or socialism. But it does offer a means of exerting pressure to
defend the gains our class has already won and to fight for fresh demands.

 It is a part of the overall struggle. It provides an opportunity to raise important issues when
the media and public attention is focused political campaigning. In Britain it gives a chance
for organised labour, the trade unions, to exert pressure on the Labour Party to which they
are still organisationally linked. It would be a mistake to think that is all we need to do.


3) International

US elections: Right consolidates against the people

by Steve Lawton

PRESIDENT Clinton was reelected for a second term, but what's changed? "In these
capitalist elections it's been a vote for the status quo", US weekly Workers World editor
Deirdre Griswold told Lhe New Worker. It means welfare, education, housing,jobs, labour
organisaLion and immigration rightswill continue to be hammered.

 "Not all the dust has settled, but some things are: clear," said Chicago-based monthly
People's Tribune as they went to press. 'Where there seemed to be some kind of alternative
to vote for, people very often did.


 "People in Minnesota, for example, voted against 'welfare reform' by re-electing Senator
Paul Wellstone, who touted the fact that he voted against the 'reform' bill. And millions of
Califomians, led by women and young people, voted against the anti-affirmative action
Proposition 209 which, unfortunately, passed."

 Coupled with this are the evermore repressive and unbridled policing powers which are
fueling racist attacks. The killing of Aaron White, a 29-year-old black owner of a TV repair
shop in Leland, Mississippi on 17 Cctober is yet another typical case.

 It sparked off an angry reaction from protesters last Wednesday night when they marched to
police headquarters in an attempt to meet officials for an explanation. Around 10 business
premises were subsequently reported damaged, several police vehicles pelted with rocks and
one cops house showered with stones and rocks.

 White was shot in the head after allegedly fleeing from the police because his car was
involved in traffrc accident. But according to a protest organiser the police changed their
initial story that White was shot after a police officer "saw" White shoot first, to saying that
White accidentally killed himself while scrambling through bushes to evade the police.

 This is the reality that will continue with the Senate (54 Republican, 46 Democrat) and
House of Representatives (227 Republican, 208 Democrat) retaining Republican control. The
reactionary right is tightening its noose around the necks of America's people.

 Republican Oliver North of Nicaraguan Contra arms scandal infamy, claimed Tuesday night
on BBC television just prior to Clinton's election, that America is becoming more
conservative and that Clinton has moved closer to Republican positions pushing the
Democrats' liberal wing aside.

 Clinton's vote of 44.6 million, the lowest since 1924, shows less that America is more
conservative (apart from North's ruling class America) than that the elections are being seen
as offering nothing for the majority.

 North disliked references to the right-wing, oddly preferring what he called "fiscal and
cultural conservatives". He said that in Congress the balance is with conservative Democrats
and conservative Republicans and that will dominate the country's political process. Deirdre
Griswold said the parties spent $600 million dollars in the presidential elections.

The idea that Clinton has moved to the "centre of American opinion" clearly indicates that
since the Republican's retain control of the Senate and House of Representatives, Clinton is
continuing to move to the right. This is also suggested by the fact that little has been
forthcoming about his future plans, And the threat of Republican-inspired investigations into
Clinton's activities after the election is obviously intended to keep him "on track".

 The Republican-Democrat realignment and crackdown on workers, Peoples Tribune
explains, "is a necessity, not an option. For them, it is the means to stay competitive with
other capitalists, and the means to preserve capitalism in the electronic age.

 "Yet there is cause for hope. The people are still struggling, fighting welfare cuts, fighting for
homes, decent jobs, and health care, and confronting police violence."


4) British news

Workfare pilot schemes

THE GOVERNMENT is planning a rapid expansion of Project Work -- the British version of
US style workfare -- after two pilot schemes involving up to 8,000 people at Medway and
Maidstone in Kent and Hull.

 The scheme involves forcing the unemployed to work for their benefits and, although it costs
the government quite a bit to set up the schemes, Its chief advantage from the govemment's
point of view is that it gets people off the unemployed register.

 Those who benefit are the employers who get free labour -- though in the initial schemes
many of these are various public services rather than commercial concerns.

 The government is pleased with the results of the pilot schemes that show a lot of people
leaving the unemployment register, although only a handful have gone on to find real jobs.

 Education and employment secretary Gillian Shephard said: "The early results from the first
pilots have been impressive. Project work is having a significant effect in helping people who
have been out of work for a very long lime and who really want a job, and in weeding out
those who don't."

 Jobseekers face losing their benefits if they refuse a place on a scheme -- even though this
may prevent them getting out and finding a real job.

 After the schemes, large numbers have disappeared from the unemployment register. Of
the Kent clients only 120 outof 2,481 found jobs that had been advertised in the local Job

 But 20 per cent have left the unemployed register after the first 13 weeks and another 37 per
cent left at the compulsory work experience stage.

 Shephard claims this shows their claims were probably not genuine. But Maidstone project
manager Bob Keen speculated that some had been pushed into the "black economy".

 The TUC has condemned Project Work as a step on the road to workfare while the Labour
Party has described it as a gimmick which attempts to "boot camp youngsters in particular off
the official dole register into bogus workfare schemes which will do nothing to solve long
term unemployment."

5) Feature

Daddy, we hardly know you

by Caroline Colebrook

MORE THAN a quarter of fathers work over 50 hours a week and as a result their
relationships with their children suffer, according to a report issued last week by the Joseph
Rowntree Trust.

 Job insecurity forces parents to work longer and longer hours. But this means that affected
families rarely get to eat meals together, make social visits as a family or have friends and
relatives in to visit them.

 Parents forced to work at weekends are unable to take their children for days out.
 And it is this factor which is undermining traditional family life.

 The study examined the lives of nearly 6,000 parents.

 It found little evidence that having two parents working fulltime did any damage if those
hours were reasonable, but long working hours made family life much harder.

 Nearly 10 per cent of fathers worked more than 60 hours a week; a further 18 percent
worked over 50 hours and 39 per cent over 40 hours.

 Two out of three fathers regularly worked unsocial hours in the evenings or at weekends and
one in seven mothers worked at nights.

 This leads to what is known as "shift parenting" where the parents rarely get time together.

 Even when such families do find time to be together, they are too tired to enjoy each other's
company or engage in family activities.

 The report also found that mothers, even when they work full-time, still carry the main
burden of childcare as well as cooking, cleaning and other household jobs.

 The longer hours the fathers work, the less they are likely to help around the home.

 But even where the father was unemployed and the mother working, there was little
evidence that the father made a significant contribution to child and home care.

 "Mothers in these families appear to carry an especially heavy burden," the report said.
 The report also said that when botll parents were out of worl there were relatively high level:
of unhappiness, dissatisfaction and vulnerability to depression.

 The extent to which father: shared in the care and upbringing of children was a key factor in
the happiness and satisfaction with married life of mothers.

 Fathers indicated that their marital happiness and satisfaction was not strongly linked their
involvement with children.

 Both mothers and fathers whe had a high level of domestic responsibility, combined with
long working hours, complained of stress.

 The report found that tax exemption for workplace nurseries has made little impact on the
availability of childcare for working parents. Elsa Ferri, one of the researchers who wrote the
report said: "Greater job insecurity, more casual employment and pressure: to work long
hours have been antipathetic to family life.

 "And this underlines the need for employment policies that heIp parents to cope."

 The report comes at a difficult moment for the Tory government, which is trying to claim that
it supports traditional family values, at the same time as chalIenging the European Union
over a maximum 48-hour working week.

 The European Court of Justice is expected to rule within a week that Britain must implement
the rule, which the British government has been resisting since it was contained in a directive
in 1993.

 The Tories are planning to dig their heels in anti have threatened to veto any EU reforms
proposed at the current intergovernmental conference unless the judgement is overturned.
 If the govemment loses this battle, the privatised utilities could face court action if they
expected their workers to carry on for more than 48 hours a week.

 Failure to implement the directive by 23 November will leave workers free to sue any public
sector employer who fails to observe its limitations.

 This follows a recent ruling in a case involving South West Water that public utilities are
"emanations of the state".

 Individuals in the private sector will be able to sue the government for failure to implement
the directive, but no cases are likely to be able to reach court before the next general

 Labour leader Tony Blair says his party, if elected, would implement the directive. The TUC
also supports the directive.

  Recent medical research at the University of California in San Diego indicated that late
nights lower the body's immune system and can increase the risk of cancer.

 Professor Michael Irwin found that when people, whose normal bedtime is around Il pm,
were kept up until 3 am, the next moming their first line of defence against viruses and
tumours -the natural killer cells -- were depleted.

 He said the effects were remarkable for such a small amount of sleep loss.

 He is now planning a wider study of the links between sleep deprivation and illness.

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