The New Worker

The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain

Week commencing 8th January, 1999

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Editorial - Viva Cuba! & Eurohype
Lead Story - Support grows for Heathrow strikers.
Feature - Rural poverty - the ugly secret in Britain's beautiful hillsides.
International - UN leader accuses inspectors of spying.
British News - Flu outbreak exposes NHS weakness.


Viva Cuba!

THIS New Year brings workers everywhere something to celebrate and shout about -- the 40th anniversary of the Cuban Revolution!

 The people of Cuba carried out their revolution in 1959 ousting the corrupt and reactionary regime of Batista. From that historic moment the revolution has been defended and sustained in the teeth of the most virulent hostility and aggression from the imperialist powers.

 Under the leadership of the Cuban Communist Party a socialist society has been built and stunning achievements won. Among them is the country's dramatic fall in the rate of infant mortality -- which is always a measure of social justice. The socialist island leads the way in this regard not only in the rest of the Caribbean, Central and South America but it outshines many communities in the United States and other advanced capitalist states.

 Cuba is acknowledged, even in anti-communist circles, as having one of the finest free-to-all health services and a magnificent free education system. The revolution has put an end to the misery of destitution, hunger and hopelessness that existed in the days when Cuba was regarded by rich Americans and gangsters as just a playground in the sun for gambling, vice and racketeering.

 Socialist Cuba has earned a worldwide reputation for its pioneering work in medical research and leads the way in the development and production of many vaccines and medicines.

 It has a proud record of giving solidarity -- putting proletarian internationalism Into practice. For example, Cuban volunteers shed their blood in Angola against the forces of Apartheid and reaction and despite the problems of the US-Imposed embargo it has provided free treatment and care for thousands of the sticken child victims of Chemobyl .

 For 40 years Cuba has withstood the relentless aggression of its neighbour -- the United States. It has been invaded, blockaded and bombarded with propaganda broadcasts both by radio and television. There have been plots hatched in Washington to murder its leaders, ferment internal trouble and to isolate the country politically and economically.

 Despite the worst efforts of US imperialism Cuba lives and the Revolution lives!

 We salute the Revolutionaries of 1959, we salute the Revolutionaries of 1999, we salute the people of Cuba! Viva Cuba!, Viva Socialism!

AS expected, the launch of the Euro last week produced a flurry of media hype throughout the European Union. This included Britain even though it is at present one of the countries still on the outside.

 All the signs are that the Blair government wants Britain tojoin "Euroland" in the next wave and the hard-sell has already begun.

 The pro-European section of the capitalist class hopes to win support for European Monetaty Union (EMU) by persuading the working class to ignore its own best interests and identify with the big bankers, the City, leading financiers and the bosses.

 The reality is that EMU is against the interests of the majority of Europeans. They have, are and will be at the receiving end of the rolling programmes of spending cuts, privatisations, unemployment and belt-tightening required by the capitalists to make the Euro into the "hard" currency they desire.

 We note that Germany, which has had a "strong" currency for years and whose bankers have so eagerly wanted EMU,has also introduced draconian public spending cuts to meet the EMU criteria and is now witnessing rising unemployment. Some parts of eastern Germany have unemployment rates of 20 per cent and over. EMU has certainly not been good for German workers.

 There is no doubt that EMU will inevitably hasten the arrival of the Single European state -- a Europe of regions in which some will fare much better than others and in which capital will be strengthened but only at the expense of labour.

 The world outside will also be affected. The United States will accommodate itself to "Euroland". The third world will not and will pay the biggest price of all for this bankers' bonanza.

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Lead Story

Support grows for Heathrow strikers

by Ann Rogers
 "WE'RE still strong and nobody is backing off" said a Transport and General Workers Union shop steward on the Skychefs picket line at Heathrow Airport last week. "Morale is high and other unions are helping with donations and by spreading the word. This picket line is going to be here until we defeat them", he said.

 That was on day 41 of the strike and on both sides of the road leading to LSG Lufthansa Skychefs' premises the pickets were making their voices heard above the roar of the Jumbo jets coming in to land on the nearby runway.

 Skychefs, which is the world's biggest airline catering company, prepares in-flight meals for a number of major airlines including: American Airlines, Canadian Airlines, Quantas, Iberia, Olympic and Air France.

 The dispute began when the company introduced changes in working practices and new, flexible rostering arrangements which were unfavourable to the workforce. Talks broke down, despite the involvement of ACAS. The company failed to honour a promise to pay one per cent to all staff when the new practices started and rejected a call to go to arbitration.

 The Transport and General Workers Union held a secret postal ballot which gave a 75 per cent majority for strike action. Skychefs were given notice of four one-day strikes.

 The first one-day stike was on 20 November last year. That same day dismissal notices were sent to all the strikers. As more workers joined the strike, more dismissal notices were delivered. There are now 300 workers in dispute.

 T&G general Secretary Bill Morris, who has visited the picket line, declared the sackings "a landmark dispute" and he and the union's general executive council have pledged their full support. This is an official dispute.

 The union is fighting for the reinstatement of all the sacked workers.

 Tragically, on 10 December one worker who was signed off sick by his doctor was nonetheless sent a dismissal letter. Two days later the man died an untimely death.

calling for support

 Supporters of the strikers have called on all local MPs to help. The Labour Group on Hounslow Borough Council is giving support and other local borough Labour Groups are being approached to do the same. A number of local counciilors have already stepped forward to support the strikers and public pressure in the area is growing.

 One way or another, Heathrow Airport is the biggest employer of labour in the outer boroughs of west London. In this area even those who do not work at the airport know relatives, friends or neighbours who do. There is a strong sense that if Skychefs get away with this unjust treatment of their workforce then tommorow other airport workers will suffer the same hardship.

 Many believe there is a deliberate effort being made by airport bosses to beat the unions into submission.

 The 300 sacked Skychef workers are making a vital stand and they deserve to have all of our support.

 The picket line is at Faggs Road, Feltham (nearest tube: Hatton Cross).

 Donations to the hardship fund should be sent to TGWU, 218, Green Lanes, Finsbury Park, London, N4 2HB (please mark reverse of cheques "LSG Lufthansa Skychefs Dispute").

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Rural poverty - the ugly secret in Britain's beautiful hillsides
by Caroline Colebrook
THE RECENT Christmas period has witnessed alarming reports of growing rural poverty from sources as diverse as the Centrepoint charity for the homeless and the Daily Telegraph-supported Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution based in Oxford.

 The worst problems are among small-scale livestock farmers who have been badly hit by the continuing beef crisis and the fall in the prices of livestock.

 This has left many small farming families in dire need -- unable to pay food and fuel bills.

 Yet it is not easy for them to claim benefits. For a start, Benefit Agency offices are few and far between in rural areas.

 Technically the farmers are the owners of farm buildings, machinery and animals even though currently all these are costing a lot more to maintain than any income they produce.

 For years many have survived on profits of around £10,000 a year -- which would be a very modest wage level for any worker hoping to support a family. They should be eligible for Family Income Support but many do not know how to go about claiming.

 Now they are suffering from "negative income" and are desperate. If their electricity is cut off, they cannot operate the farm equipment or look after their animals, pasteurise milk or keep it cool.

 They depend on their cars for shopping -- local small shops are very expensive -- and for getting children to school and for access to most amenities of civilisation now that so many rural communities are losing their schools, doctor's surgeries and so on.

 Most are deep in paperwork which includes cattle movement documents, milk records, beef subsidy forms, farm accounts and VAT forms. And many are deep in debt to the banks, their landlords, electricity companies and so on.

 And even though they are currently making no profit, their daily workload does not diminish. Farm work keeps them busy as ever for very long hours. They cannot sign on for the Jobseekers' Allowance, even if they could find a Job Centre.

 The Royal Agricultural Benevolent Association gives an example of one couple in their 30s who have been farming a small inherited farm for 12 years.

 At first they managed to make modest profits from their Holstein-Friesian milking herd. Then came the beef crisis of 1996, hitting the value of their stock and a sharp drop in the price of milk.

 As their income fell, they tried to cut costs by reducing their herd from 72 to 60 and increasing the amount of milk from each remaining animal.

 They tried to improve the herd's health with better stock but the expense proved crippling. They sold their insurance policies and exhausted their savings but by last winter they were in deep trouble.

 There was little or no money to feed and clothe their four children and it was cold because they could not afford coal to heat the kitchen and the hot water supply.

 They were £1,000 in arrears with council tax and could not pay their television licence. Another family found that after selling their usual number of sheep per year, they did not have enough to cover the rent on the farm. They were left with nothing for domestic bills and food and were threatened with having their electricity cut off.

 Their situation is in deep contrast to that of the giant agribusiness companies that farm vast acres with European Union subsidies.

 The EU was going to adopt a policy of throwing a lifeline subsidy to these small farmers. But it was the British agri-business giants who argued against it, saying it was "subsidising inefficiency".

 Centrepoint reports that this has led to increasing mental breakdown, suicide and family breakdown in rural areas and a steep rise in rural youth homelessness.

 Yvonne Sanders of Centrepoint says: "Politicians and councillors fail to understand the problems in rural areas.

 "Lack of employment opportunities is forcing people to move away. It all adds up to a crisis in the countryside. But who believes it? How could areas of such outstanding beauty hide such an ugly secret?"

rebuild rural life

The government must rebuild the rural infrastructure of services -- schools, clinics, shops, banks, benefit offices and above all rural public transport to make sure that these people get the same basic life-sustaining benefits as urban families.

 The government should be providing the bridging loans at low interest to sustain these farmers through the crisis and taxing the agri-business giants and the supermarket chains -- who profit from the low stock prices -- to finance it.

 And it should be encouraging these farmers to group together into co-operatives to share cost burdens and to put them in a stronger position to bargain for a better deal when they sell their stock to the giant supermarket chains.

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UN leader accuses inspectors of spying

by Our Middle East Affairs correspondent
IRAQI MIG 25's have taken to the skies this week to challenge the Angle-American "no-fly" zones in the north and south of their country while UN leader Kofi Annan reveals that he has proof that the UNSCOM weapons inspectors were monitoring sensitive Iraqi communications for the United States.

 United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan says he has proof that UN weapons inspection teams in Iraq helped collect sensitive Iraqi communications for the United States. And it has reinforced Iraqi demands for the removal of UNSCOM boss Richard Butler, which Baghdad has long accused of spying for the CIA.

 The news was broken by the Washington Post on Wednesday which quoted sources close to Annan as saying he was convinced that the United States used the eavesdropping operation to penetrate the security network protecting the Iraqi president.

 One Annan advisor who was not named was quoted as saying "the secretary-general has become aware of the fact that UNSCOM directly facilitated the creation of an intelligence collection system for the United States in violation of its mandate.

 The United Nations cannot be party to an operation to overthrow one of its member states. In the most fundamental way, that is what's wrong with the UNSCOM operation".

 According to the Post Annan amassed enough evidence to challenge Butler last month. The UN leader acknowledged that part of the operation was meant to aid the inspectors in their hunt for weapons of mass destruction but he is also convinced that the information obtained was passed on to US intelligence circles. Butler denied the claims which were based on classified US information and maintains he was acting strictly along the terms of the disarmament mandate.

 The CIA, State Department and the White House have so far refused to comment but a Clinton aide, speaking on conditions of anonymity, told the US newspaper that Saddam Hussein's personal security apparatus and that which "conceals weapons of mass destruction are one and the same" and it was impossible to distinguish between the hue.

 Kofi Annan's revelations have strengthened calls in the Security Council for a total revision of the UNSCOM regime which Iraq in any case says will never be allowed to return to their country.

 British and American imperialism has backed Butler and his UNSCOM set-up to the hilt in the face of moves led by Russia, People's China and their own Nato ally, France, for a revised mandate which could also lead to an easing of the crippling blockade which has led to the deaths of over a million Iraqis since 1990 through lack of food and medicines.

 Back in Baghdad Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein went on television to call on all the Arabs to rally in support of his country's defiant stand and against those Arab leaders who continue to support the United States after the criminal rocketing of Iraq before Christmas by the US Airforce and the RAF.

 And the Iraqi government has told the Security Council that American and British personnel involved in supervising the "oil-for-food" operation would no longer be welcome as the government could not guarantee their safety in the face on the mounting anger of the people following the latest imperialist attacks.

 Iraq has now backed up its demand for an end to the blockade and for the right of its people to live by challenging the US Airforce and RAF patrols with their ground defences and the deployment of their airforce for the first time since the end of the Gulf War in 1991.

 In three clashes so far, including a dog-fight with US warplanes last Tuesday, the Iraqis claim to have hit two US jets. The Americans and the RAF deny any losses though they claim one Iraqi MiG may have crashed due to fuel shortage. And last week an Iraqi ground-to-air missile base was attacked and four soldiers were killed.

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British News

Flu outbreak exposes NHS weakness
by Daphne Liddle
 A GROWING outbreak of flu -- not yet officially an epidemic -- has stretched health services throughout the country and rendered some casualty departments close to collapse.

 Once again patients are being kept on trolleys for hours on end while hospital staff desperately try to find beds for them.

 And Norwich Hospital has had to hire a refrigerated lorry trailer to store bodies after the 80-place mortuary became filled to capacity.

 And over last weekend there were no intensive care beds available within the M25 area.

 Health Secretary Frank Dobson has allocated a total of £159 million to some 2,000 schemes to overcome the crisis.

Most of these involve moving existing patients out of their hospital beds and providing extra care to look after them in their own homes, thus freeing beds for emergency admissions.

 All non-urgent surgery has been cancelled as admissions are rising by up to 50 per cent in different parts of the country.

 The situation is not as bad as it was two years ago under the last Tory government. But flu epidemics in winter are hardly unusual or unexpected. And the current mild weather means health emergencies are not nearly as bad as they could be at this time of year.

 NHS Confederation chief executive Stephen Thornton said: "We are having a normal British winter". But he added that the current normal levels of flu are putting the NHS under so much strain because: "over several years, the two or three per cent a year increase in emergency admissions to hospitals has left the NHS with virtually no capacity to cope with even relatively small surges in demand."

 And he went on to say that the government's over-riding commitment to cut waiting lists had left hospitals with little flexibility.

 But he did not mention the large number of hospitals throughout Britain which have been closed with thousands of beds lost.

aid package

 Christine Hancock, general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, welcomed Frank Dobson's aid package but said the government needs to concentrate on the long-term under lying causes of the crisis.

 "The government has got to address the nursing shortage crisis and how the NHS can provide more care closer to people's homes to prevent this situation arising again."

 The growing nursing shortage was highlighted last month when figures were released showing that the amount the NHS now spends on agency nurses has risen sharply.

 The figures were given in reply to a parliamentary question from Liberal Democrat MP Simon Hughes. They showed that last year the NHS bill for agency nurses -- used as emergency stand-ins by understaffed hospitals -- was £216 million, compared to £121 million in 1991-2.

 Simon Hughes said the figures underline the extent of the recruitment crisis within the NHS. He said the situation was so bad that some NHS trusts in Leeds are having to pay agency nurses to travel from London because they cannot recruit locally.

 He said: "There are now so few NHS nurses that the private sector is cashing in by filling the vacancies. This is a nonsense. Money must be spent recruiting badly needed NHS nurses, not paying for private ones. "Cash-strapped hospital trusts are having to pay private nurses inflated rates to keep wards open. After last year's staged pay awards and precious little success in recruiting new nurses. The government is to blame."

 Nursing unions have warned time and time again that low pay for nurses will lead to a crisis in recruitment but both Tory and Labour governments have ignored them.

 Kingston Hospital in London has paid for 17 nurses to be flown in from the Philippines after its accident and emergency department was so busy last weekend that patients had to be treated in the backs of ambulances parked outside.

 This is no way to run a health service. It must be cheaper to raise nurses' pay and recruit more here than to pay for them to be shipped in from the other side of the world.

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