The New Worker

The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain

Week commencing 8th May, 1998

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Editorial - No justice, no peace. & Facing down the bullies.
Lead Story - Aussie Dockers win huge victory.
Feature - Renationalise our railways.
International - Danish workers solid.
British News - Peace activists face charges for mercy smuggling.

Editorial

No justice, no peace.

ISRAEL has been under the spotlight this past week or so because it has been marking its 50th anniversary and because Prime Minister Netanyahu was persuaded to attend peace talks in London with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and United States Secretary of State Madelaine Albright.

 Confronted by the international media, Netanyahu said nothing new. He just reminded the world that many Israelis have been killed over the years by so-called "terrorists" and concluded that Israeli policies are therefore necessary for national security.

 But such an intransigent argument can only lead to greater insecurity for both Israelis and Palestinians since it totally ignores Israel's illegal annexation and occupation of Palestinian land and Israel's continued oppression of the Palestinian people -- the injustices at the heart of the struggle.

 It beggars belief that Israel's leaders should claim their main concern is the security and safety of the people. Every day they fuel the fires of Palestinian anger by the outrageous policy of allowing right-wingers and Zionists to carry on the building of new settlements on occupied Palestinian land.

 This is land which Israel seized by force of arms and refused to give up. For this act Israel stands condemned by the United Nations. But, unlike Iraq and Serbia, US backed Israel has faced no military attacks or economic sanctions from the usual bunch of imperialist globe-cops.

 The Palestinian people have been dispossessed, they have had homes and land seized, millions have been forced to live in refugee camps or in exile, many thousands have suffered imprisonment and persecution at the hands of Israel and thousands, including unarmed civilians in the refugee camps, have been killed.

 It is therefore nonsense for Israel to argue that its policy of tight military control and territorial expansion is the way to ensure security.

 Lasting peace and security will only be achieved for all the peoples of the Middle East when Israel abandons the building of new settlements, returns the occupied territories to Palestinian control and sovereignty, pulls out of occupied south Lebanon and Syria's Golan Heights and recognises the right of Palestinians to live in their own sovereign state.

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Facing down the bullies.
 

AUSTRALIAN dock workers refused to be cowed by the bullying tactics of their bosses at the firm of Patrick Stevedores and have won most of their jobs back.

 The dock workers, who were sacked in an attempt to bust trade union organisation on the wharfs of Australia, were threatened by a force of private guards and fierce dogs. Scabs were recruited and ready to step into their shoes.

 The bosses had the support of reactionary politicians, big business leaders and the big farmers.

 But the dock workers stood together and they stood firm. They had solidarity from other dock workers in Australia and throughout the world and from many workers in other industries.

 Their strength and unity and the solidarity they received ensured victory against all the odds.

 The news has been welcomed by trade unionists and working people around the world.

 Strong arm methods against unions and strikers have long been practised by bosses in the United States. Had the Australian dock workers not fought back, bosses in other industries, and even in other countries, would have been encouraged to adopt similar tactics to weaken trade unionism across the board.

 As it is the capitalist class in Australia has been forced to step back. No doubt they will try again -- but organised labour will also be ready.

We salute the wharfies and workers of Australia!

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Lead Story

Aussie Dockers win huge victory.

 by Peter symon, general secretary of the Communist Party of Australia

 THE HIGH Court's decision brought down last Monday is a huge moral and political victory for the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA), the whole Australian trade union movement, all working people and the army of people who gave their material and political support to the MUA. But full victory cannot be chalked up until all of the 2,000 workers are back to work on their former conditions as at 6 April before they were sacked.

 Thousands of MUA members and supporters gathered at the picket lines to hear the decision. Chanting "MUA here to stay" and other slogans, they celebrated the victory.

 "We won't be settling for anything other than the full return of all our members in every port", said MUA National Secretary John Coombs, "and only then will we have a look at the viability of those ports and any need to take into consideration possible labour surpluses".

 The South Australia Labor Council declared "All members of the community must back the MUA inensuring that every illegally dismissed worker is reinstated. All reasonable people can now clearly see that Workplace Relations Minister Peter Reith has to go".

the decision

 By a six to one majority, the seven High Court judges, rejected Patrick Stevedore's application for leave to appeal against the earlier decisions of the Federal Court.

 Four Federal Court judges had ordered the reinstatement of the sacked MUA members. They concluded that there is an "arguable case" of conspiracy by Patrick's, the NFF, and the Federal Government.

 The High Court upheld the Federal Court's finding that companies should not be allowed to use corporate restructuring to undermine employees' rights under labour law.

 The High Court in rejecting Patrick's application did not interfere with the corporations law as regards the powers of administrators of companies placed in receivership.

 The Government and Patrick's hope to use this last card to yet again deny MUA workers their jobs back. But the rights of administrators do not allow them to disregard industrial law which rules out the sacking of workers on the grounds of trade union membership. Any dismissals or changes in conditions will have to be done in consultation with the union.

not won in courts

 John Coombs and the other trade union leaders warned during the course of the dispute that it would not be won in the courts, important and helpful as court decisions may be.

 It is the unprecedented unity and action by the MUA, the solidarity of other Australian and international trade unions, and the widespread community support that has sustained the struggle so far.

continue to build struggle

 It must now be built to even higher levels by maintenance of pickets, by public meetings and demonstrations until all the sacked waterside workers get their jobs back.

 John Coombs has stated categorically that every sacked MUA member must go back on the job before there are any discussions of future manning scales or conditions of work.

 The very real conspiracy hatched by the Government, Patrick's and the NFF is still being played out. The restructuring and asset stripping by Patrick's is still in place, continuing to make it difficult for the sacked workers to obtain their rights.

 The Government is continuing to attempt to salvage something from its defeats and rejection at the hands of the courts and to force the administrators to implement the Federal Government's anti-MUA policies.

 They have not abandoned their aim of destroying the MUA. At the very least they want to introduce a non-union workforce to the waterfront. Their claim that they are not anti-union is a lie! Workplace Relations Minister Peter Reith continues to try and blackmail the MUA by asserting that the Government's underwriting of the entitlements due to MUA members will only be paid if the union agrees to his version of "waterfront reform".

The Central Committee Execulive of the Communist Party of Australia gave its full support to the MUA struggle and the first objective of getting sacked workers back inside the gates.

 "The solidarity, discipline and leadership of MUA members and the union's leadership is an out standing example to all of us in what is a complicated situation requiring the adoption of correct tactics and statements on every day of the dispute", they said.

 The Executive called on Party members and supporters to support the picket lines, provide financial and other forms of aid, take part in talk-back radio sessions, write letters to the daily press, distribute leaflets and The Guardian.

demands

 We demand the immediate re-employment of all sacked MUA members and the restoration of trading by the Patrick's administrators.

 We demand the resignations of the contemptible Ministers, Howard and Reith, whose conspiracy with others is at the heart of the present dispute.

 We call on the New South Wales Government to cancel Patrick Stevedores' waterfront lease. Their anti-worker and anti-trade union attitude and actions disqualifies them from any consideration as an employer.

 From the very beginning they have conspired to sack their workforce even while negotiations were proceeding with the MUA. Patrick Stevedores should be thrown off the waterfront.

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Feature

Renationalise our railways.
 
by Caroline Colebrook
 
"THERE is no alternative to public ownership and I will call on the government to honour its pre-election pledges to renationalise British Rail and to retain London Underground in public ownership," RMT general secretary Jimmy Knapp told a London rally last Thursday.

 The rally had been organised in Westminster Central Hall by the giant transport union to back up a mass lobby of MPs against the proposed fragmentation and partial privatisation of the London Underground network.

 It was supported by other unions whose members work for LU, including the train drivers union Aslef and the clerical union TSSA.

 Jimmy Knapp went on to attack "the obscenity of the fat cats" who are profiteering from the privatisation of British Rail, saying that it has made our rail system "the biggest money laundering system in the world".

 He singled out the owners of Railtrack who are happy to accept large subsidies from the taxpayer while their levels of investment in renewal of tracks and signalling are "pitiful".

 " it is like changing a fuse when the whole house needs rewiring," he said.

 "We must tell our MPs that we want the whole transport system integrated and publicly owned and London Underground retained as a whole.
 "A publicly-owned and publicly accountable railway system was promised in the Labour manifesto. This should be honoured.

 "But the spin doctors have shifted the meaning of those words and sent it spinning out of control.

 "The government should make a start with Railtrack and change the government subsidy into a controlling share interest in that company."

 Labour MP Gwyneth Dunwoody had opened the rally by describing the Strategic Rail Authority the government plans to set up to bring about the reintegration of the rail network and promising tighter control.

 She spoke of the lax controls of the Tory government that had made no plans or provisions if the franchise rail companies went bankrupt and had banned British Rail itself from bidding for those franchises.

 But that did not satisfy the audience nor some of the other speakers.

 Aslef assistant general secretary Tony West said the government must come clean about what happens if a franchise company goes bankrupt and then added: "The Aslef position is that they should come back into public ownership."

 He attacked the recently published report into the Watford train crash, which had put the blame on the driver, even though a court had cleared him just a few days before.

 "It's a disgrace and an affront to every driver in the country," he said. And he called for the installation of the Automatic Train Protection system which the inquiry agreed could have prevented the crash.

 "It is a scandal that this is still being discussed in terms of cost," he said and called for the management of the relevant companies to be put in the dock "like they put our members. When will the blame culture be lifted to management levels?"

 And on the question of privatising parts of the Tube, he pointed out that Max Hastings, a right-wing Tory and owner of the Evening Standard, appears to be to the Ieft of the government in calling for the Tube to be kept out of the private market, which has proved a disaster for British Rail.

 Denis Cameron, assistant general secretary of the TSSA also called for the renationalisation of British Rail, pointing out that Railtrack is now getting about double the subsidy that British Rail had and is making a profit of around £l million a day.

 He criticised the Labour proposals, included in a thick glossy document that is full of ifs and maybes but short on hard promises.

 He said that some of the franchise rail companies are likely to "go belly up" because of the haste in which the Tory government pushed through the sale before the general election.

 "If they go belly up, that should be part and parcel of bringing these services back into public ownership."

 And he went on to say that if the franchisees fail to Live up to the terms of their contracts, if they go bankrupt or when the franchises expire, then the different fragmented parts of British Rail must come back into public ownership.

 Jimmy Knapp told the rally of one very worrying development.

 The Labour government has brought in a team of US consultants to promote its new plans for the Tube and a recently leaked document prepared by them discusses "making hits on the trade unions" and includes a strategy for trying to sabotage the RMT.

 "We are not going to stand idly by in the face of threats like that," he said and reported that the union is balloting now for action in defence of its London Underground members.  "Whatever else happens, we are going to defend our members," he said to loud applause.
 

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International

Danish workers solid.

 DANISH unions kept up the pressure as their national strike entered its second week with 500,O00 workers out demanding higher pay, a 35-hour week and a sixth week of paid holiday.

 And the strikers turned May Day in a very special protest when hundreds of thousands rallied in the capital, Copenhagen, in a massive demonstration of strength and public support.

 The greedy employers, who are only prepared to consider self-funded pay increases and extra leave, have hit back by locking out workers in sectors not yet called out. Some 60,000 workes, mainly in the retail sector, were locked out on Tuesday, in a move aimed at creating more shortages to try and stem the tide of public support for the unions' struggle.

 Though the national union action falls short of a general strike half a million workes out in a population of just 5 million means that most of the country was shut-down from day one.

 Now schools are closing because the cleaners are out, petrol has run out in many areas, food is scarce, the pubs may close because the truckers are out and the country's major land, sea and air-links cut.

 Socialist Premier Poul Nyrup Rasmussen is under pressure from the bosses to intervene. But Rasmussen knows that two-thirds of his own supporters back the unions.

 The employers, who have chalked up bumper profits in the past year, want the government to impose a "compromise" solution on the unions but so far all that the government done has been to bring both sides to talks which produced nothing new.

 The employers federation now says its ready to concede two extra days paid leave providing the government compensate them for their increased costs. This has been publicly rejected by rank-and-file leaders though no-one knows what has been said at federation-union talks at a national level because they are being held in secret.

 The strikers say they can last out for at least five weeks whether the government can is another matter. The strike is costing Denmark $556 million a weekor 0.5 per cent of gross domestic product and the national central bank is taking defensive action to prop up the kroner.

 But the other political pressure is coming from the pro-Maastricht political establishment with social-democracy and the right-wing parties who fear that a prolonged stoppage will scupper their chances for a yes vote in the Amsterdam Treaty referendum set for 28 May.

 Some small firms have a Iready struck deals to get their employees back to work and pressure is mounting for the bigger fish to make significant concessions. But the best guarantee of success is the solidarity and determination of the trade union movement backed by the rising temper of the Danish working class.

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British News

Peace activists face charges for mercy smuggling.
 
 
CLAIMS by the imperialist powers that basic food and medicines are exempted from the trade sanctions against Iraq were exposed as lies last month when two peace activists were arrested for trying to get desperately needed medicines into Iraq.

 The peace campaigners, Milan Rai and Martin Thomas, were arrested and questioned by Customs officials on the suspicion of trying to illegally export children's antibiotics to Iraq on 10 February.

 The medicines were seized. Martin and Milan took children's vitamins from Jordan into Iraq instead.

 If the two are prosecuted and convicted they face up to five years in prison.

 The peace campaigners are not alone. Felicity Arbuthnot, who is well known to New Worker readers as the contributor of feature articles on the plight of the Iraqi health service and especially the thousands of dying Iraqi children, also faces the threat of imprisonment.

 Felicity returned in April from a mission to try to save an Iraqi surgeon who is dying of cancer.

 Now she too faces up to five years in prison for breaking the United Nations trade embargo because the medicine she took contains low levels of radiation that offcials say could be used to make weapons.

 "This makes a farce of the Department of Trade and Industry policy of letting food and medicine through," she said. "You would need every drop of this stuff in the world to make anything explosive."

 The DTI responded, saying: "Without the right permission anything that could be used to make weapons is banned."

 This leads to a situation where even if some medicines and vaccines are allowed through, the hypodermic needles to deliver them are banned because they might somehow be used militarily. X-ray plates are banned.

 Cancer rates in Iraq are soaring, probably as a result of the toxic mix of chemicals created in the environment during the Gulf War.

 Already over a million children have died and many of those could have been saved if only the country was allowed to spend its oil revenues on buying medicines.
 

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