The Socialist 9 March 2006
Wanted: A party for the millions...not the millionaires!
Campaign Extra: Strikes, Housing and the NHS:
Power station pay scandal exposed
OVER 40 construction workers at Cottam power station in north Nottinghamshire have been on unofficial strike for three weeks.
"This is about the exploitation of non-UK labour being brought in to undermine our national agreements," Bernard MacAulay Amicus regional officer told the socialist.
40-50 Hungarian workers have been paid £224 for a 178 hour month instead of around £2,000. They have been charged £250 travel from Retford (seven miles away). They don't get a ten-minute tea break, saving the contractor about £20,000 since last April. Probably, about £1 million in unpaid wages have been saved by the contractor from nationally agreed terms and conditions.
Amicus recruited these workers to the union using an interpreter but those who joined were then sent off site and back to Hungary. One worker flew back at his own expense to explain to other workers what had happened. After sleeping on a cabin floor on the site overnight he was met by Amicus and GMB members who walked out on strike. 19 have been sacked.
Mass pickets have been held weekly. On 7 March there were over 50 including scaffolders from other sites. "RWE [the employer] is scouring Europe for the lowest paid workers," said Bernard. "UK contractors are told their workers are 'too expensive'. We want wage compliance so that all contractors pay the trade union rate."
Justice for cleaners
ON THE same day that HSBC bank announced record profits of £11.5 billion, over 200 cleaners and supporters demanding justice for cleaners, staged a noisy and lively protest around the City of London.
It was part of the Transport and General Workers' Union (TGWU) campaign against low pay and poor working conditions. It followed on from strikes by cleaners at Parliament that won an increase of £1.70 an hour to £6.70 and an increase in holidays from 12 days a year to 28 and introduction of sick pay.
Nestor Barona, one of the TGWU organisers and formerly a cleaner at Parliament, explained that they want to "show the cleaning companies that we're around... 20,000 cleaners work in Central London. Some cleaners work two full-time jobs in a day working 16 or 17 hours."
Coventry campaigns to save NHS
SEVENTY PEOPLE, including health workers, representatives of three residents' groups, pensioners and NHS campaigners turned up at the launch of Coventry's NHS SOS campaign.
They were angry at what's happening to their public health services. We heard from Socialist Party councillor Dave Nellist and from a campaign to reinstate Dr Raj Mattu, a heart specialist, who was suspended after he raised concerns about unsafe clinical practices.
Speakers from the floor were angry about the private companies involved in delivering health services and the huge profits they declare; the lack of democratic accountability of those companies and the management boards of hospitals; the growing costs of PFI schemes and the amount of money spent on administration rather than clinical costs.
Many medical records staff at the meeting had recently learnt that their jobs are to be transferred to a private company. The meeting agreed to support these workers in their fight to keep their jobs.
The meeting, which was a huge success, ended with calls to link up all the 'Save our NHS' campaigns and for a national demonstration.
Cardiff: Bonanza for private sector
FINALLY, NEW hospital buildings are being built in Cardiff. Unfortunately it's not the new hospital promised ten years ago at Cardiff Royal Infirmary but new buildings at the private BUPA hospital.
Private health companies prosper at the NHS's expense. There is little investment in new NHS hospital facilities in Wales. New Labour says we don't need them; instead "care should be moved closer to the patients" so hospital care is being replaced by visits at home. But the NHS spends millions sending NHS patients to private hospitals like Cardiff's BUPA hospital.
Together with patients forced to spend their life savings to buy operations privately to escape NHS waiting lists, you get BUPA extending its hospitals and a bonanza for the private sector. It would be far more efficient to invest in NHS hospitals than pay over the odds to send NHS patients to private hospitals.
The National Homes Swindle
LAST SUNDAY'S Panorama TV programme was a brilliant expose of the way New Labour has betrayed the founding principles of the NHS.
It focused on how relatives of elderly people, who are unable to look after themselves, are having to sell their homes to fund private healthcare, because this service is no longer being provided by the NHS in many cases.
New Labour's policies of cutting care for the elderly have meant that families have been put under massive pressure to make ends meet, as well as the stress of coping with looking after their aging relatives.
Even two 'test cases' in court, which ruled that the NHS's care criteria was "fatally flawed" have made no difference to the government. They have continued, illegally, to farm out healthcare to the private sector, despite a legal duty to care for older people who need medical care.
New Labour and the Tories before them, tried to pass the buck by saying this was "social care" and so should be outsourced. They have wilfully ignored legislation which enshrined our right to free healthcare in the courts.
The government's argument that, 'due to changing population demographics there are just too many older people', doesn't hold water. If Gordon Brown had his way, we would all have to retire at 68!
In any case, health care should not be in the hands of the private sector; we should all have the right to free health care 'from cradle to grave', as part of the NHS's founding principles.
Under capitalism, gains made by the working class - in this case through the historic Labour landslide election victory of 1945 and the founding of the welfare state - will always be taken back by the bosses. Their interest is not in caring for the sick or elderly, but in maximising profits.
New Labour have continued the Tories' slash-and-burn approach to state provision for health and education.
We need a new party - one which is prepared to defend public services and act in the interests of working class people, otherwise the architects of 'modernisation' and 'choice' will force us all to go private, while those who cannot afford to do so will suffer.
Sign up to the campaign for a new workers' party at www.cnwp.org.uk and help make this happen.
THE CAMPAIGN to save council housing in Mid-Devon has won a victory in a ballot on whether to transfer housing stock to a private housing association. The council spent £30,000, compared to the paltry sums we raised in the Tenants Choice group to print leaflets.
But 76% voted 'No' to the council's proposals on a 78% turnout. Tenants were unconvinced by the council's glossy proposals, and the bullying tactics of the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister only reinforced the determination to stay with the council.
The Tenants Choice group's high profile campaign, backed by the local UNISON branch, sent the council into a tailspin. Socialist Party members were involved in the campaign throughout, and we will seek to help set up similar campaigns regionally, such as the ballot of Taunton Deane council tenants in Somerset.
In this issue
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