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The Socialist Inbox
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I read a letter in the Socialist ('Bosses' Brexit?' issue 941) from a JCB worker regarding agency workers. I work in the JCB supply chain where exploitation of agency workers is just as bad.
Many of these workers are skilled, but find themselves out of work and unable to find employment in their trade, on near minimum wage - £7.50 an hour for 12 hour nightshifts. There is no shift rate or the same conditions as those of us employed by the company.
The union fought a bitter strike at our workplace three years ago to try to improve wages and conditions in the factory. Although we won a resounding victory in that dispute, one thing we failed to achieve was an agreement on agency labour.
We need political change to rid us of unjust laws in the workplace. We need political involvement in the workplaces, on the streets and in parliament. In fact anywhere we can effect change we need political involvement.
I call on Unite members everywhere to reject the Blairite lies of Unite leadership challenger Gerard Coyne and support the fighting trade unionism of the left by backing Len McCluskey in the general secretary election.
Mark Robertson, Unite shop steward, Gateshead
In good health
I am utterly amazed at how simple healthcare is in the UK. Recently I hit my foot pretty badly on my bed frame. I thought I'd broken a toe.
I called 111 (the non-emergency medical line), and was told to go to A&E. I went, filled out a very basic form, and waited ten to 15 minutes before my name was called.
My toe was looked at and I was sent to get an x-ray. I waited maybe two minutes for this.
I was told it's not broken, just badly bruised. I also said I've been ill the last couple days, and I was asked some questions about that as well.
At the end, I was prescribed some medication to help reduce the pain, and sent on my way. I paid a whopping £8 for the pills.
I paid absolutely nothing for going to the A&E, or for the x-ray. Absolutely astounding.
Had this happened in the US where I'm from, I would have paid an emergency room $100 to $300, and Lord knows how much for the x-ray - and this in addition to the ridiculous monthly health insurance payments. Painkillers likely would have been significantly more expensive as well.
Also, there isn't a standard non-emergency medical help line in the US. I've used a similar service before, but I had to call my insurance company and go through several steps and be transferred before speaking to a registered nurse.
America, please learn from the NHS. It's incredible.
Just two months ago, former prime minister David Cameron revealed that he named the pheasants he shoots Boris or Michael.
Speaking at the World Economic Forum in January, Cameron said he was spending life after number ten rediscovering his love of game shooting: "I find that when I shoot a few Borises and Michaels I feel a whole lot better", he said.
Who said the Tory party isn't divided down the middle. Now we need generalised strike action to get shot of all of them.
David Maples, Lambeth, south London
Live longer and prosper
I have been a science fiction fan since about the age of eight or nine, my favourite being Star Trek. As I grew up I started to understand more about the world Star Trek creator Gene Rodenberry had created through his show.
It is a show that argued for equality, saw the first interracial kiss in the 1960s, the first female captain in the 1990s, as well as many episodes of social commentary on LGBT+, gender and political issues.
The Star Trek universe showed what the world could be like with equality, no poverty, no capitalism and a planet united globally. It is only now I am older I associate this type of lifestyle as a socialist vision.
Matthew Charleston, Salford
Mother's Day mayhem
Arriva Trains Wales has been in the news a lot recently, and not for good reasons. In October 2016, a busy passenger train caught fire at Caerphilly railway station.
Valleys lines trains are routinely overcrowded. The company, a subsidiary of the German firm Deutsche Bahn, made £22 million profit in 2014, and £18 million in 2015, with a cash pile of £70 million, according to their most recent figures.
I'm used to overcrowded trains running late to take me to work. But on Mother's day, I'd arranged to take my mum out for lunch.
It's an important occasion in my family - mum was widowed (and I lost my father) over 20 years ago, and she lives alone in the village of Rhoose in the Vale of Glamorgan, which is normally accessible directly from my local station in Cathays, Cardiff.
Well, I'd checked on the internet the day before, and the 10.30am from Cathays was running as normal. On arriving at the station, however, no trains were running in that direction.
So, I ran as fast as I could to the nearest big station, Cardiff Queen Street, and was advised there was a fault on the line between Queen Street and Cardiff Central, and I needed to get a replacement bus from Cardiff Central! So I ran to Cardiff Central, and, out of breath and dripping with sweat, got there in time for the bus.
I was half an hour late getting to Rhoose. And to rub salt in the wounds, the 8.25pm replacement bus back to Cardiff didn't turn up at all, leaving me stuck in Rhoose with work the following morning.
Looking on the National Rail Enquiries website, I can see the line closure was due to 'planned engineering works'. Fair enough, except why did the same website tell me the day before that the service was running as normal? It can't have been 'planned' very far in advance!
If anyone isn't convinced by the need to renationalise the railways and put passengers over profits, there you have it, in black and white from a regular rail user.