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From The Socialist newspaper, 2 March 2006

University staff to strike

UNIVERSITY STAFF will be on strike over pay on 7 March. This follows a good turnout in the strike ballot, with big majorities supporting both strike action and 'action short of a strike' amongst members of AUT and NATFHE.

Thomas House

This reflects the anger at years of empty promises from the employers to give us the pay we deserve.

Joint action between AUT and NATFHE is an important step forward and will be a test for the success of the united union, UCU, due to form this summer. It is important to build the broadest possible support for our action, locally and nationally, from the National Union of Students, and from other trade unions, particularly public-sector unions in the middle of similar disputes.

It has been clear for years that higher education in the UK is seriously underfunded. But some academics are making the mistake of looking to the introduction of top-up fees as a way to get money flowing back into universities.

As the privatisation of universities continues, it is only very few academics in very few universities who will benefit from significant salary increases - 'market forces' will drive down the pay of the majority of university staff as they have done in all other privatised industries.

The introduction of fees is already having a bad effect on applications to undergraduate courses. If we seem to support fees, even implicitly by demanding a share of the income generated from them, we risk undercutting support from students angry at the debt they incur from studying and from workers who will not be able to afford to send their children to university.

Socialist Party members in AUT and NATFHE argue that we should fight for more public funding in higher education to pay for more staff on better wages, to abolish fees and introduce living grants.

We should approach the NUS and other trade unions for a national demonstration for better funding and an end to cuts, closures and privatisation of higher education.

A Socialist Party leaflet for the strike is available. Ring Ken Smith on 020 8988 8778.

BT TV broadcast workers ballot

BT WORKERS in BT Media and Broadcast are being balloted for national industrial action against the telecommunication giant's plans to sell off part of its TV business.

Pav Alam, assistant secretary, CWU London City West branch

Whilst the plan itself is suspect, what is outrageous is that they plan to sell the staff to the highest bidder. Outsourcing is nothing new to the union but our members will not be sold off in a cattle auction.

Over 200 staff have been declared "in scope" and are liable to be transferred under TUPE to a competitor or even venture capitalists. BT are bragging about broadcasting TV via broadband whilst selling off members who have years of experience in the broadcast industry and are responsible for the transmission of TV news, sport etc around the world.

When appointed in 2005, Director Barry Bonnet was quoted as saying he wanted "to steer the business into new markets". Yet he actively wants to steer clear of this part of the business.

CWU members, branch officers and NEC Broad Left supporters have given full support to the proposed action. Over 60 CWU members demonstrated over the sell-off last week as BT held a 500-a-ticket media event for the UK broadcast industry. Unlike previous outsourcing attempts the members have been given no right to redeployment within the parent company and TUPE offers no protection to the final salary pension scheme.

At the demo one member commented on the fact that little had changed since the Thatcher era (in employment) and that the unions, as representatives of the working class, had to take a stand. He had also drawn the conclusion that maybe we needed a new workers' party!

It is unlikely that any bidder would welcome the CWU and may be actively hostile to the union organising. The union is urging all members to vote 'yes' to action in the ballot that ends on 1 March.

Surrey CC workforce fights cuts plans

ON 7 MARCH, Surrey County UNISON will lobby Surrey County Council against the council's 'Business Delivery Review (BDR)'. The BDR is the most savage attack on council jobs and services in Surrey ever witnessed.

Paul Couchman, newsletter and publicity officer, Surrey County UNISON

The council wants to cut 50 million this year as a result of the government reducing its subsidy and elected members' fears of raising council taxes.

The most recent updates from the council suggest huge cuts in services and up to 1,000 redundancies. Vulnerability notices are already being served.

The workforce is angry. UNISON is recruiting hand over fist and a new branch leadership has been elected to lead the fight back. Even Surrey's managers are incensed at the level of proposed cuts.

The branch AGM in January (the biggest ever - 170 attended) voted almost unanimously to ballot for strike action in the event of compulsory redundancies.

Understanding the political link, the AGM also voted to send observers to the RMT conference on working-class representation.

We will also hopefully be sending observers to the Campaign for a New Workers' Party conference on 19 March.

Lobby Surrey County Council, 7 March, 8.30am, County Hall, Kingston.

Defend the NHS

ABOUT FIFTY health workers and members of the public attended a meeting called by Southampton trades council to discuss building opposition to the privatisation and cuts taking place in the NHS.

Kieran Roberts

Locally, NHS services and jobs are being butchered by health chiefs, with the city's hospitals currently in the midst of a cull of hundreds of jobs and beds.

Anger amongst healthworkers and patients is sky high, with the systematic dismantling of local NHS services.

This anger has compelled the leadership of the UNISON health branch to call a demonstration through the city centre on Saturday 11 March.

The demo could be an important step for the labour movement in building a serious campaign to defend the NHS in Southampton and Hampshire. It is vital that the health unions mobilise their members in the next couple of weeks to ensure the demo is a success. Southampton Socialist Party will be joining them in doing this.

Demonstration to defend the NHS

No cuts - No job losses - No privatisation Saturday 11 March, meet at Asylum Green, 11am.

Why not click here to join the Socialist Party, or click here to donate to the Socialist Party.

In The Socialist 2 March 2006:

Quality education for all

Education under attack

Campaign for a New Workers' Party

Stoke councillors join the Socialist Party

Corruption and lies

Ken Livingstone removed from office

Change the world!

Fight for women's REAL right to choose

IRAQ: Sectarian civil war looms as the occupation flounders

Swansea car workers fight plant closure

University staff to strike

Sheffield workers are fighting back

35,000 public-sector workers strike


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