Tuesday, 31 July 2007

Women - Free to Work Harder

The following article by Lindsey German was printed in today's Guardian.

Lindsey is National Convenor of the UK Stop the War Coalition, RESPECT candidate for London Mayor & Author of "Material Girls: Women, Men & Work"

The women's economic miracle has passed largely unremarked, but increasing numbers of women over the past two decades have contributed more to global economic growth than either new technology or the rapidly industrialising giants of China and India. In the 1970s many of us thought working outside the home would be liberating for women, freeing them from financial dependence on men and allowing them roles beyond those of wife and mother.

It hasn't worked out that way. Women's labour has been bought on the cheap, their working hours have become longer and their family commitments have barely diminished. Yesterday's G2 special investigation into how employers treat parents highlighted companies offering decent maternity packages, but many firms refused to take part, and the question remained whether a woman's career would survive childbirth.

The reality for most working women is a near impossible feat of working ever harder. There have been new opportunities for some women: professions once closed to them, such as law, have opened up. Women managers are commonplace, though the top boardrooms remain male preserves. Professional and managerial women have done well out of neoliberalism. Their salaries allow them to hire domestic help.

But more women face worsening conditions: the supermarket or call centre workers; the cooks, cleaners and hairdressers; all find themselves in low-wage, low-status jobs with no possibility of paying to have their houses cleaned by someone else. Even those in professions once-regarded as reasonably high-status, such as teaching, nursing or office work, have seen that status pushed down with longer hours, more regulation and lower pay.

Inequality is not just between men and women, but increasingly between "top" women and those at the lower levels of wages and conditions. Class divisions between women appear in starker form than they did a generation ago. Indeed, those at the top often rely on the labour of those at the bottom to sustain their lifestyles.

Role models such as cabinet ministers Yvette Cooper (three children) or Ruth Kelly (four) do not face the problems of most working women. They receive salaries of three or four times the average female wage, have far longer holidays, access to drivers and other benefits. Estimates have put the cost of employing a nanny at £35,000 a year. Even the cost of a full-time nursery place, at £10,000 a year in London, is close to many women's annual wage.

Women's right to work should not mean a family life where partners rarely see each other or their children. Yet a quarter of all families with dependent children have one parent working nights or evenings, many of them because of childcare problems.

The legislative changes of the 1960s and 1970s helped establish women's legal and financial independence, but we have long come up against the limits of the law. A more radical social transformation would mean using the country's wealth - much of it now produced by women - to create a decent family life. A 35-hour week and a national childcare service would be a start.

It is hard to imagine the major employers conceding such demands. Every gain that women have made at work has had to be fought for.

Women's lives have undergone a revolution over the past few decades that has seen married women, and mothers in particular, go from a private family role to a much more social role at work. But they haven't left the family role behind: now they are expected to work even harder to do both.

Monday, 30 July 2007

Socialism proposes the transformation of human beings

Socialism proposes the transformation of human beings into living poems - Octavio Paz, Mexican surrealist

(Idris Davies)

Oh what will you give me?
Say the sad bells of Rhymney
Is there hope for the future?
Cry the brown bells of Merthyr.
Who made the mine owner?
Say the black bells of Rhondda.
And who robbed the miner?
Cry the grim bells of Blaina.

They will plunder willy-nilly,
Cry the bells of Caerphilly.
They have fangs, they have teeth,
Say the loud bells of Neath.
Even God is uneasy,
Say the moist bells of Swansea.
And what will you give me?
Say the sad bells of Rhymney
Put the vandals in court
Say the bells of Newport.
All would be well if, if, if,
Cry the green bells of Cardiff.
Why so worried, sisters, why?
Sang the silver bells of Wye.
And what will you give me?
Say the sad bells of Rhymney.

Idris Davies was self-taught. His poetry chronicles the decay and social breakdown of Wales in the 20s and 30s . He began work as a miner after leaving school at the age of 14. The defeat of the General Strike of 1926 (see poem below) broke his spirit. He took a correspondence course and left Wales to become a teacher in England.

As to the bells themselves the bells of Brecon and Wye are off the South Wales coalfield, which meant that they could be happy without the mass unemployment endured by the coalfield to the south. Neath is in the anthracite coalfield of South Wales, which didn't experience the depression of the 20s and 30s so severely. Caerphilly is just off the coalfield. Many miners from Merthyr and Rhymney traveled to pits in the Neath valley at that time. At this time the British government was talking of closing down Merthyr and transporting the people to England- hence the brown bells. This is not a 'song' by miners this is a poem by a great poet who happened to be a miner that expressess a great biterness and hurt.The poem was borrowed by an American singer. Nothing wrong with that.

The miners were called, "the worms of the earth". The poem ends defiantly.

Do you remember 1926? That summer of soups and speeches,
The sunlight on the idle wheels and the deserted crossings,
And the laughter and the cursing in the moonlit streets?
Do you remember 1926? The slogans and the penny concerts,
The jazz-bands and the moorland picnics,
And the slanderous tongues of famous cities?
Do you remember 1926? The great dream and the swift disaster,
The fanatic and the traitor, and more than all,
The bravery of the simple, faithful folk? "
Ay, ay, we remember 1926," said Dai and Shinkin,
As they stood on the kerb in Charing Cross Road, "
And we shall remember 1926 until our blood is dry."

Friday, 27 July 2007

Solidarity with the Posties!

As Postal workers enter their third bout of strike action, many pickets lines have seen solidarity visits from other workers.

Karen Tyre, who was a RESPECT candidate in May and is a Unison union steward in the Vale of Glamorgan council took some muffins down to the picket line at the mail centre in Cardiff.

She told RESPECT,

“The pickets were very positive. I was very warmly welcomed and we discussed the need for united action across the public sector.

I have done two collections round my building which I have taken to different post workers. The second collection I did was for the counter workers who work in the post office next to the office where I work. I spoke to them in the morning and they seemed a bit down about the dispute, so I took a petition and collection around my office – most people gave money – and took it back that evening. It was a real boost for the post workers.

The collections boost the post workers’ morale, but its also been really good for people in my office to feel part of the fight back. We have our own issues in the council so it has been good to build links.”

George Galloway IS Spartacus!

At last a politician has been suspended for their role over the Iraq War. You'd have thought it would have happened before now, and you might have thought when it happened, it wouldn't be the politician most prominently against the war!

Galloway cites Spartacus, the ultimate heroic tale of the oppressed underdog rising up to glory, as his favourite film. "It has inspired me," he says with hushed reverence for the story of Kirk Douglas as the slave who takes on the Roman Empire. "Its message is that to be right, rather than to be popular, is what counts. I am moved by the scene where all of the slaves stand up and say 'I am Spartacus' to protect him - although under New Labour it would be: 'He is Spartacus.'"

George Galloway MP writes:

"Once more and yet again I have been cleared of taking a single penny or in any way personally benefiting from the former Iraqi regime through the Oil for Food programme or any other means.

The Commissioner's report states that unequivocally no less than six times. The Commissioner further states that it would be a "travesty" to describe me as a "paid mouth-piece" and that my actions on Iraq stemmed from "deep conviction."

This is therefore an argument about the funding of a political campaign to lift non-military sanctions on Iraq, which killed one million people, and to stop the rush to a war which has cost the lives of hundreds of thousands more.

The Committee appear utterly oblivious to the grotesque irony of a pro-sanctions and pro-war Committee of a pro-sanctions and pro-war Parliament passing judgment on the work of their opponents, especially in the light of the bloody march of events in Iraq since this inquiry began four years ago.

They describe that as questioning their integrity and bringing Parliament into disrepute. The House would do well to honestly calibrate exactly how its reputation on all matters concerning the war in Iraq stands with the public before deciding who precisely has brought it into disrepute.

After a four year inquiry – costing a fortune in public funds – the report asks me to apologise for not registering consistently the Mariam Appeal I established (the Commissioner concedes that I did so, but randomly) and for using House of Commons resources allocated to me to campaign against the policies of those now sitting in judgment on me.

The Committee of MPs acknowledges that "had these been the only matters before us, we would have confined ourselves to seeking an apology to the House."

However, in a surprisingly thin-skinned rejoinder, the MPs complain that because I questioned their impartiality and made trenchant criticisms of evidence and witnesses (which, incidentally, they don’t attempt to refute in most cases) I am to be suspended for 18 days.

I reiterate that the Commissioner is right to state that he found no evidence that I benefited personally in any way from any Iraqi monies and moreover I never asked any of the Mariam Appeal's donors – the King of Saudi Arabia, the Emir of UAE, or Fawaz Zureikat, the chairman of the Appeal – from where they earned the wealth from which they made donations to a campaign to end sanctions and war."
For a point-by-point refutation of the commission, see: http://www.socialistworker.co.uk/art.php?id=12487

Friday, 20 July 2007

New Labour plays the race card in Wales - AGAIN!

Penny Matthews was recently elected Labour councillor for the Llansamlet ward of Swansea, unfortunately in her election literature rather than give real solutions to the problems her constituents face she whipped up racism.

Up to half a million Roma perished during the holocaust. Yet racism towards Roma and traveller people is still deemed acceptable. It is disheartening to read that New Labour in Wales has once again played the race card. In 2004, Labour issued racist leaflets in Llanederyn and Pentwyn areas of Cardiff attacking Roma people. In 2005, Labour issued racist leaflets in Cardiff Central attacking asylum seekers.

RESPECT aims to fight the racist poison and provide genuine solutions to the problems that working people face. We express full solidarity with the Roma and traveller people in Swansea and wish them well.

From the Western Mail:

"THE Labour Party has been told a poster campaign about Gypsy travellers during a council by-election campaign may have breached race relation laws.

The Commission for Racial Equality has made a formal complaint to Welsh Labour after the distribution of a leaflet in the Llansamlet area of Swansea, where a by-election takes place next Thursday.

The leaflet, which includes photographs of Swansea East MP Sian James and the constituency’s AM Val Lloyd, is headed,

“Council Bye [sic] Election referendum on gipsy site”.It goes on to say, “Many commentators see this current bye election as a referendum on the gypsy encampment on Swansea Vale.With the Labour Party commitment to getting the site removed and the Liberal Democrat, Independent alliance (kept in power by the Conservatives and Plaid Cymru) unwilling to take the necessary action to remove it [sic].

Every vote Labour gets in the bye election will add strength to the resolve to remove this site on council land.

“Vote Labour. Vote to remove the illegal travellers site.”

Thursday, 19 July 2007

It's never too late to love - or rebel!

Culture is an important weapon in the struggle for socialism: Socialism is an important weapon in the struggle for culture . . .

"When I was growing up in Pakistan at age 16 or so, I would go to a poetry reading that would start after dinner about 10:30 p.m. and it would be going on when it was time for breakfast. In the morning we were just swaying with the rhythm of the words and the chant would go up from the crowd to recite some extemporary poetry–make it up. The poets would then have a competition. They would decide on a subject and recite poetry. And the audience would judge which one was the best." - Tariq Ali

Faiz Ahmad Faiz was a revolutionary, an anti-imperialist and one of the greatest poets to ever walk the earth. He is considered by some to be the national poet of Pakistan and many of his poems have become popular songs. This perhaps his most famous poem begins with a beautiful description of a love affair and infatuation, but the idyll is suddenly interrupted by injustice in the world and the poet declares that he must renounce the cocooon of romantic love for something else.

Faiz Ahmad Faiz

That which then was ours, my love,
don’t ask me for that love again.

The world then was gold, burnished with light –
and only because of you. That’s what I had believed.
How could one weep for sorrows other than yours?
How could one have any sorrow but the one you gave?
So what were these protests, these rumors of injustice?
A glimpse of your face was evidence of springtime.
The sky, wherever I looked, was nothing but your eyes.
If You’d fall into my arms, Fate would be helpless.

All this I’d thought, all this I’d believed.
But there were other sorrows, comforts other than love.
The rich had cast their spell on history:
dark centuries had been embroidered on brocades and silks.
Bitter threads began to unravel before me
as I went into alleys and in open market
ssaw bodies plastered with ash, bathed in blood.
I saw them sold and bought, again and again.
This too deserves attention. I can’t help but look back
when I return from those alleys –what should one do?
And you still are so ravishing –what should I do?
There are other sorrows in this world,
comforts other than love.

Don’t ask me, my love, for that love again.

Support School Staff: Term Time Pay - No Way!

UNISON members in Cardiff are campaigning for the fair and equal treatment of ALL staff working in schools. RESPECT supports this campaign 110% and will be doing everything we can to publicise it!
Sign the petition here:

(From UNISON website)


Support staff make up around 50% of all employees in Cardiff Schools.

Like teachers, they work term time and take their holidays during the school holidays. Unlike teachers, many don’t get paid for the full year.

School support staff are not in ‘part time’ jobs – so how is justified that they get part time pay?


* Equality for all school staff and an end to term time only pay, which means;
* Paid 52 week contracts
* Fair pension entitlement
* Full week = full time status
* A maximised number of paid hours and weeks
* Tackling low and unequal pay and achieving proper levels of reward and career opportunities.


This is a new campaign but already we are building popular levels of support in Cardiff and nationally within UNISON. On top of organised general meetings for all school members, over 60 UNISON members are now signed up as contacts in their school to receive regular information. The campaign is being co-ordinated by UNISON officers, the UNISON Cardiff schools convenor, stewards and school support staff members who make up a campaign steering committee.


"Schools work as teams. All staff contracts should be on similar terms and conditions. 52-week contracts for teachers should mean the same for all support staff. That comes from a teacher. The inequality must stop now!"

"Second class employees First class workers"

"Equality for all"

"I have worked for 20 years in the school but my pension is worked out as 13 years due to being paid for 38 weeks instead of 52."

"Under valued and under paid!"

"Term time workers are just as important as the rest so stop treating them like their not. Equality for all workers now."

"This system discriminates against people ( mainly women) who make a valuable contribution to our children's education, and hence our society. They should be paid in the same way as teachers who they work alongside every day.UNISON is working to end this unequal treatment."

Thursday, 12 July 2007

Smash the Pay Freeze

This is going to be a very important meeting in Cardiff for all those who want to support the workers striking against Gordon Brown's pay-freeze.
Let's make sure it's a success and take in the argument that joint action between PCS, CWU and other unions can beat New Labour and increase the confidence of workers all over Britain to fight back against neoliberalism...

Cardiff County Trades Union Council Public Meeting
Defending Public Services, Defending Public Sector Jobs

Tuesday 17th July 2007
Sandringham Hotel
St. Mary Street

Commencing at 7.30p.m.

Confirmed Speakers
John McInally PCS, National Executive Member
Alex Gordon, RMT Member of Council of Executives
Jane Loftus, CWU, President

At a time when workers are feeling under severe pressure and attack, come and debate with those who are leading the fight to save our public services and to defend the jobs of public service workers.

All are welcome - Please support

Monday, 2 July 2007

Building a labour movement conference on Climate Change

Recently in the Western Mail, a leading Welsh trade unionist attacked the leader of the Welsh Tories for calling on the Welsh Assembly to adopt carbon reduction targets. There are many good reasons for attacking the Tories, but this wasn't a valid one! The trade unionist argued that cutting emissions would adversely effect jobs. We believe that this man is not fit to call himself a trade unionist having forgotten basic principles of internationalism and solidarity: Climate change will effect working class and poor people the worst. While UNISON, at a national level, now supports climate activism, the trade union movement has been incredibly backward in taking up this issue. Hopefully this conference will help improve the situation! Please send this info. to all concerned trade unionists

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

At the recent Campaign Against Climate Change International conference there was a workshop for trade unionists addressed by Cllr Rania Khan from Tower Hamlets, Tony Staunton from Plymouth UNISON and East London NUT activist Andy Stone.

Inspired by an excellent session there was enthusiastic support for a much wider network of trade unionists to coordinate work on these issues in UK workplaces.

We agreed an initial aim of organising a Labour Movement Conference on Climate Change for February 2008. I volunteered to coordinate this. So I am now writing to you for two reasons.

1. There will be an open planning meeting for this conference in Birmingham on Saturday 14 July. The venue is Carrs Lane Church, Carrs Lane, Birmingham City Centre (directions below), and the start time is 12.45pm. Please do all you can to publicise this meeting amongst your union friends and comrades.We will need to take decisions on the venue, budget, structure and publicity for the February event at this meeting. If you are planning to attend this meeting in Birmingham please let me know by email as soon as possible.

2. In order to get some publicity for this conference and the work of this group we want to get a first leaflet printed for circulation amongst trade unionists as soon as possible. I am therefore asking for signatories from interested trade unionists to be listed on this leaflet. All will be in a personal capacity, unless otherwise indicated. Can you please get these back to me by Friday 22nd June so that we can get a leaflet out in good time. Bob Crow (General Secretary RMT) has kindly agreed to add his name to the conference in order to get the ball rolling.

In solidarity,

Roy Wilkes
4 Oakhurst Gardens,
M25 1JQ

Phone: 0161 773 8699
Mobile: 07801 263 265
E-mail: roywilkes59@talktalk. net

Stop the Cardiff Bay Incinerator


Members of Butetown RESPECT report that it looks likely that the LibDem mafia who run Cardiff Council will approve plans by two corporations to build a massive incinerator in Cardiff Bay. The incinerator will collect rubbish from across South Wales and sabotage efforts to increase recycling and composting. RESPECT believes that waste should be dealt with in the areas where it is produced rather than being transported across Wales and increasing our carbon footprint.


RESPECT says no to incinerators, the aim should be the full recycling of waste: In Flanders, local government recycles and composts over two-thirds of waste, in Cardiff, the LibDems manage only 12%. Incineration involves burning paper and plastics that should be recycled. Contrary to myth this does not generate renewable energy because most of the fuel comes from plastics which are made from oil. RESPECT campaigns for a rapid transition to a non-fossil fuel based, low carbon economy.


Stopping the Cardiff Incinerator will be a blow against the government and for the planet: New Labour claims it wants to use incinerators as a “green” way to deal with the amount of waste produced in Britain. An environment white paper due to be published next month suggests that the proportion of burned waste could rise from 9 percent to 25 percent in the next 15 years.

It urges making “energy from waste”, a process in which incinerators are used to power electricity generation plants. But incinerators are extremely inefficient generators of energy, producing more carbon dioxide per unit of energy than a coal-fired power station.

This will increase the threat of global warming as well as putting the health of those who live near incinerators at risk.


RESPECT members in South Wales attended the UK anti-incinerator conference last year.

A representative of the Guildford anti-incinerator campaign in Surrey said, “We need to link all the disparate campaigns around Britain. Even if you stop one particular incinerator the real aim must be to make the government think again about how we deal with the waste we produce. And about how we produce the energy we need in a sustainable way.”

Around 9 percent of municipal waste in England is currently incinerated, with the West Midlands burning the most, sending 31 percent of the region’s waste to incinerators.

Around 72 percent of waste is currently sent to landfill sites, but incinerators are not the answer to reducing this figure. Incinerator operators need a constant level of waste in order to keep the fires burning. To meet this demand local authorities abandon recycling and waste reduction plans.

But the main concern surrounds pollutants found in the ash left in the incinerator and emitted from the chimney. These include dioxins, acid gases, nitrogen oxide, heavy metals and particulates. These are suspected of causing cancer.

Although most incinerators in Britain are used to generate electricity, it does not save energy in the long run because the waste is not recycled. This means more raw materials have to be produced to replace the burnt material.


RESPECT member Huw Pudner was one of the founders of the Stop The Incinerator Campaign which was set up to oppose the incinerator in Neath, South Wales.

Huw said, “The company running the Crymlyn Burrows giant incinerator and waste treatment plant has gone bankrupt.

This is only the latest sorry chapter in a long running saga of political and environmental incompetence involving the Neath Port Talbot council and its private partners HLC which was responsible for the running of the plant. It has gone bust owing some £40 million.

Ever since the plant was proposed six years ago it has run into a storm of protest from residents and environmentalists. The incinerator has been a fiasco. It was unloved, unwanted and an affront to those who have to live in its shadow.

Before it was officially opened it was destroyed by fire and it has contaminated local houses and the nearby beach. Now the company that runs it has gone to the wall.

The Neath branch of RESPECT believes that it should be closed down permanently and its workers employed on environmental projects in the area.”


According to Dr Jerry Thompson ,an activist from the Slough anti-incinerator campaign in Buckinghamshire, their are huge health risks associated with incinerators:

“The report on the Sint Niklaas incinerator in Belgium is the only complete study ever done on incinerators.

Although the proposed incinerator at Colnbrook in this area will have a lower dioxin output than that at Sint Niklaas, the fact that it would be nine times larger, will emit higher volumes of particulates and will foolishly be allowed to incinerate radioactive material gives little cause for comfort.

Children are more vulnerable to the pollutants produced by incinerators, breathing in more air than adults relative to their size, and are likely to be the first to suffer from adverse effects. The foetus and newborn are uniquely vulnerable.

The report on the Sint Niklaas incinerator showed that blood and glandular cancers appeared in children about five years after the incinerator started operating. This preceded the increase in adult cancers by seven years. Adults cancers showed a five-fold increase over 20 years.

The Sint Niklaas study also showed an excess of autism, hyperactivity, allergies, asthma, repeated infections and congenital defects.”

Sunday, 1 July 2007

Immigrant Workers: Police Harrassment in Cardiff

RESPECT members in Cardiff have reacted with disgust and anger to the news that fellow workers are being harrased by the home office and demand the immediate release and right to work of 5 arrested immigrant workers described as "illegal".

Adam Johannes, a clerical worker and member of Roath RESPECT who saw the operation first hand commented:

"Why should it be classified as illegal to come to Cardiff from another country to find work and seek a better life?

The UK state and their media demonise asylum seekers and economic refugees, but surely the real enemy of working people is the top 10% of the population who own two-thirds of the wealth in this country and are making us work the longest hours for the worst pay in Western Europe?

The wealthy will move to whichever country gives them the biggest tax break, but working people face discrimination, imprisonment and deportation.

It is vital that trade unionists, anti-capitalists and the organised labour movement defend immigrant workers and challenge racism: No one is illegal".

On Friday, the police sealed off both ends of Caroline Street (popularly known as Chip Alley) shutting down the street for half an hour as immigration and border authorities raided local fast food outlets. They bullied and harrased workers in the late night kebab and chip shops demanding passports and proof of status. 5 workers were taken away.

Postal Workers on Strike! Smash the Pay Freeze!

In the hot summer of 2004 we launched our coalition, RESPECT.
At that time, the CWU in South East Wales voted to support us in the European Elections.
On Friday, RESPECT members in the postal service joined other workers in a strike against Gordon Brown's attempt to impose a pay freeze on workers across the public sector.
Many other RESPECT members also visited picket lines in solidarity and collected donations at their workplaces for striking postal workers.

This follows strike action by workers in the PCS and other unions on the same issue. Mark Serwotka, General Secretary of the PCS and a member of RESPECT's National Council has been pushing for different unions to strike together on the same day. It is rumoured that he has written 5 times to Billy Hayes, the leader of the CWU with the proposal that they co-ordinate strike actions and not received even a reply.

It seems that Labour Party member, Billy Hayes, places loyalty to his discredited party over the interests of CWU members and working people as a whole. RESPECT members are organising at the grassroots to put pressure on the union bureaucracies to co-ordinate strike action to smash Gordon Brown's pay freeze.

Jonny Jones from Splott RESPECT in Cardiff visited picket lines to show solidarity, he writes:

"From the Post Office in the Mumbles to the massive sorting office in Cardiff, the CWU picket lines in South Wales were friendly and very determined to win their dispute.

There were around a dozen pickets at the main sorting office in Swansea, most of whom were very glad to see Respect supporters on the picket line. One picket joked that there were more teachers than posties!

In Cardiff the strike was almost completely solid. One picket said that only one person had gone in and that we should feel free to print his name in bold.

AJ Singh of Cardiff CWU said, “If Alan Leighton wants dignity and respect in the postal service then he needs to show some dignity and respect by paying staff properly and not eroding their working conditions”.

Strikers talked about the possibility of joint action with the PCS and will be working with PCS members to set up a joint union meeting on how best to beat Gordon Brown’s pay freeze."