Solidarity 416, 14 September 2016

Organise the unorganised

The Bakers, Food, and Allied Workers’ Union has been organising the “Hungry for Justice” campaign and unionising fast-food workers. Steve, the branch secretary of the Scarborough Wetherspoons BFAWU branch, spoke to Solidarity.

Industrial news in brief


Simon Nelson, Gemma Short and Peggy Carter

Unison is organising a strike ballot among its members in the Higher Education (HE) sector to oppose this year’s pay offer. The offer of just 1.1% for the majority of staff, with some additional payments at the lower end of the scale, is not adequate to meet rises in the cost of living and compensate for rises in taxation.The union is recommending rejection of the offer and demanding a 5% rise, and the independent living wage for those on the lowest pay.

Ports and workers’ power


Martin Thomas

"The RWG [container] terminal [in Rotterdam, 2.35m teu capacity], with its fully automated cranes, is operated by a team of no more than 10 to 15 people on a day-to-day basis. Most of its 180 employees aren’t longshoremen, but IT specialists” (Journal of Commerce, 4 Feburary 2016).

The managing director says: “We are in fact, an IT company that handles containers”.

Compare: in 1900 the Port of London was the busiest port in the world. It had 50,000 workers shifting cargo mostly by hand, as they had done for thousands of years. It handled 7 million tons of cargo.

Polarisation in Harlow


Steve Drewett, Newtown Neurotics

“Brexit” is “Brexit” and “violent assault” is “violent assault”. Much as some people would deny that there is a connection between Brexit and the violence that occurred in Harlow over the August bank holiday, leaving one Polish man dead and another injured, there is undoubtedly one.

Both statements attempt to describe something and yet still leave one in the dark.I live in Harlow and have done so since 1959, I love this town. Its problems, such as they are, are no more (and probably less) than anywhere else in Britain.

Tories plan Great Wall of Calais


Theodora Polenta

On 7 September, Britain's immigration minister, Robert Goodwill, announced that the government will build a four-metre-high wall for about one kilometre along the main port highway in Calais, France, to prevent refugees or immigrants boarding lorries to cross the Channel.

Construction will cost about £1.9 million, will start this month and is to be completed by the end of year. "Many continue to pass [the border]," said Goodwill, speaking to a parliamentary committee. "We have raised fences, now we will raise the wall."

No to school uniforms!


Martin Thomas

Hartsdown Academy, in Kent, sent 50 students home on the first day of term for “incorrect” school uniform.

Nervous 11-year-olds on their first day in big school were turned away because of quibbles about their socks, or buckles on their shoes.Yet the headteacher and the academy chain bosses are defiantly self-righteous. They want to stop the school being “scruffy”.

There is no evidence that wearing costly, awkward, and weird clothes helps learning. School uniforms are unknown in Finland, which comes top in world assessments, and in France and Germany.

Don’t bring back the 11-plus!


Patrick Yarker and Clive Larkin

Any expansion of grammar schools in England will be a mechanism for intensifying social divisions.

The arrival of any new secondary school alters the local educational ecology. The arrival of an entirely selective school has a particularly damaging effect. It drastically recasts the intake of all other schools in an area, and at a stroke turns them, however they are named, into secondary moderns.

The PR man and his sexist gaffes


Elizabeth Butterworth

Owen Smith’s Labour leadership campaign tagline is “Labour’s Future”. Yet his attitudes to women seem to be stuck in the 1970s.

At a hustings in Westminster on 5 September, a woman audience member called his comments “deeply gendered, quite violent and aggressive towards women”. Smith responded: “It has been the most mortifying experience for me in this contest to have been painted as sexist, because it’s the last thing I am.

Corbyn’s environment policy: radical and visionary


Todd Hamer

Jeremy Corbyn’s Environment and Energy policy is a fleshed out version of the policy he announced last year. It shows Corbyn at his most radical and visionary. Anyone who cares about the future of human civilisation should read it and rally to the Labour Party to make it a reality.

Corbyn’s broad vision is to solve the climate crisis whilst maintaining 21st century level of material wealth and abundance. His proposed National Investment bank will provide £500 billion of investment, creating 300,000 green jobs that will “accelerate the transition to a low-carbon economy”.

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