Solidarity 567, 14 October 2020

Belarus: crackdown and gestures

Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, opposition candidate in Belarus’s rigged 9 August election, declared on Telegram on 13 October: “The regime has 13 days to fulfill three main requirements: 1. Lukashenko must leave. 2. Street violence must stop completely. 3. All political prisoners must be released. If our demands are not met by 25 October, the whole country will peacefully take to the streets with the People’s Ultimatum.” Evidently the opposition assesses that it is strong enough at least to have a chance of this “ultimatum” having at least some force. Sunday 11 October saw street protests again...

Diary of an engineer: Cutting tools

A week ago I felt like giving up, but this one I think I might be getting somewhere. This is often an up-and-down job. I’m asked to make a pin for the crane from a rough sketch. I can’t find any solid bar of the right size, so I use threaded bar. I use a cutting saw to trim a piece to size, then the pillar drill to punch a 7mm hole through the centre. When the hole ends up off-centre on the curved surface, I cut another piece and drill it again, but accurately. I’m happy that this is simple, but good, work. I’m not even fussed when A tells me threaded bar will snap too easily to be useful — I...

Kino Eye: dirty work in US politics

A film about the US elections seems only appropriate, and there’s much to choose from. In The Best Man (Frank J. Schaffner, 1964), liberal candidate William Russell (Henry Fonda) is up against loud-mouthed populist Joe Cantwell (based on Richard Nixon — actor Cliff Robertson) for the Presidential nomination of an unnamed party. There is much “dirty work at the crossroads”. Cantwell illegally obtains a psychiatric report on Russell and threatens to expose him. Russell hears evidence that Cantwell is a closet homosexual but he refuses to use this against him. Eventually, Russell withdraws and...

Eireaennach

A place I lost I scarcely knew, The childhood land I never outgrew, My father’s life, my mother’s tales Of hungers, wars, workhouses, jails, The memories not quite my own To which my memories are sewn: Inextricably in Erin’s net, I am what I refuse to forget.

Deliveroo workers strike again

Deliveroo workers in the IWGB union in Sheffield have voted to take two days of industrial action on 14-15 October, as they continue to push Deliveroo nationally on pay and unfair sackings. Following several weeks of boycotts and organising in Sheffield, the union is continuing to grow. And now, workers from nearby towns have reached out to the Sheffield union branch. A group of drivers in Barnsley have been in contact and report that they are now discussing action on parking fines and low pay. In neighbouring Penistone, food couriers have taken inspiration from the fight in Sheffield, and are...

Strike Wakes Up Sleeper Bosses

Readers might (or might not) remember the old 'pantries' on the Caledonian Sleeper. Staff used these to get some downtime during the night - not even a kip, just a sitdown, a break.

When the company refurbished the sleeper, the company assured staff were assured that there would still be areas...

Winning more in DWP (John Moloney's column)

Negotiations with bosses in the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), over plans to extend job centre opening hours and increase the number of in-person interviews with claimants, are ongoing. The union position is clear; we believe these proposals will put both workers and claimants at risk. Further concessions have now been offered, including devolving some of the decision-making down to individual workers. This means DWP job coaches could make a decision about whether they need to see a claimant in person, or if they could speak to them remotely. That is a meaningful concession, although...

Unite and Labour: we must democratise both party and unions

The Executive Council of the big trade union Unite has agreed to cut its affiliation to the Labour Party by 10% or 50,000 members, in what is generally seen as a protest against Keir Starmer’s leadership. It is not a good or effective protest, if the aim is to promote left-wing policies, Labour democracy, and a working-class voice in politics. Unite’s official statement is cryptic. It does not refer to Starmer’s leadership or the direction it is taking Labour, except in the vaguest of hints, instead talking about support for “emerging talent”, “talented thinkers” and “energetic organisations”...

Universities: the right to move

Issues of health and safety, together with increased workload, alongside cuts, have led to a number of local disputes opening up in universities. A staff-student online assembly organised by the UCU Solidarity Movement on 10 October has called a day of action on 16 October. Groups of students at a number of universities are discussing rent strikes, but these need to be backed up by local student unions and the National Union of Students running a much higher profile campaign around “the right to move” (to get out of accommodation contracts, to return home, to defer courses). Most universities...

Scrap GCSEs for 2021 now!

The conference on 10 October of the Socialist Educational Association decided to call on the government to stop SATs and other high-stakes primary assessments this year. It also demanded that moderated teacher assessment be used instead of examinations for GCSE and A levels in 2021, and that the Labour front bench take up that policy. The Scottish government has already decided to replaced Scotland’s equivalents of GCSEs with moderated teacher assessment. On 3 October the conference of the NEU school workers’ union voted to campaign for the replacement of SATs in 2021 by a system of moderated...

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