Solidarity 587, 7 April 2021

Abuse in football: more reckoning to come

On 17 March, Clive Sheldon QC reported on the investigation he chaired into the sexual abuse of boys in football between 1970 and 2005. Five days later, the BBC began broadcasting its three-part documentary on the subject. Both the report and the documentary revealed the horrifying extent of abuse, the authorities’ failure to protect the boys, and the long struggle for justice. Many working-class lads dream of becoming footballers. They love the beautiful game, they know they are good at it while doubting they are good at anything else, and they aspire to be the heroes they cheer from the...

Bessie Smith's blues are current

If you’re looking for a "straight" biography of Bessie Smith, then Jackie Kay's Bessie Smith, published by Faber, is not for you. Although Jackie Kay (Scotland’s maker, or poet laureate) has clearly done her research into Bessie Smith’s extraordinary life and gives credit to Chris Albertson’s definitive 1971 Bessie for much of the factual information she uses, this is not a conventional account of a life, but a semi-poetic description of the author’s identification and imagined relationship, with her subject. Kay writes: “I don’t know what gave me the idea … to write about my life and write...

Student campaigns make links

On 1 April student organisers from five London universities met to reflect on lessons and steps forwards for fee strike action. Over 200 students remain on fee strike across Goldsmiths and SOAS, whilst UAL (University of the Arts, London) and LSE (London School of Economics) students are building support among international and postgraduate students, who remain the only groups capable of withholding fees. The strike at RCA (Royal College of Art) is somewhat diminished due to management bullying and threats of border controls against visa-dependent students, but some students are still on...

NEU: defend reps, act against "exam factory" system

Delegates to the National Education Union (NEU) Conference will meet online on 7-9 April, 9.30am to 3pm each day. A "Defend NEU Reps" fringe meeting, Thursday 7pm, provides an opportunity to show solidarity and build the campaign to defend NEU Reps who are facing victimisation. The fringe meeting...

Battles in three bus companies

Bus drivers at Manchester’s Go North West firm are continuing an indefinite strike against worsening conditions imposed via “fire and rehire”. The strike entered its sixth week on 4 April. The drivers’ union, Unite, says the new contracts represent an additional 130 hours of work, equivalent to a pay cut of £2,500. At talks at conciliation service Acas, Unite submitted a counterproposal detailing how the company could save £1.3 million to avoid the contractual changes. Go North West has refused, and has told Unite that, unless workers accept new contracts, it may close down the Queens Road...

BT workers gear up to ballot

The Communication Workers Union (CWU) has been holding online meetings for members around the country, as it prepares to launch an industrial action ballot in BT Group. The union’s “Count Me In” campaign has seen well-attended meetings take place throughout recent weeks, with union reps and officers discussing how to resist BT bosses’ plans for job cuts and attacks on terms and conditions. In late March, BT announced plans to give its workers a non-consolidated “pandemic bonus” of £1,000 in cash, and £500 worth of shares, a move which the CWU denounced as a bribe, calling attention to the fact...

Heathrow pushed back

Unite called off a series of 41 strikes planned by workers at Heathrow Airport, after Heathrow Airport Ltd (HAL), the central employer at the airport, made a new offer on pay and conditions. Unite says the offer “includes the potential for pay increases over the next two years (depending on airport traffic and inflation), the insourcing of work... and a commitment to review working hours of some sectors to improve work/life balance.” The strikes, planned to take place across a 24-day period, were due to begin on 2 April. Instead, Unite will ballot members on HAL’s new offer, with the union...

Deliveroo strike 7 April

Deliveroo workers across the UK are set to strike and demonstrate against low pay on 7 April. Earlier this month the Bureau of Investigative Journalism analysed payslips from 318 Deliveroo couriers which covered 34,000 hours of time spent logged into the app. They report: “Half (56%) of the riders who took part earned less than an average of £10 an hour for all the time they were logged in. Some took home far less, with one in six (17%) getting less than £6.45 per hour — the lowest possible minimum wage — and one in three (41%) receiving below £8.72, the legal minimum wage for workers over 25...

Solid start to ScotRail conductors' strikes

The ScotRail conductors’ strike got off to a cracking start yesterday. Solid action saw every train cancelled other than a few DOO trains in the central belt.

Guards are angry that the company has taken away their enhanced pay rates for rest day working, especially as drivers are still being paid...

Red, blue and talking

The maintenance engineers are all back in the building, on normal hours. It’s fantastic being able to have breakfast at home, and commuting in at seven instead of five. The days seem indulgently short, and my free evenings are long and sunny. I’m with the electricians, so the week is filled with small jobs — changing light fittings, replacing a flow sensor, installing security cameras in the workshop, and deep-cleaning it the next day. We’re not used to working in teams; we communicate badly and make stupid errors. J sends the wrong calibration certificate to a manager; A routes the camera...

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