Solidarity 615, 24 November 2021

Ireland: Tories seek to crash their own deal deal

Speculation is mounting that the UK, as part of its ongoing wrangle with the EU, may trigger Article 16 of the Northern Ireland Protocol, plunging its whole Brexit agreement into doubt. The Northern Ireland Protocol was agreed in October 2019 and signed in December 2020 as a means of avoiding a hard border on the island of Ireland. Instead, Northern Ireland would, in effect, remain part of the EU’s Single Market for goods. Checks would take place between Northern Ireland and Great Britain — creating an Irish Sea border. Despite initially agreeing to this, Unionists and the Tories are now...

Kino Eye - Ireland on film: Strumpet City

The recent articles in Solidarity on James Connolly and other aspects of Irish labour history bring to mind what some have called the “great Irish novel”: James Plunkett’s Strumpet City, adapted for TV by Hugh Leonard and broadcast in Ireland in 1980 and then the UK. Strumpet City covers the period from 1907 to 1914, taking as its central event the Dublin Lockout of 1913. Connolly doesn’t make an appearance (he was in the USA for some of this time) but we are offered a surprisingly bravado performance from Peter O’Toole as the famous labour leader Jim Larkin. For me, however, the TV adaptation...

Royal Parks: an interim advance (John Moloney's column)

Outsourced cleaners and attendants in the Royal Parks have voted to accept a settlement in their dispute. A vote was held at a meeting on 18 November, with a follow-up check of members who couldn’t attend. It vastly improves sick pay arrangements, and enhances holiday pay. It also recognises the union, and several workers have come forward to be elected as reps. Although a clear victory, this is an interim settlement. There are many outstanding issues and other demands that workers want to press for, including issues regarding their contracts, health and safety and other matters. Another key...

Night Tube strikes from 26 November

Rail union RMT has again announced strikes over Night Tube “grade consolidation”. Management are intent on destroying work-life balance and bumping up dangerous fatigue-inducing shift patterns in order to save themselves some cash. The first 24-hour strike is on 26 November, followed by strikes during Night Tube hours every Friday-Saturday until 17-18 December, with a further 24-hour strike on 18 December. All existing Night Tube lines (Central, Victoria, Jubilee, Northern, and Piccadilly lines) are striking on 26 November and 18 December; the two reopening now (Central and Victoria) will be...

Take midwives' cause into the labour movement

Thousands of midwives, a significant proportion of the 50,000 in the UK, joined demonstrations across the country on 21 November, along with other birth workers and supporters. They want more resources to improve overstretched maternity services, the working conditions of midwives, and the care they provide to mothers and babies. It is all part of the wider NHS squeeze. The map of protests put together by the new March With Midwives social media group which called the action indicates there were at least 80, all over the UK. There were substantial turnouts even in places you might not expect...

Bernie Sanders slams USA’s huge military budget while social spending stalled

While the US administration labours to squeeze a now-much-reduced social-spending plan through Congress, on 17 November the Senate voted by a big bipartisan majority to expedite procedure on a huge military budget. That budget has already gone through the House of Representatives by a big majority, with Cori Bush, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and others from the “squad” voting against. In the Senate, Bernie Sanders spoke out against the budget and for at least a reduction. Day after day, here on the floor and back in their states, many of my colleagues tell the American people how deeply concerned...

Covid: resist the far right!

Crowds of several hundred torched cars, set off fireworks, and threw rocks during protests against Covid curbs on 19 November in Rotterdam. Police opened live fire, injuring three. The Netherlands, with a running Covid case count which has multiplied by 11 since early October, and death count multiplied by seven, has closed shops and cafés after 8pm. In Austria, thousands marched on 20 November against the government’s plan to make vaccines compulsory for all from February. Austria has a new lockdown (shops closed, etc.) from 23 Nov. There have been similar protests in countries with milder...

Support the university strikes!

Members of the University and College Union (UCU) across fifty-eight universities will strike on 1-3 December in two parallel national disputes. In some (primarily older, pre-92) institutions the strike is over a cut to pensions that could see members lose up to 35% of guaranteed benefits on top of previous substantial cuts. In others the focus of the dispute is on the “Four Fights”: pay, equality, casualisation, and workload. Some universities are striking in both disputes. Over the past twelve years, pay has fallen twenty per cent in real terms due to below-inflation rises, at the same time...

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