Solidarity 316, 12 March 2014

Met police spied on Lawrence family

The Metropolitan Police are in the spotlight again, as a new report reveals evidence that Scotland Yard sent an undercover officer to spy on the family and supporters of murdered black teenager Stephen Lawrence.

The independent inquiry, carried out by QC Mark Ellison, was prompted by allegations from former undercover police officer Peter Francis that he had been “tasked to find intelligence … to smear the Lawrence family.” It has now pushed the Home Secretary Theresa May to announce a public inquiry into police spying.

Over 65% of cuts to come

According to the Institute of Fiscal Studies, 65% of the Government's already decided cuts to public services are still to go through, and 42% of its cuts to benefits are yet to come.

Yet in the Budget on 19 March, Chancellor George Osborne is set to announce even more planned cuts.

Although he claims that Britain is now in an economic recovery — and for the rich, it is — he says he will keep on adding cuts if the Tories are re-elected in 2015.

Government wins on hospital closure law

Two protests in defence of the NHS took place outside Parliament on 10 and 11 March to coincide with a parliamentary debate on the Care Bill, clause 119 of which gives sweeping powers to close hospitals without full local consultation.

At the last stage in the Parliamentary process, the government won, with a vote of 288 to 241.

Crossrail worker killed

A 43-year-old worker on the Crossrail construction project in London has died after being struck by a piece of falling concrete.

Although this is the first worker to die because of a work-related incident on a Crossrail site, it is far from the first accident.

In October 2012, part of the excavation infrastructure at Crossrail’s Paddingon site collapsed, and in December 2012, a Crossrail worker suffered 70% burns after coming into contact with a live cable.

Unite sets “cunning plan”

The giant Unite union announced on 5 March that it will reduce its numbers for affiliation to the Labour Party from one million to 500,000.

This move is part of a would-be cunning plan through which the big unions hope to neutralise the Collins proposals to rejig union affiliations to Labour.

At the Labour Party’s special conference on 1 March, union leaders made speeches denouncing the Collins proposals, but... calling for votes for the proposals. Evidently they reckoned that Collins’s final draft was “the best that could be achieved by negotiations”.

Probation officers to strike

Probation officers in England and Wales will strike on 31 March and 1 April against the proposed privatisation of their service.

Members of the National Association of Probation Officers (NAPO) also struck in November 2013, only the fourth strike in the union’s history. NAPO general secretary Ian Lawrence said: “The Coalition’s plans to sell off the management of offenders to private providers so that they can make a profit from the justice system is a recklessly dangerous social experiment that presents massive risks to the safety of communities.”

Teachers need a strategy

Nominations for General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers (NUT) close on 30 April.

Martin Powell-Davies, secretary of Lewisham NUT, is standing as the left candidate for General Secretary, with the support of the rank-and-file activists’ network Lanac, along with Patrick Murphy (Leeds NUT secretary and an AWL member) for Deputy General Secretary.

Rebuilding working-class power

The “New Unionism” of the 1880s saw hundreds of thousands of unskilled and semi-skilled workers, many of them migrants, and prominently including groups of women workers like the Bryant & May match workers, launch mass organising drives that shook up the old labour movement.

Their struggles challenged the orthodoxy of the existing unions and confronted conservative attitudes about whether such workers could, in fact, organise. The struggles of that period, and the “Great Unrest” which followed early in the 20th century, paved the way for the modern labour movement.

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