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. Hungry for Justice got us active around issues at work. They’re the only reason this sector is organised.Our branch got started on the back end of last year. We were having some issues with not getting our full entitlement to food discounts; we were only getting a couple of days’ notice on our rota instead of two weeks; and we were being called along to meetings but we...

Industrial news in brief

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. Although there is a financial squeeze on the HE sector, those at the top are trying to make those at the bottom suffer all of the pain. In...

Ports and workers’ power

"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. “Teu” means “twenty-foot...

Polarisation in Harlow

“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. One thing it is not, is intolerant. Quite the opposite. A lot of people...

Tories plan Great Wall of Calais

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 ÂŁ1.9 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." The wall will be made of a kind of "soft" cement, to make climbing...

No to school uniforms!

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. I teach maths in a school which requires...

Don’t bring back the 11-plus!

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. Maintaining a high level of attainment in public exams is made more difficult for these schools. They find it harder to secure their League Table position. OfSTED penalises them. These are the schools...

The PR man and his sexist gaffes

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. “In truth, some of the things you said reflected the way in which some phrases I used, either in a tweet or speech, have been decontextualised and repeated in order to...

Corbyn’s environment policy: radical and visionary

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”. The plans are...

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