Thursday, 29 December 2011
Thursday, 22 December 2011
The death of the long time Stalinist dictator of North Korea brings no relief to the workers of the country. They suffered many years under Japanese occupation (1905-1945), then during the Korean war (1953-1955) and many, many years of the most ruthless Stalinist rule. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the economy of North Korea suffered setbacks and it is estimated that more than two million people lost their lives during famines at the end of the 1990s. North Korea is now one of the poorer countries in the world, but until well into the 1970s, the income per head of the population was higher than in South Korea.
Stalinist rule in North Korea adheres to the “Juche“ ideology, of ‘self-sufficiency’. The North is unsuitable for food production, because it is mountainous and cold. It has many minerals in its soil, even quite rare ones. The Chinese government prefers the present regime because it gives them relatively easy access to these minerals, and North Korea provides it with a buffer. If North Korea ceased to exist, China would border a country that houses a large contingent of American military forces.
For Japan and South Korea, the presence of the Stalinist regime is discomforting, but it provides a useful excuse for obscene military expenditure. One of North Korea’s military trump cards is that it possesses a nuclear bomb. This seems to be a fairly primitive thing, like the American nuclear bombs in their early stages of development. It is probably too big to fit on a missile, but the North Koreans conducted two test blasts after the US invasion of Iraq, to show the world that they too had the bomb. North Korea’s large land force is meant to defend the country and to repress the population; there is no credible air force or navy.
Most of the expenditure of North Korea is on its military apparatus. This will not change. The new leader, Kim Yong Un, is young and there is no doubt that the military council will firmly hold on to the reins of power. If they do not fall prey to dissension, they could hold on to power for quite a while - the regime has shown itself to be quite tenacious. The regime has effectively isolated the country and ruthlessly repressed any independent working class activity.
Life in North Korea is a nightmare for workers: a harsh struggle for survival in a country with has almost no heating and extremely low temperatures in winter, little and/or very primitive food, and almost no lighting (often one bulb for an apartment). Life is difficult for workers even if you do not take into account the horrendous repression, the concentration camps, the controls over the family and the workplaces, the total lack of information (mobile phones and internet are prohibited) and the ubiquitous secret police.
The death of this tyrant has again provided the representatives of capitalism with an excuse to besmirch the ideas of socialism, despite the brutal reality that this regime, among the most horrific and oppressive band of despots ever to have falsely bore the name. The CWI stands for a struggle to overthrow the brutal corrupt Stalinist dynasty, an integral part of the international struggle to end the poverty, repression, dictatorship and conflict which dominates the region. Asia, through mass struggle. Such a struggle to establish a workers’ democracy and genuine socialism in Korea, based on the democratic control of government, and planning of the economy, may seem far away at this point in time, but like the North Korean football team, the Korean workers always manage to surprise.
Wednesday, 21 December 2011
Tuesday, 20 December 2011
Rob Williams, Chair, National Shop Stewards Network
The lobby articulated the feelings of anger of hundreds of thousands of public sector trade unionists faced with the prospect of their leadership agreeing to a rotten deal.
The lobby, and the campaign around it, had an important effect in forcing TUC leader Brendan Barber and UNISONgeneral secretary Dave Prentis to partially step back from complete and immediate capitulation.
This now allows a window of opportunity for trade unionists to step up the pressure for a continuation of thepensions struggle.
As union leaders went into Congress House, protestors chanted "The Tories win when you sell out!", "N30 showed the way, TUC name the day [for the next strike]" and "Let the members decide!" The TUC's Public Services Liaison Group meeting took place after Brendan Barber and Dave Prentis spent the weekend trying to convince public sector unions to sign up to a 'Heads of Agreement' on the pensions dispute.
This 'agreement' would in effect suspend any further action and agree that the minor concessions of thegovernment are sufficient to settle the dispute.
From reports it seems that in local government UNISON, GMB and UNITE have indicated that they want to sign Maude's 'heads of agreement' and that UNISON has done the same in health.
Barber had to issue a statement saying, "It's important to stress that no agreements have been reached, but unions now have proposals to put to their executives and members."
Prentis also had to emphasise that the 'agreement' would be put to the UNISON Service Group Executives (SGEs) on 10 January.
UNISON members now need to make sure that members of the SGEs are flooded with letters, emails and phone calls making clear members' opposition to this rotten deal.
Decisions should be made by NECs
Decisions on whether there is anything acceptable shouldn't be in the hands of a handful of union leaders but should be made by the unions' national executive committees, which consist of elected lay members, and then by full votes of the union members who were balloted for the 30 November 2011 public sector strike (N30).
The NSSN supports the actions of unions like PCS, NUT and POA who have refused to sign up to a process that can only give confidence to the government while lowering the confidence of workers that their unions are serious about fighting back.
The massive two million strong strike on N30 frightened the government. However, as yet the government have moved only by inches.
The government is relying on the right-wing trade union leaders to throw away their advantage. As The Mirror acknowledges today, the concessions are very slight and still mean that public sector workers will pay more in pension contributions in the middle of what is now a four year pay freeze, and work longer to get less.
In local government, the government might concede a two year delay in the increased pension contributions in return for what is effectively a no-strike agreement.
Far bigger pensions contributions
But if a worker has another twenty years' work in front of them, the majority of those years will be on far bigger pensions contributions.
In addition, the government is planning to change the pensions from a 'final salary' to the lesser 'career average' as well as increasing the retirement age.
Any movement from the ConDems after just one day of co-ordinated strike action should be taken as a source of confidence that the government can be forced into a total climb-down.
Rather than trying to cajole unions into signing up to a disorderly retreat, yesterday's meeting should have set the date for the next strike as early as possible next year, preferably by the end of January.
Unison's head of health, Christina McAnea, told the press that "we always knew this would be a damage limitation exercise." Union national officials might think this, but millions of union members who were on strike on 30 November will be determined that this battle doesn't end here.
The day before N30, Osborne sketched out the next five years or more of unremitting misery for working people.
Another £30 billion of cuts on top of the £81 billion he announced a year ago. 360,000 public sector workers have been sacked, while those remaining facing pay freezes and pay cuts because of job evaluation.
The most vulnerable in society have been hit hard by these ruthless cuts, made in order to pay for the bankers' greed - for which Cameron was prepared to go to the wall in Brussels.
Yet even more cuts are now demanded, which could see a further 400,000 sacked! No wonder N30 was so successful, with towns and cities all over the country seeing their biggest ever demonstrations.
Keep up the pressure
We've got to keep up the pressure on the union leaders. The government's so-called offer will be discussed and debated at union national executive committees early in the New Year.
Unison's local government and NHS group executive committees meet on January 10th. The National Shop Stewards Network calls on all public sector workers to send in motions and resolutions to their union branches, shop stewards committees and trades councils calling for rejection of this deal and the naming of the next strike date.
Sign our online petition and tell your friends, family and workmates about it. But most of all, come to the conference called by PCS Left Unity on Saturday January 7th at the Friends Meeting House in Euston Road, London.
It's open to union members, activists and reps in all unions to debate the way forward after N30 and yesterday's TUC Public Services Liaison Group meeting.
Speaking after today's statement in parliament by Danny Alexander, PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said the government's "unacceptable bullying" will not deter the union's members from standing up for what is right.
In singling out the union for criticism the chief secretary to the Treasury mislead MPs by saying PCS had "walked away from talks".
The truth is, the Cabinet Office unilaterally announced yesterday PCS would no longer be invited to negotiations over pensions, even though the union believes the government has a legal obligation to do so.
In a letter to Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude yesterday, Mark Serwotka wrote: "As the union representing the overwhelming majority of civil servants we want to reach an agreement, but we could not accept that the government's proposals are an unalterable framework within which any discussions have to take place. PCS would expect to be involved in any further discussions which take place in relation to the government’s proposals."
Letter to Francis Maude 19 Dec 2011
The union has reiterated its commitment to negotiating but ministers have refused to negotiate on the three core issues of forcing public servants to pay hundreds of pounds more each year in pensions contributions, work for up to eight years longer and receive much less in retirement - in many cases, tens of thousands of pounds.
Of all the proposed changes, these will have the biggest impact on the pensions of millions of public servants. Not a single penny of the extra contributions will go to make pensions any more affordable - because this is not required - the money will go to the Treasury to pay off the budget deficit caused by the recession and bailing out the banks.
While talks with Cabinet Office officials have been held in recent weeks on aspects of the civil service scheme, there have been no central negotiations with ministers on these key issues since 2 November.
At a meeting of the TUC's public sector liaison group yesterday evening, Mark Serwotka reported the union's view that nothing had changed since the public sector strike on 30 November, that the offer on the table in the civil service was not good enough, and that further industrial action will be necessary in the new year if the government's continues to refuse to negotiate on the main issues.
Mark Serwotka said: "It is extraordinary how PCS members have been treated by this government, simply for saying they will not accept being made to pay more and work longer for tens of thousands of pounds less in their retirement.
"This kind of unacceptable bullying will not deter union members from standing up for what is right, and opposing the government's attempts to make them pay the price for a recession they did not cause. We remain committed to negotiating with ministers, but they continue to refuse even though we believe they have a legal obligation to do so."
Saturday, 17 December 2011
Sign the petition by visiting by iPetitions: http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/pensions_strike_january/?utm_medium=email&utm_source=system&utm_campaign=Send%2Bto%2BFriend
Friday, 16 December 2011
“PCS Left Unity is organising an open meeting at Friends Meeting House, Euston Road, London on Saturday 7 January to demand further action on pensions, this meeting will be open to all reps in any union that took action on N30 and is to put pressure on union leaderships to name a further strike day, please pass on to all your contacts in other unions, put the date in your diary and attend, more details will be issued shortly.”
A recall conference of the Public Sector Liaison Group (PSLG), the body that brings together TUC affiliated public sector unions, will be convened on Monday 19th December at 3PM.
At this meeting TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber will attempt to sell Francis Maude's latest pensions offer as the basis for a settlement of the dispute to trade union leaders.
In a bid to head off this damaging out come the NSSN and other left trade union activists are calling for a lobby of the PSLG before it meets. Trade unionists will have the opportunity to voice their opposition to Maude's proposals and demand further action in the New Year.
The NSSN will be demanding:
Reject Maude's latest pensions proposals which will mean all public sector workers having to work longer, pay more, and get less.
No to secret deals by union leaders over the heads of the membership. We demand democratic control of the negotiations.
We demand that the date is set for the next co-ordinated public sector strike early in the New Year. UNISON Scotland has already proposed 25 January as the date of the next strike.
The lobby will begin at 2:00 PM at Congress House, 23-28 Great Russell Street. WC1B 3LS
The NSSN urges all of it's supporters and readers to come down to the lobby and build the pressure for further action in defence of pensions.
Wednesday, 14 December 2011
Kazakhstan: 20 years of independent Kazakhstan – 20 years of authoritarianism! International Day of action on 17 December
Over 70 trade unionists, community campaigners and socialists gathered for a conference in Glasgow on December 10, to launch the Scottish Anti Cuts Coalition. The coalition will stand candidates across Scotland in the May 2012 council elections.
From the chair, PCS national executive member Cheryl Gedling - who along with other leading public sector trade unionists has played a central role in the formation of SACC - introduced the discussion explaining that the conference had taken on further importance after the mass public sector strike on November 30.
Cheryl highlighted the colossal impact of the strike that had cost the economy £500 million and had shaken the ConDem government. Tory Chancellor Osborne’s provocative autumn statement unleashing further austerity on the poorest in society and the continuing loss of thousands of jobs a week in the public sector show the need for an anti-cuts electoral challenge.
Brian Smith, Branch Secretary of Glasgow City Unison and a member of Socialist Party Scotland underlined the anger of workers in response to SNP government ministers crossing picket lines and Labour’s inconsistent attitude towards the strike. Labour leader Ed Miliband refused to back the strikes and while Scottish Labour supported it, their MSPs had crossed picket lines on the previous strike on June 30.
Brian stressed the need to expose and oppose SNP and Labour politicians implementing the ConDem’s cuts in council chambers not just through general anti cuts campaigning but also a political challenge to the cuts agenda. Anti-cuts activists have an opportunity with all of Scotland’s councillors up for election in May under a proportional representation system to raise principled opposition to all cuts to a wide audience.
5 key principles
Brian urged support for a resolution to create a coalition of anti-cuts candidates based around five key points: Opposition to all cuts, Candidates if elected would put forward needs budgets protecting services, jobs and communities and build a mass campaign to demand a return of the money stolen by the Con Dems from public services, Opposition to privatisation, Full support to workers taking industrial action and communities, young people fighting the cuts, Taxation of the rich and Public Ownership allowing investment in jobs and services.
Brian outlined the basis for a voluntary coalition. That all candidates would sign up to the five pledges and can add to them with further political and local demands. Socialist Party Scotland members who are candidates for example will also raise wider socialist demands alongside the 5 key pledges.
The coalition will aim to stand credible candidates in as many areas as is practically possible, bearing in mind the importance of standing candidates with a good record of fighting cuts, local campaigning etc. Where, therefore, other Left candidates are standing who have a principled record of defending the interests of local communities and opposition to cuts, the coalition will not stand against them. Provided they clearly come out against all cuts.
The name “Scottish Anti Cuts Coalition” would be registered. Candidates who are members of already registered political parties can use their party name if they wish. He also noted the calling of a political conference by the United Left (broad left in the Unite trade union) on 14 January and said he hoped this would be step towards trade union’s taking part in building political representation for workers and that the coalition set up at this conference would attend and participate.
Rab Patterson, chair of Midlothian Trades Council and a member of Midlothian Against the Cuts gave a flavour of the frustration of working class communities at Labour councils carrying out cuts. In his community, Labour councillors had carried out a large scale cuts program and failed to take up the privatisation scandal at a local Southern Cross hospital, instead they had spent millions on legal fees trying to stop the council’s workforce enforcing their rights under equal pay legislation.
Dundee Unison Chairperson and Socialist Party Scotland member Jim McFarlane gave a picture of the scale of the N30 strike pointing to the magnificent 10,000 strong demonstration in Dundee, a city of 140,000. Jim said the mood of workers reflected a political turning point which anti cuts activists had to respond too. He recounted that the loudest cheers at the Dundee rally, were for speakers who denounced the politicians for not supporting the strike but also for those who pointed to the cuts policies of the SNP and Labour in power. Jim argued that the SNP and Labour had had every chance and opportunity to defend communities against cuts but have shown which side they are on. These political representatives who have betrayed workers should stand aside or be forced out by a principled anti cuts challenge.
These points were echoed by young people at the meeting. Youth Fight for Jobs activists, Ryan Stuart and Wayne Scott explained the disenfranchisement of young people who are consigned to unemployment or low paid work and are being hammered by education cuts.
Unison activists and Socialist Party Scotland members Diane Harvey and Ian Leech highlighted the role of Glasgow’s Labour council in attacking workers conditions and attacking community services. Ian raised the need for the anti-cuts movement to have political leadership that challenged Labour’s argument for cuts at a slower pace.
Diane pointed to the government’s strategy of trying to divide public and private sector workers and argued that the disputes of the electricians and the Unilever workers were undermining this. She explained that workers who took part in N30 were asking who to vote for.
Gordon Morgan gave support for the motion on behalf of Solidarity Scotland’s Socialist Movement and said he hoped an anti-cuts electoral challenge would be a catalyst for strengthing and building community anti cuts campaigns.
Labour and SNP
The Socialist Workers Party supported the motion but raised differences about the approach of the coalition towards Labour and the SNP. In several contributions they raised some doubts about the impact of an anti-cuts electoral challenge and how widely it should be standing candidates.
SWP members for example argued that Labour councillors, activists and MSP’s had played a positive role in the campaign against the Edinburgh SNP/Liberal coalition’s privatisation program and that raising the question of standing against them may be divisive.
They urged unity with Labour representatives against the “common class enemy, the ConDem’s”. This was answered in the debate by Socialist Party Scotland members who explained that Labour, if they win control of Edinburgh council, will implement a cuts program.
The International Socialist Group, a recent split from the SWP, expressed a change of attitude towards the idea of the coalition from their position at the 22 October meeting. In October, the ISG had opposed the initiative, saying it did not go far enough and called for the immediate creation of a new united left. At the conference the ISG made a similar argument but supported the resolution to set up a broad coalition.
Kevin McVey, Scottish Socialist Party National Secretary reported on discussion in the SSP about the coalition and declared that the SSP members present would abstain on the vote for the resolution. The SSP had concerns that no new forces were involved in the setting up of the coalition and that its constituent parts did not represent anything significant. He also made it clear that the SSP had begun selecting candidates for the elections.
This was replied to by Alan Brown, a leading PCS member speaking in a personal capacity, who highlighted the social and political weight of the trade unionists attending the conference and the wider support for the idea of standing anti cuts candidates amongst trade union members and the wider working class.
Brian Smith concluded the discussion by raising the need to organise meetings in local areas in the New Year to bring together activists, discuss candidates and seats and raise the profile of the coalition. He reported that he had been involved in discussions with community campaigners and trade unionists and was encouraging them to stand.
Socialist Party Scotland members played a key role in driving forward the initiative for a coalition and will be standing candidates in the elections in May. The launch of the Scottish Anti-Cuts Coalition marks an important step forward. It will now be taken out among trade unionists, communities and the wider working class to build the challenge in May 2012 for a principled anti-cuts alternative.
Tuesday, 13 December 2011
As part of national industrial action on Monday 12 December, angry civil servants at HMRC Southampton held a lunchtime car park strike meeting to rally support for the continued attacks on sickness policy.
PCS rep Dave said: "Members are angry at the attempt to make sickness a disciplinary issue and means members are coming into work ill and in some cases taking leave days rather than report sick.
"We will continue to support action on this issue. We need to build on the support for 30 November, 80% came out here.
"I think we now have to consider escalating the action". Other workers raised the lack of trust people have in politicians and all the arguments put around to justify the cuts. Support for a united stand against all cuts got a good response as well as the need to stand anti-cuts candidates against the cuts establishment.
Thursday, 1 December 2011
20,000 Unison, Unite, GMB and over 20 unions, marched against the attacks on workers in the largest trade union demonstration in Bristol since 1932. Featuring Nina Franklin, President NUT, John McInally, Vice President PCS, Dave Wilshire CWU and Nigel Costley South West TUC.
Extract of the speech given by John McInally, PCS civil service union vice-president, at the Bristol strike rally on 30 November:
The austerity programme is a disaster. It means unemployment of 2.6 million. It means youth unemployment over one million. It means pay freezes while the richest 1% stuff their bank accounts with obscene, unearned wealth.
It means the biggest transfer of wealth and power in history through a privatisation programme which signals the end of free education and health.
And, let's be clear, the problem is not that they are cutting 'too fast' and 'too deep' - the problem is they are cutting at all.
There can be no excuse for this attack on pensions - public sector pensions are affordable. They are sustainable. And, they are falling in cost.
Pensions are only deferred wages. The average civil service pension, if you take away the tiny percentage of high earners, is only £80 a week - hardly a fortune.
The truth is this government wants us to endure a lifetime of low pay followed by an impoverished old age. They have sought to divide public sector workers from private sector workers. However, the real division in society is between the haves and the have-nots.
Our slogan is "fair pensions for all". When rich Tory ministers talk about "fairness" between private and public sector pensions what they mean is a race to the bottom - they want to impose on us the worst pension provision they can get away with.
That is why we must stand together to defeat this attack. But they couldn't get away with this if the Labour Party were not committed to protecting corporate interests above those of the vast majority in this country.
If the main political parties in this country are incapable of representing the interests of the vast majority, then it is time we do so ourselves.
We will use all campaigning methods to defeat these attacks. We will oppose them in the courts, in our workplaces, in our communities too. I urge everyone not only to support your trade union but also the anti-cuts alliance in your own town or city. If there isn't one - then set one up.
We give our solidarity and full support to the pensioners' alliances, the students and the school students and the Occupy movement.
After 30 November's brilliant show of strength and solidarity we must prepare for further action if the government does not concede. PCS believes that theTUC must announce at its upcoming meeting that - as an absolute minimum - we organise another national day of action.
That means escalation by getting even more unions on board, including private sector workers fighting for their pension rights too.
All targeted, selective or rolling action taken by individual unions must be coordinated for maximum impact.
But the way to win is to demonstrate our power as we have done so today.
National coordinated industrial action is the key to defeating the attack on pensions and the cuts themselves.