News & reports, politics, industry, the unions

All reports must be in by 2pm Monday


by Dick Duane

ON MONDAY 29 March Essex firefighters started an emergency calls only action in response to the sacking of a part time firefighter at Epping station. That day the Essex Fire Brigade Union leadership recommended to our members that a 24 hour strike started two days later if the sacking was not reversed. Faced with overwhelming support for the unballoted action the chief fire officer was forced to suspend the sacking and promise a proper investigation.

The government and the employers, councils which are overwhelmingly New Labour controlled, want to tear up firefighters' national terms and conditions. The local victory in Essex shows firefighters will fight and can win if they are given a lead. Every watch, station and brigade should hold meetings endorsing the union's national leaders' call for a ballot for strike action if the attacks are imposed. There should be no delay in calling that ballot. The best way to win would be to ballot for action now.

Mark Steel

AROUND 70 trade unionists, campaigners and supporters joined a picket outside the Guardian's offices in London last week in protest at the sacking of socialist journalist Mark Steel

Reclaim Our Rights - Free Our Unions

Demonstrate for trade union rights

Saturday 1 May, 12 noon, Clerkenwell Green, London

Called by the United Campaign for the Repeal of the Anti Trade Union Laws


Defend Jimmy

LEADERS OF the Transport and General Workers' Union have launched a witch hunt against socialists inside the union. Incredibly, Jimmy Nolan of the Liverpool dockers is under attack for backing a conference last year to set up an alternative Broad Left grouping in the union. He faces a disciplinary hearing before the union's Finance and General Purposes Committee that could lead to him being removed from all union positions.

The conference, held in Liverpool last year, set up a Campaign for a Democratic Union. Now TGWU leader Bill Morris has declared it "an organisation within an organisation" and banned its newsletter, Off the Record. Other union members who attended the conference are also under attack. Geoff Collier, a branch secretary in Hull, is being threatened with removal from both his position and from being delegate to the union's conference. That is because his branch passed a motion that appeared in Off the Record. The motion simply attacked Labour for the low level of the minimum wage and called for a national demonstration against low pay. Many similar motions attacking New Labour were passed by the union's last national conference. Elane Jones, TGWU member and secretary of Sheffield Trades Council, also faces a disciplinary hearing.

Why is Bill Morris pursuing disciplinaries against his own members when the TGWU was one of the few national unions that did not officially back the 10 April demonstration for a decent minimum wage? TGWU members need to pass motions condemning this witch hunt immediately.


WORKERS IN the AEEU engineering union at Chivas Brothers whisky factory in Paisley were to hear the result of a ballot on action on Monday. The company has been pushing redundancies and attacks on workers' conditions. The majority of the production workers are in the GMB union, with a minority in the AEEU. Management has sacked four workers, including the AEEU union convenor, after it did not get enough volunteers for redundancy. The four were given half an hour to get out of the plant, though some had worked there for over 20 years.

Workers are angry, not just at the job cuts, but at the blatant attack on the union. If workers vote for action there should be immediate notice of strike action. GMB union members still face serious attacks on their working conditions through new contracts and could be won to solidarity with the AEEU workers.

Civil servants

CIVIL SERVANTS are facing an attack by the government at exactly the same time as their leaders move to neuter the grass roots organisation of the PCS union. The government has published a white paper on "modernising" the civil service which, amongst other things, describes a yearly pay rise and collective bargaining as "outdated assumptions". The document will come as a further blow to the 260,000 PCS members, many of whom voted Labour two years ago for the first time.

But PCS leaders, both from the old CPSA and the PTC, have accommodated the government. They have effectively dropped opposition to performance related pay and privatisation, calling for public/private finance for the National Air Traffic Services (NATS). They are also trying to overturn decisions made by delegates at the last union conference that would have extended union democracy. They are to hold a ballot at the end of April to reverse key conference decisions, which included holding yearly National Executive Committee elections and having an annual conference. They have also tagged on two other issues. They want to reverse the conference decision to scrap all anti trade union laws and oppose calling industrial action against privatisation. They also want to get rid of collective discussion in the union in favour of ballots which are stacked in the favour of the leadership.

As a Sheffield civil servant says, "There is a relationship between the union membership and the 1,000 or so delegates to conference. Activists are the backbone of the union on the ground. These are the people who take on management and to whom members look for representation." All PCS members must hold workplace meetings to oppose the leadership's attack on union democracy in the run up to the ballot which was due to take place between 30 April and 27 May.


JUSTICE FOR Delroy Lindo. Picket Wood Green Crown Court, Monday 19 April. Assemble 9am, Lordship Lane, Tottenham.

ROBERTO Brollini and Taj Ahmed, wrongly convicted of assault after defending themselves against Nazi BNP members in Preston, are still fighting for justice. Roberto is due to be released on Monday of next week. However, he is to be electronically tagged. In an outrageous decision Taj is to be kept in jail, possibly for another three months.

THE ANTI Nazi League and local anti-racist organisations have called a counter-demonstration against a planned march by the Nazi National Front in Worcester on Saturday of next week.

AN ANTI-deportation campaign has been organised to defend Alfred Koineh, an asylum seeker who fled from Sierra Leone in 1994. Alfred's wife and two children are presumed dead after being taken away by rebel forces in 1992.

In brief

KATIE WHEATLEY, well known Rotherham council trade unionist, Unison union branch official and anti-racist, was sacked by the management of the library service on Thursday of last week. Not one member of staff has lodged an official complaint against her with management. She was suspended while under extreme stress. Katie is appealing against the decision.

GLASS WORKERS at Beatson Clark, Rotherham, have staged two one day strikes against job cuts and changes in working practices which threaten health and safety. A further 24 hour strike by 50 TGWU/ACTS union members in the "hot end section" was suspended on Friday of last week to allow talks. But workers, who voted 93 percent in favour of strike action, were set to go ahead with another one day stoppage on Tuesday this week if no agreement was reached.

THE SACKED Sky Chefs workers have called a mass picket for Monday 3 May between 12 noon and 4pm, at the Fagg's Road picket line (off the A30, opposite the Green Man pub).