Do you have a story for inside the System?
Send it to Inside the System, Socialist Worker, PO Box 82 London E3 3LH
The customer is always king
DEPUTY PRIME minister John Prescott has been talking tough about how the railways have become a "national disgrace" since privatisation. Tony Blair told rail companies in February this year, "You are failing your customers, and those who continue to fail them have no place in the rail of the future." And transport minister John Reid said last year, "In too many companies punctuality, reliability and overall quality have deteriorated."
But New Labour is singing from a different hymn sheet when it comes to businesses abroad. The government tells them that rail privatisation is a great success. A glossy brochure produced by the Department of Trade and Industry and the foreign office turns on the hard sell. It boasts that "Britain's railways have experienced a revolution in thinking as well as massive new investment." A "competitive home market distinguishes Britain's railways from most other countries. It is a market where the customer is king." It continues, "There are now 25 train-operating companies, instead of just one." The brochure is even brazen enough to state that "trains are cleaner, safer, faster".
This is of course a complete joke to anyone who travels by train. The bad news is, New Labour intends to unleash exactly the same devastation on the London Underground.
A NEW study by Dr Jean Shaoul at Manchester University has found that the privatised rail companies survive on an annual public subsidy three times greater than that which British Rail used to receive. She has searched through the finances of the private companies and concludes that British Rail was far more efficient.
A leading member of the Orange Order in Scotland is standing as a candidate in the elections to the Scottish Parliament, as a Tory. Ian Wilson, the grand master of the Grand Orange Lodge of Scotland, is the Tories' candidate for the Croftmalloch ward in Whitburn, West Lothian. He claims his involvement in the Orange Lodge will not lead to rising religious tension in the area.
A VISIT from Prince Charles was the kiss of death for a group of workers in Scotland last week. They were put on a three day week just 24 hours after Prince Charles paid a visit to their new factory. The 50 workers at Hunters of Brora textile mill in Sutherland were in a state of shock. Charles had toured the mill last Tuesday, unveiled a plaque and praised the firm's products. "I guess they were keeping us busy up until Charles came," said one worker.
RECENTLY released MI5 papers show the role played by pigeons in the Second World War. Heinrich Himmler, as well as being a mass murderer, was the president of the German National Pigeon Society. He had the idea of using pigeons to carry intelligence from Britain to Germany. But British spies discovered this. The Army Pigeon Service Special Section recruited two peregrine falcons to assist them. They captured two enemy pigeons and the secret files. Both birds were made prisoners of war!
Do as I say
A BULLYING boss is forcing thousands of workers to sign a waiver to the European Union's working time directive so they can be made to work more than 48 hours a week. Who is this Thatcherite company? None other than the government itself. Civil servants working in government departments in Whitehall have been asked to sign the waiver. Some 491 of cabinet enforcer Jack Cunningham's department have signed over their rights and 137 of John Prescott's staff have done the same. At Gordon Brown's Treasury 31 have agreed, but nine have refused to be bullied and are holding out.
Maybe members of the government should listen to their own industry minister Ian McCartney. He says, "A tired worker is not a productive worker. The view that you have to put in 80 hours a week to be regarded as ambitious or loyal is just wrong."
Our congratulations to Radio 4 newsreader Alison Roper. She has angered her BBC bosses by wearing a "Stop The Bombing" badge. She is reported to be incensed at the bias of the corporation's war reporting.
Caught in the act