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Justice for Roger


Picture: JESS HURD

HUNDREDS ATTENDED the funeral of north Londoner Roger Sylvester on Friday of last week

HUNDREDS OF mourners attended the funeral of north Londoner Roger Sylvester on Friday of last week. Roger died after being "restrained" by eight police on 11 January of this year. Roger's family and supporters are calling for an independent inquiry into the 30 year old black man's death, for the officers involved to be suspended and for police spin doctors to stop smearing his name. Mourners came from all over London, from the US and from the Caribbean to pay their respects. Coaches also came from Chesterfield and Sheffield. The funeral had the feeling of a state procession and bought traffic in Tottenham to a standstill. But the funeral got scant coverage on television. "What is to be done?" "Who will be next?" These were the questions on everyone's lips on the day.

Stephen Lawrence

Picture: JESS HURD

PROTESTING outside Talk Radio on Thursday of last week

ANTI-NAZI demonstrators picketed Talk Radio UK's headquarters in central London last Thursday. The radio station, owned by Rupert Murdoch and run by ex Sun editor Kelvin MacKenzie, played host to Gary Dobson, one of those suspected of murdering Stephen Lawrence. Dobson, a self confessed racist, was on the air for two hours and was very happy with the coverage he got.

The radio station gave Dobson a platform against the wishes of the Lawrence family. As angry protester Elly said, "Talk Radio is just courting controversy with the very serious issue of racism." Talk Radio management refused to talk to protesters and called the police.

The recent Martin Bashir interview on Granada TV has opened the gates for every media outfit to try and up its ratings by interviewing the five "suspects". Lawrence lawyer Mike Mansfield wrote in the Guardian on Monday that "if any one of the five were keen to tell his side, why doesn't he walk into the police station tomorrow". The Talk Radio platform for Dobson was followed by revelations that the five suspects were treated to a fortnight's holiday in Scotland by Granada TV.


THE ANTI Nazi League and local organisations have called a counter-demonstration against a planned march by the Nazi National Front due to take place this Saturday in Worcester.

THE AL QUBA Muslim Community Centre has been burned down. It had already been attacked by racists—smashing windows and daubing graffiti. Barnsley Anti Nazi League has launched a defence campaign with mass petitioning in the local area.

Evening calling for the release of black US radical Mumia Abu-Jamal.


Vote yes for the boycott

MEMBERS OF the National Union of Teachers are receiving ballot papers for a boycott of appraisal. The vote is for action against a central plank of the performance related pay scheme the government wants to impose on teachers.

It comes as education ministers are digging their heels in defending the man who sums up New Labour's vision of education—chief inspector of schools Chris Woodhead. Woodhead has acted as an ideological bootboy—slamming teachers and enforcing market policies in schools. He has already turned teachers and parents against him. Now he is in trouble over allegations by his ex-wife, Cathy Woodhead that he lied about an affair with one of his pupils 20 years ago.

David Hart, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, says, "The chief inspector, who is responsible for moral and spiritual standards in schools, is the subject of allegations that he has lied publicly." Woodhead says he only began an affair with Amanda Johnston after she ceased to be a pupil. But colleagues of his at the time have now broken their silence and backed Cathy Woodhead's claim that the affair began while Amanda Johnston was still her then husband's pupil.

Education secretary David Blunkett, along with papers like the Daily Mail and Daily Telegraph, are standing by Woodhead. The hypocrisy stinks. Blunkett and the Tory press would demand the sacking of any other teacher who had conducted such an affair. The mess the government is in over Woodhead adds to its problems in trying further to undermine comprehensive education. Teachers should seize on the disarray to deliver a massive yes vote in the NUT ballot and demand further action from all the teaching unions.

Housing sell offs

CAMPAIGNERS against the privatisation of council homes have been on the streets in Poplar, east London. They have held a series of street meetings and are going door to door canvassing to win a no vote in the ballot. The local Labour controlled Tower Hamlets council is pushing 1,780 tenants to vote to transfer their homes to a private company called HARCA.

Civil servants

by DAVE OWENS (ES group executive member, personal capacity)

THE EMPLOYMENT Service group executive of the civil servants' PCS union met last week against a background of employers' attacks. Employment Service management threatened to fund this year's pay claim by further tightening the screw on performance related pay. There has also been considerable alarm at the government's intention to introduce US style "employment zones" where randomly selected people are to be forced into any job "offered". Half the zones are to be run by private contractors. Unfortunately, the ES group executive agreed only to campaign against the "worst excesses" of the zones instead of opposing the scheme completely.

University lecturers

THE UNIVERSITY lecturers' union, the AUT, has rejected a final offer of a 3.5 percent pay rise. The AUT is calling for a rise of 10 percent this year.. Over 40 percent of all academic staff are now on short term contracts, and pay for female staff is way behind that for male staff.

AUT members will be balloting immediately to take industrial action, including strike action. It is vital that members vote yes to both questions on the ballot paper—yes to strike action and yes to industrial action short of a strike. The last time the AUT took strike action was November 1997, at a time when the employers were considering the break up of national negotiations. The strike was hugely successful. Now the employers are returning to the rotten old agenda under the whip of government funding cuts. Ballot papers must be in by 10 May.


OVER 400 firefighters attended a mass meeting in Manchester last week and voted unanimously for national strike action against attacks from their employers. The members of the Fire Brigades Union's North West region heard national officer Andy Gilchrist outline the attacks on national conditions the employers want to launch. He also blamed the government for encouraging the attacks, citing a quote from home secretary Jack Straw that firefighters' terms and conditions "stood in the way of an efficient service".

Andy Gilchrist said, "There have been 1,400 job losses since 1996 and that is linked to an increase in deaths by fire." Bob Pounder, FBU secretary for Greater Manchester, said the call for immediate strike action if employers impose attacks will go to the union's national conference next month. Other regional meetings are taking place to endorse the call for a national ballot.

In brief

OVER 1,000 people marched on local MP and government minister Geoff Hoon's surgery at the weekend in protest at plans for a landfill site near their homes. Campaigners demanded answers from Geoff Hoon as they staged a march through the mining town of Kirkby in Ashfield. They were disgusted that their MP has not backed them in a fight to stop two waste dumps being built on the site of Bennck colliery, which is due to close in September. Ken Coates MEP was enthusiastically applauded as he urged the linking of campaigns against opencast mining and waste dumping.

OVER 100 housing benefits and council tax staff in Brighton have been lobbying council committees and the council's ruling Labour group to stop the attempt to sell off the services to private company Capita. Until recently Lord Bassam, leader of the Labour group, was a consultant to Capita. Staff have voted to be balloted for industrial action despite UNISON regional officials saying they could not strike against privatisation.

LECTURERS AT Kidderminster College, Worcestershire, are ready to walk out following the announcement of five compulsory job losses. A postal ballot conducted last week by the lecturers' NATFHE union resulted in an 87.8 percent vote in favour of some form of industrial action with 65 percent voting for strikes. This follows a demonstration of about 100 students against the college's plans.

AROUND 520 print workers at De La Rue, High Wycombe, are facing new attacks on jobs less than four weeks after the end of their most recent pay and conditions dispute. The company wants to subcontract 48 jobs in engineering, transport and security. It also wants 70 redundancies. The company has gained confidence after GPMU union officials ended the recent dispute after a shoddy pay offer and a single one day strike. Sustained strike action is now needed to stop the new attacks.

INFRASTRUCTURE and maintenance workers in the RMT union are set to strike against privatised maintenance firms GTRM and Balfour Beatty. Last summer over 9,000 infrastructure and maintenance workers belonging to nine privatised companies took part in a campaign of rolling industrial action. GTRM and Balfour are the last two firms to hold out in a dispute over restructuring of pay and conditions. Workers at GTRM are set to strike at midnight on 10 May for a week and Balfour Beatty workers from midnight on 14 May until 17 May.


ENGINEERS AT Chivas whisky factory in Paisley, near Glasgow, have voted for strike action to stop compulsory redundancies and attacks on union organisation. The 51 engineers, members of the AEEU union, voted by 75 percent to strike after four workers, including the AEEU convenor, were sacked. The company has a "last in, first out" policy over redundancies, yet the sacked convenor has worked at the factory all his life. The engineers are planning to take two days strike action a week.

Management want to divide the workforce by getting members of other unions at the plants—members of the MSF and GMB unions—to keep production going. Engineers need to argue with other union members not to cross picket lines. Officials from the GMB and MSF unions have yet to ballot their members to support the action.

Gay rights

ABOUT 50 demonstrators protested outside parliament on Tuesday of last week against the House of Lords voting to block an equal age of consent for gays and straights.