Robbie for President!

From this week’s edition of The Socialist:

Vote for Robbie Segal

Stop jobs cuts

Robbie Segal

Robbie Segal

Tens of thousands of retail workers are being laid off. These workers are facing a bleak future, many of whom have been working on low wages for the big retail companies for years. Woolworths is now closed, yet all those workers are getting is the statutory redundancy payments of a measly few hundred pounds.

Robbie Segal

Gordon Brown is promising schemes to create new jobs. But what will these jobs be like? Will they be on decent wages with good working conditions and pensions, or will this be another New Labour gimmick?

Woolworths and other retail workers deserve better than empty promises from Gordon Brown, after all our union Usdaw subsidises New Labour to the tune of hundreds of thousands of pounds.

All companies threatening redundancies should be nationalised but under democratic workers’ control and management. We should open the books and find out where all the profits have gone – profits made by the workers.

I am standing for election to become president of Usdaw because our union needs to be a fighting union. We should be building a mass campaign against job losses but also demanding a minimum wage of £8 an hour without exemptions. The union should be taking workers’ wages and conditions forward, not watching them go backwards.

And why are mainly female and part-time shop workers treated as if they are only earning pin money by the trade union leaders? It is time for all shop workers to get active to build Usdaw as a democratic and independent campaigning trade union.

I’ve been a trade unionist since the age of 19, a Tesco union rep for 21 years; and a member of the Usdaw executive council for nine years.

The election runs from 19 January to 13 February.
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Lord of the banks – another City banker joins the govt

Whilst the state/corporate media get worked up about the “green shoots” of a Baroness unfamiliar with doing interviews, another City fat cat has joined New Labour’s “government of all the talents”…

Bankers’ government is bankrupt

Is there such a thing as a banking “expert”? We ask this question in the light of today’s announcement that New Labour has recruited a top City banker to the government to – wait for it – try and save the banking system.

Mervyn Davies, chairman of Standard Chartered, will become Minister of State in Lord Mandelson’s Department of Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform. He will be granted a peerage so that he can sit in the House of Lords, Downing Street said in a statement.

According to the Daily Telegraph, Davies was personally courted by the prime minister for his “banking expertise”. He was involved in the government’s autumn bank bail-out – which prevented bankruptcy but has signally failed to lift the financial system off life support.

Davies’ appointment is unlikely to make any difference, therefore, except confirm that we truly have a bankers’ government in every aspect of the term. Such is the dire state of affairs in the world of capitalist finance that the government itself has essentially been transformed into a bank. From being the nominal property of the people who elected it, New Labour has become demutualised, privatised. It could and should be renamed New Labour Investments, Savings and Loans PLC.

How else can you explain Mandelson’s announcement today that the government is to guarantee up to £20 billion in bank loans to small businesses? This is the state transferring yet more taxpayers’ money to banks who have helped crash the economy. This is how desperate New Labour has become in trying and stave off what is looking more and more like an economy heading for a catastrophic slump.

Business leaders have painted a bleak picture of the UK economy, with a survey suggesting the end of 2008 saw a “frightening deterioration”. The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) said its survey results were “awful” and the worst since it began in 1989. Elsewhere, a separate report suggested it had been the worst December for UK retail sales in at least 14 years. The British Retail Consortium figures on sales from the High Street and online said that like-for-like sales in December were down 3.3% on a year ago while total sales shrank 1.4%. This is despite the government cut in value added tax (VAT), which took effect in December.

New Labour is running out of options. It is desperate to avoid the direct printing of money to pump into the financial system because a) it’s the last throw of the dice b) nobody knows if it would work and c) it’s a recipe for runaway inflation. Little surprise, therefore, at a new survey shows that people in Britain are now less likely to trust banks, the stock market or the government’s economic management than people in comparable nations.

Asked to rate their trust in the government’s management of the financial situation, British people award the government 4.5 out of 10, below the worldwide average of 5.2 and just ahead of Iceland on 4.4. Only Germany and Japan are gloomier, scoring 4.0 and 3.0 respectively in the poll. Britain ranks 16th out of 17 countries for public trust in its banks.

What the survey indicates is that the government has no mandate for handing over vast sums of money to banks or any other form of capitalist enterprise. This is a bankers’ regime governing on behalf of the narrowest of monied interests, using the powers of the capitalist state. New Labour’s argument that there is no alternative is another big lie. None of the bail-outs have succeeded in halting the economy’s downward plunge. The banks are effectively bankrupt and so is the government.

Paul Feldman
AWTW communications editor

PE teacher sacked for wearing track suit & trainers!

Adrian Swain has for the last 35 years worn a track suit and trainers. As George Galloway has noted “Of all the difficulties facing children in Tower Hamlets – poverty, overcrowding, lack of resources, and an education system geared to testing not teaching – it is truly astonishing that a well liked and experienced teacher has been sacked for what he was wearing on his feet.”

And what makes it amazing is that “he is, amongst other things, a PE teacher”.

Workers take action to defend Adrian Swain

Staff at St Paul’s Way School in Tower Hamlets, East London, will demonstrate outside the town hall at 3.30pm on Friday 16 January to protest against the sacking of Adrian Swain – the socialist, Permanent Revolution member and NUT activist sacked for failing to comply with a new dress code by wearing trainers and tracksuit bottoms.

Adrian was sacked on the last day of term in December. Since then, the story has received huge media attention, getting picked up in turn by the East London Advertiser, the Evening Standard, Associated Press, the Metro, the Daily Mail, the Guardian and the Daily Telegraph. It was one of the BBC News website’s top 10 stories over the Christmas, and Adrian has been interviewed on ITV, BBC regional news, Radio Five Live, Radio 4 and BBC Radio London’s Vanessa Feltz programme.

In all the coverage, Adrian stresses the same point again and again: that his “offence” was wearing trainers and tracksuit bottoms, as he has done for 35 years! These items of clothing are now proscribed under the code, which is operated under the catch all command to “dress professionally”, a fashion sense entirely at the discretion of the head.

Management’s treatment of Adrian was, of course, motivated not by his fashion sense, but by their desire to attack a longstanding union and socialist militant in a school group that has stood up to them for years.

The failure of the East London Teachers’ Association to support the campaign, due to the SWP and others in the Socialist Teachers’ Alliance including national executive member and Association secretary Alex Kenny, is one the reasons why Adrian has not already been reinstated. On the second day back after Christmas, the St Paul’s Way NUT school group passed a resolution stating:

“SPW NUT group reaffirms its urgent request for a ballot for discontinuous strike action. The objective of this strike action is to secure Adrian’s unconditional reinstatement. By unconditional we mean that his reinstatement is not dependent on his adherence to the imposed dress code. We would expect this strike action to be sustained, as is almost always the case with disputes involving individual school groups. After an initial day of strike action, we would expect the action to escalate rapidly (i.e. by the next week) if Adrian is not reinstated. We are committed to taking as much action as is necessary to achieve our objective. We ask the ELTA Secretary to inform us of the Action Committee meeting that will discuss our request and to arrange for a delegation from the SPW NUT group to attend the meeting.”

The NUT Action Committee has now agreed to the request to a ballot. More soon, it seems.

Demonstrate 3.30pm, Friday 16 January, @ Tower Hamlets Town Hall, Mulberry Place, Clove Crescent, London E14 2BG (East India or Blackwall DLR)
For the Facebook group “Friends of Adrian Swain”, see here.