Thursday, August 25, 2016


RMT demo outside the Department of Transport
By Daphne Liddle

MEMBERS of the RMT transport union employed by Southern Rail staged the biggest rail strike in Britain for many decades in August, bringing Southern Rail services to a halt for five days.
The issue behind the dispute is rail safety and in particular the need for a fully trained guard, or conductor, to be on every train and to operate the doors, assist passengers, and deal with incidents and emergency situations that may arise.
It is an issue that the rail unions have been forced to fight with just about every train operating company in our broken and divided railway system.
But in other regions, in particular ScotRail, the companies and the unions have been able to negotiate a resolution that has protected passenger safety.
And on Friday 5th August, before the strike was due to start, the RMT reports that negotiations with Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) at the arbitration service ACAS were very close to agreement when a behind-the-scenes Government intervention stopped the negotiations.
Mick Cash, RMT general secretary, said: “RMT can confirm that we were within an inch of making progress towards boxing off a deal with Southern in ACAS talks on Friday afternoon that was based on the offer from ScotRail, an offer that enabled us to suspend all industrial action in the ScotRail guards’ dispute.
“We were just getting into the detailed wording when suddenly the plug was pulled and our legs were kicked from under us. We have it on good authority that the deal, which would have enabled us to suspend the Southern strike action this week, was sabotaged by the Government with their Director of Rail Peter Wilkinson directing operations from outside the talks.”
The union staged a mass protest outside the Department for transport (DfT) on Wednesday morning that included solidarity supporters from the French union CGT.
The RMT ascribes the problem to a change in attitude by the new Transport Secretary Chris Grayling and the policy of Peter Wilkinson.
Wilkinson told a public meeting about problems with Southern Rail services in Croydon in January: “Over the next three years we’re going to have punch-ups and we will see industrial action and I want your support.
“And that trade union members on Southern GTR can’t afford to spend too long on strike and I will push them into that place. They will have to decide if they want to give a good service or get the hell out of my industry.”
In other words, Wilkinson’s agenda is to push the unions into disputes in order to break them.
Even former Rail Minister Claire Perry MP criticised GTR’s industrial relations, in evidence to the Transport Select Committee on 11th July: “I put on record, as I said on the radio this morning, that the company’s handling of some of their industrial relations could have been better.”
What GTR wants is an end to the safety ruling that a train cannot leave the station without a safety-trained conductor as well as the driver on board. They claim it is causing delays.
Ultimately they want to do away with guards altogether to save costs.
Train guards/conductors undergo rigorous and continuous training, know their routes, the signalling systems, how to assist disabled passengers, where to get the wheelchair ramps at each station, how to cope with anti-social, behaviour as well as giving out information and advice about services to passengers.
Their role in managing the doors is especially important now that there has been a big increase in passenger numbers – leading to crowded platforms – and that many stations are completely unstaffed most of the time.
The RMT argues that with no guard on board, a driver would have to leave the cab and check every door before leaving the station.
Wheelchair users would find it almost impossible to use rail services without the assistance of guards and campaigners for disability rights have attacked plans to do away with properly trained guards.
Many elderly and vulnerable passengers say that they would not feel safe on trains without guards.
There are many delays and occasional incidents where passengers have to be led off trains between stations. A trained guard knows who to contact to get power rails disconnected and keeps passengers informed so that this can be done safely. The presence of the guard can make the difference between a minor incident and a major accident.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

For Peace and Socialism!

Mushtaq Lasharie (R) talking about growing resistance
By New Worker correspondent

London comrades met to discuss the US–NATO drive to war and the struggle for peace in a pub in central London last week. Chaired by Theo Russell, the topic was opened by Mushtaq Lasharie, a retired Labour councillor and a leading figure in the Pakistani community, and New Communist Party (NCP) leader Andy Brooks at the upstairs meeting room at the Cock Tavern in Euston.
Andy Brooks stressed the NCP’s long-standing position that the primary contradiction in the world today is between US imperialism and the rest of the world it seeks to dominate, which includes the national bourgeoisie in Russia and the Third World. Mushtaq, who is the Chair of Third World Solidarity, talked about the growing resistance to imperialism throughout the world, pointing out that the abortive Turkish army move to depose the president was only the second time since the Second World War that a US-inspired coup had failed.
Everyone took part in the discussion that followed and the meeting ended with a collection that raised £36 for the New Worker fighting fund.

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

Stop Britain aiding Ukrainian Nazis

by New Worker correspondent

PROTESTERS gathered in Whitehall, Westminster near the Ministry of Defence building to call for an end to the British military and financial support to the illegal regime in Ukraine, which includes Nazis and which idolises Stepan Bandera.
Bandera was a Second World War collaborator with the Nazi invasion. His followers in the Organisation of Ukrainian Nationalists eagerly set about murdering Jews and Poles to curry favour with the invading Nazis.
Now the British government, along with the United States and other NATO countries, is supplying money, weapons and training to the Ukrainian army, which includes the openly Nazi-supporting Azov Brigade.
The protest, on Thursday 28th July, was initiated by the New Communist Party (NCP) and supported by Solidarity with Anti-fascist Resistance in Ukraine (SARU), Socialist Fight, the London branch of Partido Communista from Italy and other progressive forces.
Speakers included NCP leader Andy Brooks, Stefano from the Partido Communista, Dermot Hudson from the NCP, Theo Russell from SARU and the NCP, and Gerry Downing from Socialist Fight and SARU.
They all spoke of the growing repression in Ukraine where the official government line is to teach children that the Nazi invasion was a liberation from communism, and where communism, socialism and trade unionism are being brutally repressed as are all demonstrations of anti-fascism.
This includes attacks on veterans laying flowers on memorials to Second World War heroes who died fighting fascism and vandalism to the memorials to the massacres of thousands of Jews at Babi Yar.
All the speakers stressed that it is shocking that the British government, which fought the Nazis in the Second World War, is now giving help and support to Nazis in Ukraine – at the expense of our taxpayers.
They spoke of anti-fascists, trade unionists, journalists and communists in Ukraine who have been beaten, abducted, tortured, murdered and some have disappeared.
And they spoke of the role of the European Union (EU) and NATO in fostering the destabilisation of Ukraine through the Maidan protests followed by the coup that brought the current government to power – as part of the western imperialist strategy to surround and intimidate Russia.
The noisy picket attracted a lot of attention and some important acts of support. Passers-by included some active anti-fascists from eastern Poland who expressed support and said that they were fighting exactly the same battle against Ukrainian Nazi-aggression in eastern Poland.
There was an Israeli woman of Ukrainian descent who voiced her fears for Jews in modern Ukraine and a building worker who joined in the picket.
Dozens of employees from the Ministry of Defence streamed passed the picket as they left the building for the evening. They all politely refused to take a leaflet – as we are sure they had been instructed to do. But they certainly noticed the picket and hopefully it gave them food for thought.
Those who took part agreed to do this more often.

Anti-fascists reclaim London streets

By New Worker correspondent

ANTI-fascists and anti-racists were out in force on the streets of London last Friday with a Black Lives Matter (BLM) protest that started in Oxford Circus and a Unite Against Fascism (UAF) picket in Whitehall to oppose a march by Islamophobes and neo-fascists in the “South East London Alliance” (SEA), which is one of the splinter groups that formed with the decay of the English Defence League and the British National Party.
The 100-strong protest on 29th August came amid escalating police racism in Britain and the US. Organisers spoke about the violent arrest of a young black man in London Bridge station last week.
The young man was having an argument with his girlfriend. But police jumped to the conclusion that he was trying to steal her phone and arrested him. He was thrown to the ground and pinned down while police covered his head with a “spit mask” while the girlfriend frantically pleaded with the police to stop hurting him. “Is this what happens now when people have an argument?” she cried.
In the United States police have killed 12 people in the last six days.
The demonstration was loud and undaunted by the heavy police presence, with passers-by joining it.
A young mother from France joined the demo with her children. “I want to show my children you need to fight for something real,” she said and expressed surprise that so many white people were involved in the march.
A young man joined the demonstration as it blocked Regent Street on its way to Convent Garden. He said: “This is the first protest I’ve been on since university. I used to be involved in campaigns around the Educational Maintenance Allowance and tuition fees."
Meanwhile in Whitehall members and supporters of the UAF gathered opposite Downing Street for speeches while the SEA neo-fascists deferred their march for an hour and loitered in the Lord Moon pub.
Paul Sillet of the UAF pointed out that although the fascist numbers were small it is still necessary to come out and oppose them. He reminded people that just a few years ago the EDL were attracting thousands to Islamophobic demonstrations in town centres up and down the country.
It is only constant opposition that has driven their numbers down. “Even though most of you have got something better to do on a Friday night it is important that you have come here to show that their hatred and violence are unacceptable. Without this their numbers would start to creep up again.”
Eventually the fascists emerged – just 30 of them and mainly ageing former National Front veterans.
A huge police presence kept them separate from the UAF as they marched past and into a pen the police had ready.
There followed a long and loud exchange of epithets, chants and slogans with the UAF drowning out the fascists with force of numbers and a superior sound system.
Then, seemingly out of the blue, the BLM protesters arrived to cheers and greetings from the UAF comrades and dismay from the fascists and the police as the numbers of anti-fascists present just about doubled.
After a long and noisy pause police led the BLM marchers on to Parliament Square while the SEA people gave up and left.
The BLM activists are now preparing for a big bloc at the Notting Hill Carnival on August Bank Holiday Monday.