Wednesday, April 06, 2005

New Worker London News

Unions lead fight against BNP

THE ANTI-fascist magazine Searchlight and active trade unions throughout the country are preparing a massive campaign against candidates from the fascist British National Party in the run-up to the 5th May election.
This follows the enormous success of the Dagenham Together day of action last month, which saw 130 volunteers deliver nearly 50,000 newspapers in one day.
Many local trade union activists were among those taking part or lending support in whatever way they could.
Searchlight is arguing that the fight against the BNP should be wider than just the issue of racism. There’s more to stopping fascism than that. Furthermore the fascist doctrines of the BNP are a threat to the entire community – not just racial minorities. In particular they are a threat to workers’ rights.
So it follows logically that the organised working class, the trade unions, are best placed to play a leading role in that struggle.
Searchlight editor Steve Silver wrote: “Our anti-fascism needs to be more than just anti-racism. We have to address people’s concerns in our localities regardless of what they are.
“Whether it is housing, transport, council tax or a myriad of other local issues we need to be a part of a grassroots movement that empowers people to understand that just a little local activism can make a big difference.
“We need to popularise the ideas of collectivism and solidarity as the way of changing things in contrast to the divisiveness of racism.
“The anti-fascist movement needs solid leadership – black and white – and the trade union movement has already demonstrated the potential to give it.”
The newspaper delivered was tailored specifically to Dagenham issues and pointed out that the lone BNP councillor elected to represent the Goresbrook ward has admitted that he simply cannot understand or take part in council meetings. They go right over his head, so as a councillor he has done nothing He has confessed: “There’s little point in me being there. I’m wasting my time”.
The campaign carefully addresses the reasons why some people are tempted to vote for the BNP – mostly it is ignorance of the real nature of the BNP and disillusionment with mainstream parties. And it sets out to overcome that ignorance.
It is obviously having a powerful impact because the fascists are going out of their way to try to slander the campaign.
They claim there were not many people at the local Labour Hall base in Dagenham on the day of action. That’s because they were all out on the streets, scattered in groups throughout the borough, delivering newspapers.
Searchlight veteran Gerry Gable told the New Worker that some people turned up even before the official start of 9am. Many delivered all their papers and then came back to collect more, several times over.
Support from a local Indian restaurant came in the form of free lunches supplied for the campaigners.
Now the election has been declared, similar campaigns will be going on in every constituency where the BNP or other fascists are standing.
The campaign needs all the supporters it can get. So if any of our readers are willing to give up some time to help and play a really important role in the coming election, either get a copy of the April edition of Searchlight, which contains a full list of contacts throughout the country, or contact Searchlight on 020 7681 8660, email or website
Days of action have already been fixed for 9th April in Keighly, 10th April in Burnley, 16th April Bradford South, 17th April Kirklees, 30th April Stoke.
The campaign has also produced a T-shirt, bearing an RAF roundel with the message: “1945 was a victory won by the extraordinary heroism of ordinary people, a defeat for a politics that begins with hate your neighbour and end in gas chambers. Today the fascists’ blackshirts have been swapped for suits, but the danger hasn’t changed. Our shirt reminds them we haven’t forgotten.”

London cleaners target theatre-goers

LOW PAID cleaners who work for multi-billion pound corporations in Canary Wharf, last week took their campaign for better wages to London’s theatre land on Thursday. These giant companies include the bank Morgan Stanley, which owns Canary Wharf.
In particular they leafleted theatre-goers outside the Old Vic where Kevin Spacey is the artistic director. He is to star in the play National Anthems, which is part of a season being sponsored by Morgan Stanley.
The cleaners employed by Morgan Stanley, supported by the Transport and General Workers’ Union, are protesting that they were given a two per cent pay rise, while the bank made profits of $4.49 billion (£2.39 billion).
The bank is sponsoring the Old Vic with £500,000, which the cleaners say could have gone to helping them earn a living wage on £6.70 an hour in Europe’s most expensive capital.

One in seven London workers on poverty pay

ONE IN seven workers in London is paid so little that their income – even taking into account benefits and tax credits – falls below poverty levels, according to the first report of the Living Wage Unit, set up by Ken Livingstone, the Mayor of London, as a manifesto commitment in 2004.
The report calculates a “poverty threshold wage” for London at £5.80 an hour, well above the minimum wage of £5.05 an hour, to be introduced in October.
The minimum wage falls below poverty levels in London because of the higher costs of living in the capital, especially housing.
A poverty threshold wage does not secure an employee receiving it from poverty. A “living wage” must safeguard a person receiving it from poverty levels. The report said that £6.70 an hour constitutes a living wage in London.
Ken Livingstone said: “These findings show the importance not only of the fight against low pay but indicate why I have laid such stress on the achievement of an adequate supply of affordable housing in London.”
Dave Prentis, the general secretary of the public sector union Unison, said: “These are shocking findings. It’s a scandal that so many people are paid below the poverty threshold in the capital of the fourth richest nation and have to rely on benefits to get by.
“We have long argued that we need a higher minimum wage of at least £6.50 to make work pay, free low-paid workers from in-work benefits and free taxpayers from the burden of subsidising poverty wage employers.”
And Tony Woodley, general secretary of the Transport and General Workers’ Union, said: “These figures show that low pay remains a real problem in London, which the national minimum wage has not been able to solve. It cannot be right that one worker in five in the capital has to get by on less than a living wage and one in seven is in real, dire poverty.”