Wednesday, August 26, 2015

London news round-up

 National Gallery staff start indefinite strike

MEMBERS of the PCS civil service union at the National Gallery began an indefinite strike last week to coincide with the first day in charge of the gallery by new director Gabriele Finaldi.
The walk-out follows a series of strikes totalling 50 days of action since last February in a battle against privatisation.
The union remains opposed to the privatisation of all the gallery's visitor services and is fighting for the reinstatement of its senior representative Candy Udwin, who an interim tribunal has found was likely to have been sacked unlawfully for trade union activity in relation to the dispute.
The action is being escalated because the gallery has brought forward the announcement of the appointment of private security firm Securitas to manage the visitor-facing and security services on a five-year contract reportedly worth £40 million.
About 300 gallery assistants who guard paintings and help visitors will be affected. They will no longer be employed by the gallery and will instead work for Securitas.
There will be a picket line outside the gallery in Trafalgar Square between 9am and 11am every day, and Friday from 5pm to 6.30pm.
PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: "Mr Finaldi has known about this dispute for a long time, but now he is in post we repeat our request for genuine negotiations to resolve it.
"This privatisation is not only unnecessary; we believe it risks the gallery's global reputation as one of our country's greatest cultural assets."
Nick McCarthy, the union's director of campaigns and communications, said: "We have no alternative but to go on strike, the privatisation is completely unnecessary.
"Today's strike is indefinite until such time as we are able to reach a solution with the gallery.
"Millions of tourists won't be able to get access to the vast majority of works of art in the gallery, and that's enormously regrettable, but the blame for this lies with the gallery. We have sought to negotiate, but the gallery refuses to engage on this and seems hell bent on outsourcing this contract."

Bromley bin dispute escalates

RESIDENTS of the London Borough of Bromley face the prospect of stinking dustbins from uncollected rubbish as about 100 refuse collection staff employed by waste disposal giant Veolia gear up for three days of strike action in a pay dispute.
About 100 workers, members of the giant union Unite voted 85 per cent in favour of striking on 24th August and 3rd and 4th September, after years of below inflation pay awards. The strikes will run from midnight to midnight.
Veolia was awarded the contract by Bromley council and Unite said that this dispute was another example of the flawed nature of the controversial authority’s mass privatisation programme which relies on cutting services and slashing wages.
Unite regional officer Onay Kasab said: “Employers have offered 1.5 per cent for the pay year starting last April – and we put in for a four per cent pay rise.
“Workers are angry, as they have to cover heavier and heavier workloads following a number of rounds being cut.
“For years they have had below inflation pay rises – but now that inflation has dropped, the employers are happy to use it as a bench mark so it’s a catch-and-match up claim.
“Our members have made it very clear that they are prepared to strike – we held three consultative votes, all of which voted to be balloted for strike action.
“Veolia should have got the message -- but it clearly hasn’t. That is why we have now issued notice for strike action. This is a very unhappy and demoralised workforce, being asked to take on more work but not being recognised for it.
“Veolia has a final chance for talks – we urge them to take that opportunity. The alternative is for the strike to go-ahead with the prospect of uncollected dustbins causing a stink in the late summer sunshine.
“The collection service will be a day behind initially and the further two days of action will hamper efforts to catch up and cause the service to householders to lag further behind.
“This dispute is another example of the council’s misguided privatisation programme which relies on Veolia cutting collection rounds for householders and real term pay cuts for our refuse collection members.”
The Conservative-dominated council is fully committed to becoming a commissioning council and reducing the number of council employees from 4,000 to 300 – despite having £130 million in reserves.

Liberation Day in London

Hyong Hak Bong, Dermot Hudson and Andy Brooks
By New Worker correspondent

KOREA’S liberation day was marked in style last week by comrades and friends at a seminar in central London on Thursday 13th August. NCP leader Andy Brooks joined other Korean solidarity workers in stressing the importance of the Workers Party of Korea and great leader Kim Il Sung’s guerrilla army in ending 35 years of Japanese enslavement in August 1945.
Other speakers included Dermot Hudson, Theo Russell and David Munoz from the Korean Friendship Association that organised the evening meeting at the Cock Tavern in Euston to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Korea.
 The meeting was honoured by the presence of Hyong Hak Bong, the DPRK’s London Ambassador, who said that the liberation of Korea was the greatest gain of the Korean people and the greatest exploit achieved by the great leader President Kim Il Sung. And many in the audience took the golden opportunity to ask the Democratic Korean ambassador about the current situation and the DPRK’s nuclear deterrent during the discussion that followed.
After a round-table discussion the seminar formally concluded with the unanimous agreement to send a congratulatory message to Democratic Korean leader Kim Jong Un. But it continued informally during the party that followed to celebrate the anniversary of Korea's liberation.
The UK Korean Friendship Association (KFA) organises solidarity meetings and protest pickets in London throughout the year. The KFA also works side by side with the Friends of Korea committee which also holds regular events in the capital.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Celebrating the liberation of Korea

Hyong Hak Bong, Michael Chant, Andy Brooks and John McLeod
 by New Worker correspondent

THE 70th anniversary of the liberation of Korea was celebrated in style on Saturday 8th August at London’s historic Marx Memorial Library in Clerkenwell Green. Friends and comrades gathered to hear all the members of the Friends of Korea committee highlight the defeat of the Japanese Empire by the guerrilla army commanded by great leader Kim Il Sung and call on the United States to sign a peace treaty with Democratic Korea and end the conflict on the Korean peninsula once and for all.
This was followed by a report on the current situation from Ambassador Hyong Hak Bong from the London embassy of the DPR Korea and general discussion. The event ended with a Korean musical interval and the informal discussion over drinks that always follows amongst friends of the Korean revolution.
The Friends of Korea committee brings together all the major movements active in Korean friendship and solidarity work in Britain today. The committee includes the New Communist Party, Revolutionary Communist Party of Britain (ML), Socialist Labour Party (SLP), Juché Idea Study Group and the UK Korean Friendship Association (KFA).
It is chaired by Andy Brooks. The secretary is Michael Chant and the committee includes Dermot Hudson of the KFA and John McLeod of the SLP. The committee organises meetings throughout the year, which are publicised by the supporting movements and on the Friends of Korea blog.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Red Star in Clerkenwell Green

    by New Worker correspondent

THAT REVOLUTIONARIES need to study the past goes without saying but Mick Costello, the Industrial Editor of the Morning Star in the 1980s, put his special take on the significance of history in one of the opening talks at the Red Star Festival in London last weekend.
Mick Costello, Liz Payne (chair) and local historian Nigel Costley
London comrades gathered at the historic Marx Memorial Library in Clerkenwell Green to meet friends, old and new, for two days of discussion, debate, culture, music and food with national and international speakers from the labour, progressive and anti-imperialist movements.
Organised by the Marx Memorial Library, Communist Party of Britain, Young Communist League-Britain, the Morning Star, New Communist Party and the Coordinating Committee of Communist Parties in Britain the festival featured a wide range of speakers from the labour and progressive movement in Britain and international guests in debates, workshops and round-table discussions.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Remembering Laurence Housman

by Theo Russell

PEACE activists and supporters of Housmans Bookshop gathered at the shop in London’s Kings Cross in July to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the birth of pacifist, socialist, campaigner for women’s suffrage, writer, playwright, and art nouveau illustrator, Laurence Housman, who described himself as “a committed socialist and pacifist”.
Housman was born into a brilliant family – the poet A E Housman, author of  A Shropshire Lad, was one of his brothers – and until his death in 1959 he was a household name in Britain and famous for his BBC radio broadcasts in the 1940s.
In 1907 Housman was one of the founders of the Men's League for Women's Suffrage, and he was an enthusiastic supporter of the Women's Social and Political Union, writing, addressing meetings and producing banners for the movement. In 1911 he helped to organise the boycott of the census by the suffragists.
At the outbreak of the First World War in 1914 the suffrage movement split; Christabel Pankhurst called on the WSPU to support the war effort and launched the jingoist magazine Britannia in 1915. Christabel and Emmeline Pankhurst later founded The Women's Party, which gave out white feathers to all conscientious objectors.
During that war Housman joined the No Conscription Fellowship, and worked closely with Sylvia Pankhurst, who’s East London Federation of the WSPU opposed the war and was expelled from the WSPU in 1914.
The East London Federation later became the Workers' Socialist Federation, and its newspaper, Women’s Dreadnought, was renamed the Workers' Dreadnought.
Housman wrote for the Workers' Dreadnought, and in 1916 he visited the United States to lobby for the creation of a League of Nations.
The Workers' Socialist Federation supported the 1916 Easter Rising in Ireland and the October Revolution of 1917, backing the "Hands off Russia" campaign, and was the first party in Britain to affiliate to the Third International.
Although Housman’s thinking was averse to the idea of political parties, he was close to the Independent Labour Party, which also took an anti-war position in the First World War.
He was also an anti-colonialist and a friend of Mahatma Ghandi, and denounced the Versailles Treaty’s vindictive punishment of Germany.
In 1922 Housman became a Quaker and he was a strong supporter of the Peace Pledge Union created by Dick Sheppard in 1934, and later played a leading role in War Resisters' International.
It was Laurence Housman who suggested the creation of both Housmans Bookshop, which opened in Shaftesbury Avenue in 1945, and Peace News, to which he contributed regularly over many years. In 1959 the shop moved to its current home at five, Caledonian Road near Kings Cross station.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Tube strike: it’s about jobs and safety, not money

LONDON Underground workers staged another 48- hour strike last week in protest at plans to run the trains all night on some lines at weekends.
RMT, Aslef, TSSA and Unite rejected Management’s latest offer of increased pay and bonuses because it ignored the unions’ demands on health and safety, staffing and shift patterns.
Aslef accused London Underground of being completely inflexible over terms and conditions for the Night Tube, leaving it with no other choice than to press ahead with the walkout.
Aslef officer Finn Brennan said: “We genuinely regret the disruption this will cause, but the blame for this must rest with the pig-headed determination of the Mayor to insist on a September 12 launch of Night Tube instead of allowing more time for a negotiated settlement to be reached.”
On Monday RMT confirmed that it had rejected the new offer from London Underground at a meeting at the arbitration service ACAS that afternoon.
RMT reps were furious when they examined the details only to find that they were a re-hash of previous plans that would continue along the course of smashing up long-standing agreements and destroying work/life balance in the interests of delivering the Mayor’s ill-conceived Night Tube vanity project.
RMT will now launch a renewed campaign to inform the public of the heavy price that the millions of weekday commuters, paying thousands of pounds of year, will be paying in terms of safety, reliability and quality in order to get a few thousand revellers home from central London in the early hours of Saturday and Sunday morning.
The union has also questioned the viability of getting the new services running for the 12th September start date without any adequate risk assessments, a complete ignorance of the consequence of losing the weekend engineering and maintenance slots and without any agreement in place on staffing arrangements.
RMT is warning that every Monday morning, when the volume passengers that pay for the Underground head back to work, is going to be a potential nightmare as the consequences of running flat out for nearly three days without a break become only too clear — all in order to deliver Boris Johnson’s legacy scheme that was cooked up on the back on an envelope without any understanding of how the railway runs in reality.
RMT is calling for an immediate and indefinite suspension of the Night Tube project warning that is so fundamentally flawed from top to bottom it risks wrecking expensive infrastructure, compromising staff and passenger safety and leaving essential safety critical engineering and maintenance works on the shelf in a move that will lead to breakdowns and disruption on an unprecedented scale.
RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: “Our members have made it clear that the latest offer from London Underground is merely a rehash of the previous package and does nothing to tackle the core issue which revolves around staff being at the beck and call of management to be hauled in during their free time to try and plug the staffing gaps which riddle the Mayor’s Night Tube vanity project.
“RMT is also deeply concerned that the talks are being conducted by people who have no background on the tube and no understanding of how processes and logistics work.
“That is deeply worrying and a major departure from when the combine was managed by people with a deep-seated knowledge of the railway. That is a major barrier to progress in the talks and one that we hope can now be cleared.
“The Night Tube plan has been botched from the off. The basics haven’t been done and those who will pay for this shambles will not only be our members but the London daily travelling public who cough up a fortune and who will find their safety and the reliability of the service compromised from 12th September onwards.”
A spokesperson for one of the four unions warned that the union leaders have met to discuss options for further action after this week’s strike.
TSSA Press Officer Tom Condon said that although there was “nothing scheduled,” the strikes were “on-going”.
Condon said that although he could not speak for the other unions, he expected subsequent strikes “were they to go ahead” would be on a similar scale to July and 5th August.