Friday, December 18, 2020

In the departure lounge

by New Worker correspondent

Another seasonal strike is taking place at Heathrow Airport, where Cargo workers employed by British Airways voted almost unanimously for nine days of strike action starting on Christmas Day and ending on the first Saturday of the New Year.
    The 840 workers belonging to Unite agreed to the action in protest at
BA’s attempts to fire and rehire the workforce, a move which would result in pay cuts of between 20–25 per cent, in addition to substantial cuts to terms and conditions.
    Being very reasonable people, Unite delayed announcing strike dates to allow BA a final opportunity to come forward with a meaningful offer – but as might be expected, BA were less reasonable and failed to respond.
    Despite the pandemic, the airport is very busy as a result of the manufactured no-deal Brexit panic that has affected the ports. Given the huge reduction in passenger numbers, it is the one part of the airport business that has remained profitable throughout the pandemic.
    Unite assistant general secretary and wannabe-General Secretary Howard Beckett declared that: “Unite has bent over backwards to give British Airways the opportunity to make a fair offer to its cargo workers and it has failed to do so. As a consequence Unite has no option but to announce strike action. Our members are taking this action as a last resort. They are aware that it will cause severe disruption to air freight entering the UK but they simply can’t afford to lose a quarter of their pay.”
    Although Unite has reached agreement with BA in all the other sections of the company, the managers of the cargo workers have proved a tougher nut to crack.
    On Monday, 4,000 workers directly employed by Heathrow Airport Limited (HAL) started a strike on similar issues. A car-based rally and socially distanced picket lines took place around the airport. Local Labour MP John McDonnell told a rally: “HAL management disgracefully saw COVID as an opportunity to cut pay, jobs and conditions. What they are trying to do is to use a temporary crisis to achieve permanent savings. It is exploitation. We need to draw a line in the sand.”
    Many workers have come round to the view that a more co-ordinated approach is needed. The strike continues on Thursday and is timed to coincide with the pre-Christmas getaway.
    Unite regional co-ordinating officer Wayne King said: “The airport's success was built on its workforce, who have continued to ensure it operates throughout the pandemic, on occasion risking their health. HAL has repaid them by conducting the most brutal fire and rehire operation ever seen in the UK.”
    The airport has suffered an 84 per cent fall in passenger numbers and lost its place as Europe’s busiest airport to Paris Charles de Gaulle. Last Friday HAL announced that because of low passenger traffic its Terminal 4 will remain closed until the end of 2021.

Sunday, December 13, 2020

Cuts on the campus

by New Worker correspondent

A dispute is bubbling away at the University of East London (UEL) where the University and College Union has warned of industrial action against the university’s plan to impose compulsory job cuts.
     Balloting it presently underway. The issue is over ten compulsory job cuts, including seven academic posts, and the effects of the additional workload which remaining staff would face. Last July the university said it needed to make 134 people redundant due to an expected decline in student numbers due to Covid-19, but the now the university is forecasting higher student enrollments than last year. These cuts would mean 92 jobs would go in total, after 82 staff agreed on voluntary redundancy. The latest cuts target senior academics in the social sciences and the university’s architecture departments.
     The union said it sent a worrying message to students that the university was cutting almost 100 jobs despite the university forecasting an increase in student enrollments, and with staff workloads already at unbearable levels.
     In addition UCU argues UEL is acting unlawfully and is considering a legal challenge on grounds of lack of meaningful consultation, unfair selection, unfair dismissal, victimisation and discrimination. Six of the seven academics facing the sack are over 50 years old, five are of black and minority ethnic heritage, and five are female. This, said UCU makes the university’s pious claims of commitment to equality and diversity “ring hollow when it treats staff like this”.
     By a strange coincidence no less than four of the seven academics facing the sack are also UCU activists, including the branch chair and vice-chair.
     The university claimed it has been acting properly stating that “Following an extensive consultation, that commenced at the beginning of July, at the end of both the legal process and then a further nine weeks of consultation with at-risk individuals – demonstrating the university’s commitment to seek all reasonable alternatives to compulsory redundancy – eight roles remain at risk and efforts are continuing to identify suitable redeployment opportunities for those people.
    Evidently unconvinced UCU regional support official Amanda Sackur said: “UEL staff are reporting unmanageable workloads but the university is insisting on more cuts. The decision to sack another 10 staff on top of the 82 who have already accepted redundancy this year is completely unjustified”, adding that “Most of the academic staff the university is trying to sack have protected characteristics, and we believe UEL has deliberately tried to get rid of UCU activists. It is outrageous that the university trumpets its commitment to diversity and equality and then attacks staff in this way. UEL now needs to step back from the brink, limit any further damage to its reputation, drop these disastrous cuts and engage meaningfully with us in finding alternate solutions”.
     On the same campus teachers at the London Design & Engineering College (LDE) are taking strike action over the dismissal of a National Education Union rep. This is one of those free schools where the headmaster is a law unto himself.
     Squashed into a corner of the UEL, it is far too small for the number of pupils and even lacks a playground. After a NEU rep raised health and safety concerns during the pandemic, the Head promptly sacked the rep saying she had no rights because she had been employed for less than two years.
     Even after a judge found the sacking was unjustified and instructed LDE management to reinstate her the bosses reneged on their promise to do so and another person was appointed in her place. The rep said she was unaware of any investigation and simply had a dismissal pack sent to her house.

Unknown Soldier Day at the Soviet War Memorial

By New Worker correspondent

Members of London’s Russian community paid tribute to the Soviet sacrifice during the Second World War at a ceremony at the Soviet War Memorial in Lambeth last week. Standing by the monument in the shadow of the Imperial War Museum in south London they joined many others who were honouring the Soviet war dead across Russia and beyond.
    The Day of the Unknown Soldier has been commemorated on 3rd December in Russia for the past six years. In Moscow the tributes centre on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier by the Kremlin wall that was unveiled in 1967. The tomb contains the remains of a soldier killed in action during the Battle of Moscow in December 1941. The inscription reads: ‘Your name is unknown, your deeds immortal’.
    The Soviet War Memorial in the park that surrounds the Imperial War Museum was funded by public subscription in Britain and the Russian Federation. Unveiled in 1999 the London memorial has become a focal point for people from all over the former USSR and the UK.

Sunday, December 06, 2020

London Workers’ Notes

by New Worker correspondent

In the good old days of the 1970s when trade union membership was twice what it is today, Tories frequently complained that trade unions would go on strike at the drop of a hat to get a pay rise. With few exceptions at present, trade unions are equally active but their energies seem to be almost entirely devoted to attempting to save jobs or prevent wage reductions that bosses are attempting to impose under the cover of the COVID-19 crisis.

Waltham Abbey

Essential supplies of Brussels sprouts, port, cranberry sauce and Stilton in and around London could be at risk as a result of a planned Christmas strike. Twelve drivers, employed by Harper & Guy Consulting Ltd at Sainsbury’s Waltham Abbey distribution centre, have voted unanimously for strike action in protest at being paid £12,000 less per year than those directly employed by Sainsbury’s. As a result, deliveries to about 100 Sainsbury’s stores in London and the south east will be severely affected during the six days of strikes before and after Christmas.
    The driver’s union, Unite, said that Sharper & Guy had point blank refused to discuss the pay claim for 2020 and parity pay.
    Regional officer Paul Travers thundered: “What we have here is one of the most flagrant cases of pay parity injustice that I have been involved with, as our members are getting paid £12,000-a-year less than their counterparts employed directly by Sainsbury’s doing the same job at the Waltham Abbey depot.
    “You don’t have to be a mathematical genius to work out that 12 times £12,000 is nearly £150,000-a-year and that someone is benefiting from that figure – and it is definitely not our members.
    “Ironically, Harper & Guy Consulting Ltd has pay parity with Sainsbury’s drivers for all the agency drivers it employs at this depot which just adds insult to injury for our 12 members who are being treated appallingly.”
    The union’s national officer for road transport and logistics, Matt Draper, added: “This dispute further puts the spotlight on Sainsbury’s desire to pursue its misguided ‘race to the bottom’ strategy.” He also pointed out: “We have opposed the introduction of these lower paid ‘new generation’ contracts within Sainsbury’s. The way these drivers at Waltham Abbey are being contemptuously treated shows Sainsbury’s is implicated at arm’s length in the actions Zero Hours–Zero Benefits of Harper & Guy Consulting Ltd.
    “Sainsbury’s needs to remember a ‘key worker’ is not just for the present COVID-19 emergency, but for the long-term as a contented workforce improves productivity.”

London Airport

Tuesday saw workers at Britain’s main airport, London Heathrow, who are directly employed by Heathrow Airport Limited (HAL) mount a socially distanced picket as part of a long-running dispute over savage wage cuts imposed on the workforce through a brutal fire and rehire programme. In addition, an advertising van toured the area condemning “Heathrow’s super-rich shareholders are jetting off with workers’ wages”, in which Heathrow’s chief executive officer John Holland Kaye was portrayed as the “Heathrow Grinch CEO is stealing workers’ wages”.
    These actions come after workers voted by 84 per cent in opposition to fire and rehire policies that will result some workers suffering permanent pay cuts of up to £8,000 per annum or a quarter of their take-home pay.
    The targeted strike action involves workers who are vital to the operation of the airport and includes: firefighters, engineers, campus security, baggage operations, central terminal operations, landside and airside operations.
     Unite warns that despite the union representing thousands of workers who will still be at work, HAL has refused to discuss its contingency plans for keeping the airport open and as a result the union has raised serious safety concerns.
     Unite regional co-ordinating officer Wayne King said: “Workers face losing their homes and surrendering their cars due to the savage cuts being imposed on them.”
    The union notes that the pay cuts are all about greed and not needed: “HAL and John Holland Kaye are guilty of using the COVID pandemic as cover for forcing through long-held plans to cut pay. If this was genuinely about the pandemic any cuts would have been temporary.”
    He added that: “Unite have tried to negotiate temporary pay cuts but Heathrow were simply not interested” and cast serious doubts on bosses claims that “under its ‘contingency plans’ Heathrow can operate safely but despite seeking the evidence to prove this, that information has not been forthcoming, raising serious questions about how the airport will operate during the strikes”.
    Three further days of strikes are planned before Christmas.


Amongst the workers most affected by the COVID-19 crisis are casual workers on zero-hours contracts. Just one example of this comes from the north London borough of Camden, where staff who have given years of service at the Kentish Town Sports Centre, which is presently closed, have been told they will not be receiving any furlough pay.
    The centre is managed by notorious contractor Greenwich Leisure Limited (GLL) on behalf of the Labour-run council.
    An investigation by the local Camden New Journal newspaper discovered that staff working for five or more years were still on zero-hours contracts. One was Deena Mostafa, who has in the sales and reception team for five years, who had her weekly pay packet stopped in September. She said: “I am down £600 a month. We don’t qualify for things like free school meals, and life has come to a standstill.” This was because casual staff did receive furlough support based on their average weekly hours in March, but this is not the case now.
    Another member of staff added that: “We have been struggling. Due to this second lockdown I was hoping the furlough would continue, but they said only full-time will receive it. We are all casuals working full-time hours. It’s unfair. Most of my colleagues been working there for years but treated as if it didn’t matter.”
    Mostafa added: “What annoys us is that GLL haven’t even acknowledged we are staff. It is like we do not exist. It is unethical to leave people in a position like this. The only reason to keep us on these contracts is to save money and to be able to get rid of us when they want to.
    “They say they have no obligation to give us hours, and we have no obligation to take them – but that’s simply not true. We are obligated, as we need to earn a wage.”
    A local Unison branch organiser said the union was on the ball, and suggested the contract should be brought in-house to put staff on the same terms and protection as council staff , adding that the case “is another example of why zero hours should be scrapped. The council’s official stance is their contractors should not be using them – so this needs to become an iron-clad policy.”
    A Camden Council spokesman meekly said GLL would furlough employees who had a role to return to but that: “Very sadly this has meant some of the roles previously occupied by GLL staff on flexible hours have been reduced, meaning these staff will not have roles to return to.
    “The government must now provide councils and our partners in the charity sector with the necessary funding to support residents who lose their work back into employment or training.”
    GLL, which is a ‘not-for-profit’ spinoff from Greenwich Council, has form in this area. Founded in 1993, GLL runs leisure centres in more than a dozen London boroughs, as well as libraries in Bromley and Greenwich. It has over 50 local authority contracts and employs 14,000 staff nationally – with about 70 per cent of these workers on casual contracts. The ‘not-for-profit’ bit means it does not make pay-outs to shareholders, but to compensate it pays high salaries to senior managers.
    It was recently forced into a union recognition agreement by Unite at the south London borough of Lewisham. Unite regional officer, Onay Kasab, said: “Local authority leisure services, whoever the providers, face dire financial circumstances. It is a matter of public record that we want services in-sourced,” adding: “But where services are outsourced, the minimum requirement must be that trade unions are recognised.”
    GLL modestly describes itself as “an award winning charitable social enterprise which cares for its staff and local communities alike”. As can be seen from events in Camden, the reality is quite different.
    In the early stages of the pandemic it ‘generously’ offered its library and leisure centre workers across London an offer of six-months unpaid leave in return for the promise of a job when they returned. At the time Unite said it would subsequently lead to “drastic” cutbacks in work offered to those on casual contracts.
    The union accused the company of being in “real financial trouble” and said the “simple and straight forward” answer was for the service to go back into public ownership.
    “Local authorities must not wait until the company goes bust with all the unemployment and disruption this will cause to council services. Instead, they must act now to save jobs and much-appreciated public amenities.”

Sunday, November 29, 2020

Safety Battle Won

 by New Worker correspondent

London’s bus drivers have won what has almost been a year-long battle to secure an improved air conditioning system on the buses. Unite, which represents over 20,000 London bus workers, say the changes will greatly reduce the risk of drivers being exposed to the COVID-19 coronavirus whilst driving because the new air conditioning systems ensure air entering the driver’s sealed cab comes directly from the outside and does not pass through the passenger area of the bus.
    The first concerns were aired (so to speak) in February to Transport for London (TfL) and the private operators, even before the first lockdown. They were backed up by a University College London (UCL) report on the exposure of bus drivers to COVID-19.
    Initially the installation of the new air conditioning system was due to be finished on all buses in January, but it has already been completed.
    John Murphy, the union’s lead officer for London buses, said: “This is a major victory in Unite’s continuing campaign to improve the safety of London buses during the pandemic.
    “Unite highlighted its concerns about the air conditioning system when the first cases of COVID-19 began to emerge and it was instrumental in ensuring the air conditioning was turned off and a replacement system introduced.”
    But he warned that: “While this was a positive development, Unite will not rest on its laurels and is continuously ensuring that drivers’ safety is maintained and improved throughout the second wave of the pandemic.”
    London bus drivers have been greatly affected by COVID-19, with 30 drivers having tragically died of the disease during the pandemic.

In the departure lounge

 By New Worker correspondent

At London City Airport in Docklands workers are up in arms about how they are being treated in the present crisis that has seen air travel drop to almost nil.
    The grievances include the lack of a fair and transparent system for implementing the airport’s current redundancy programme, concerns that long-term employees and union members were being unfairly selected for redundancy, incorrectly paying notice pay when workers are made redundant. In addition, bosses failed to halt the redundancy programme and furlough workers after the job redundancy scheme was extended until the end of March and using the Job Retention Scheme (JRS) to prevent potential employment tribunal claims.
    Their cause has been taken up by the Labour mayor of Newham Rokshana Fiaz, who has condemned Robert Sinclair, chief executive of the airport, for refusing to have a transparent redundancy process and for refusing to discuss matters with Unite the Union.
    Unite regional officer Mercedes Sanchez said: “It is to be hoped that senior management take heed of the growing disquiet about their actions and actively engage with Unite to ensure that workers are treated fairly during the redundancy process and their basic rights are not diminished,” warning: “If City Airport does not take account of this letter and does not alter its procedures then Unite will be forced to consider all legal and industrial options to defend its members.”
    The airport announced in September that it was making more than a third of its staff redundant and consultations began over up to 239 job losses in what it called a restructuring plan to safeguard its future.
    It now only has 17 routes and on Monday Logan Air announced it was transferring the vital Isle of Man to London route from the City Airport to Heathrow. It does not expect to get back to normal until 2024. In September Robert Sinclair claimed: “We have held off looking at job losses for as long as possible, but sadly we are not immune from the devastating impact of this virus.”

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Battle of the Thames

By New Worker correspondent


 An ongoing battle is being fought by IWGB street union at the University of Greenwich on behalf of outsourced security officers employed by French management services company Sodexo. They are demanding hazard pay, which has already been granted to White British porters, but not the majority Black security officers have been denied it.

 Pointing out that the Thames-side university boasts of having an inclusive reputation that it purports to have IWGB complain that security officers, mostly BAME, have taken on additional responsibilities during the pandemic, but have not received any hazard pay or a bonus. At the same time porters, also employed by Sodexo and, mostly white British, have received a £300.00 per month bonus for working during the pandemic.

 Sodexo is taking disciplinary action against a security officer, Kingsley Osadolor, after a student complained about him being prevented from entering a university building without a mask. The officer argues was following the procedures that were set out unclearly to him in an extremely difficult environment, but he is now facing the threat of dismissal and made to bear the blame for unclear procedures handed down by Sodexo and University management.     

 After security officers spoke out on social media about the disciplinary action against Kingsley, Sodexo insisted all security officers sign a conduct and social media policy, which includes restrictions on their abilities to speak publicly about issues at work, in direct contravention of their statutory rights.

 In June the new Vice-Chancellor of the University of Greenwich said: “We have a duty to do better. Equality, diversity and inclusion are founding principles of our institution and core beliefs of our students and staff”. The university has also launched a campaign on campus describing outsourced staff as “our heroes” in thanks for their work during the pandemic. But actions speak louder than words, the University has so far declined to intervene.

            Maritza Castillo-Calle, who chairs the IWGB University of London branch, said: “The University of Greenwich has failed to put adequate health and safety policies in place and has relied on outsourced staff to pick up the slack during the pandemic. To refuse to give majority Black security officers bonuses for this extra work in line with those paid out to other White British staff is pure discrimination”.

 Umar Monday Usifoh, a security officer at University of Greenwich said: “We have happily taken on extra work for the University of Greenwich during the pandemic because we know we play a vital role in keeping the university safe and secure. However, the threatened action against Kingsley has made all of us feel intimidated and less able to do our jobs. We are all Kingsley”.

Saturday, October 24, 2020

Still Towering over London


beefeaters' lonely vigil
By Carole Barclay

The Tower of London has dominated the London scene for almost a thousand years. It began in 1066 when William the Conqueror ordered its construction to make his mark on the capital of his new kingdom. Since then the Tower has served as a fortress, palace, prison and even a royal zoo for those who sat on the throne of England.
    This is where the two young “Princes in the Tower”, who stood in the way of their uncle Richard III, were held before they conveniently “disappeared” in 1483. Ann Boleyn, one of Henry VIII’s unfortunate wives, spent her last days awaiting execution in the Tower. Many others, including Walter Raleigh and Guy Fawkes, passed through ‘Traitors Gate’ down the ages.
    During the Second World War Germany’s Deputy Fuhrer, Rudolf Hess, became the last state prisoner of the Tower when he was held here after he parachuted into Scotland to try and negotiate an armistice in May 1941 while the last man to be executed behind its grim walls was a German spy shot by firing squad in August 1941.
    Though this massive fortress may seems impregnable to the modern visitor the only time it ever fell was when sympathetic guards opened the gates to Wat Tyler’s rebel army during the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381. A rebel detachment led by John Starling seized the architects of the hated poll tax who were cowering behind its walls. The Lord High Treasurer Robert Hales along with the Chancellor of England Archbishop Simon Sudbury and John Legge, the king’s tax collector for Kent, were dragged out and beheaded on nearby Tower Hill.
    Though there is modest display dedicated to the Peasants Revolt in one of the bastions along the eastern ramparts walkway little or nothing is said about the turbulent times of the English Civil War.
    London was the staunchly Puritan capital of the Parliamentary forces during the Civil War which began in 1642 and ended in 1649 with the trial and execution of Charles Stuart and the abolition of the monarchy. The Republic of England, or Commonwealth as it was commonly styled in English, was proclaimed soon after.
    In 1653 Oliver Cromwell, the great commander of the New Model Army, became head of state, the Lord Protector. He established the Tower’s first permanent garrison and ordered the original crown jewels to be melted down to meet the needs of the new republic – a fact coyly mentioned in the current Crown Jewels exhibition.
    Cromwell never lived in the Tower but the fortress did provide a roof for some of his less than welcome “guests”. Most were Royalist prisoners. Others had once fought by his side.
    One was John Lilburne, a parliamentary army officer who had become a leader of the radical “Leveller” movement that campaigned for justice and equality during the conflict. “Freeborn John” denounced MPs who lived in comfort while the common soldiers fought and died in poverty. He ended up in the Tower for denouncing his former commander, the Earl of Manchester, as a traitor and a Royalist sympathiser and campaigning against the “grandee” army leaders who led the new republican government that the Levellers claimed were no better than the Cavaliers they had just ousted,
    Lilburne was accused of working with the Royalists to bring down the Commonwealth. Though a London jury acquitted him of treason charges his continuing opposition activities led to his exile soon after. Lilburn was sent back to the Tower when he returned to London without permission. He was finally freed in 1656. By that time he had abandoned his radical beliefs to become a pacifist and a Quaker and he died the following year.
    Lilburne told the Puritan preacher Hugh Peters, one of Cromwell’s inner circle, that he would rather have had seven years under the late king's rule than one under the present regime.
     Whether Lilburne had actually became a turn-coat, however, is still debatable.
But there’s no doubt about Edward Sexby, a prominent Leveller “agitator” who was arrested for plotting to kill Cromwell and distributing a pamphlet that incited the murder of the Protector.
    Sexby was an ambitious man. When the Levellers turned against the grandees he joined Cromwell’s camp and was rapidly promoted. He was elevated to the rank of Colonel and worked in France for the fledgling republic’s intelligence service. But he made many enemies along the way and by 1654 his military career had come to a halt. An increasingly bitter man, he returned to his radical past and the now underground Leveller movement.
In 1655 he fled to the Netherlands after being implicated in a new Leveller conspiracy. There he joined Royalist exiles plotting to assassinate Cromwell.
    Sexby helped produce, and may have actually written, an appalling pamphlet called Killing No Murder that called for Cromwell’s death. But he was speedily arrested after secretly returning to England in 1657. He died in the Tower the following year. The Commonwealth’s semi-official bulletin, the Mercurius Politicus, said he was ‘stark mad’.
    There’s plenty to see and this is the best time to do it. Before the coronavirus crisis the Tower of London was one of London’s most visited tourist attractions and one of the leading visitor attractions in the United Kingdom.
    Over 15,000 visitors, many from overseas, passed through its gates every day. In these troubled days London’s tourist industry has all but collapsed while the Covid-19 restrictions strictly ration the numbers allowed into the fortress at any given time. It’s around 800 on a good day. But when it rains visitors are almost outnumbered by the Beefeaters and the soldiers of the garrison. The long queues to see the Crown Jewels have vanished and you can really explore the nooks and crannies of this fascinating relic of London’s past.

The Tower of London is currently open from Wednesday to Sunday from 10:00 to 18.00. Tickets cost £25.00 (half-price for children) and visitors must book entry-slots with their tickets.

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Meeting to tackle global poverty

by New Worker correspondent

 NCP leader Andy Brooks went online to take part in a seminar on how political parties could help poverty eradication, which kicked off on Monday in Eastern China's Fujian province.
    Ambassadors to China from more than 30 countries, including Pakistan, Egypt and Argentina, joined in the seminar in Fuzhou, the capital city of Fujian, whilst delegates from more than 100 political parties worldwide attended via video link.
    The seminar, organised by the International Department of the Communist Party of China (CPC) and the Fujian Party provincial committee, was attended online or offline by nearly 400 participants from more than 100 countries, including representatives of political parties, diplomatic envoys to China, representatives of international organisations in China, media representatives of developing countries, and think-tank scholars.
    `Heads of some foreign countries expressed via video or in writing their appreciation of China's historical achievements in poverty reduction and emphasised the necessity for political parties to play a leading role in building a consensus and promoting co-operation in global poverty eradication.
    Chinese President Xi Jinping delivered a message of congratulations to the seminar calling on the international community, including political parties in all countries, to work together to accelerate the process of global poverty reduction because difficulties and challenges in this regard are still severe.
    Xi was a communist leader in Fujian in the past and he elaborated his thoughts on poverty eradication through his experiences in the province. Practices in Fujian such as officials being stationed in villages, sending technicians to poor areas, targeted measures and close monitoring to avoid returning to poverty were subsequently adopted nationwide.
International delegates learned about the poverty eradication experience of Fujian, and shared challenges and efforts of their own countries as the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, which falls on Saturday this year, approaches. Attendees said this forum was timely in exchanging ideas and practices on poverty alleviation, especially at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic makes the task even more difficult.
    “To eliminate poverty, to improve people's livelihoods and achieve common prosperity are the essential requirements of socialism with Chinese characteristics and important missions of the CPC," Xi said.
    Xi, who is also the General Secretary of the CPC, said that since the 18th National Congress of the CPC, China has made poverty eradication a key task in achieving its first centenary goal, and it has made a series of major plans and arrangements to fully launch the poverty reduction battle. The issue of absolute poverty, which has plagued the Chinese nation for thousands of years, is about to be solved historically.
    “China has the confidence and ability to resolutely win the battle against poverty and realize the poverty reduction goals of the United Nations (UN) 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development 10 years ahead of schedule,” said Xi.
    “Global poverty alleviation efforts have scored huge progress, but the difficulties and challenges are still severe,” he said, calling on the international community, including political parties of all countries, to build a consensus and work together to uphold multilateralism, and maintain peace and stability.
    “It is hoped that through sharing experience and summarising rules, seminar participants can discuss ways to advance the cause of global poverty reduction, enhance confidence in fighting poverty, and contribute to the realisation of the goals of the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development,” the Chinese leader said.

Monday, October 19, 2020

A Rare Victory for Public Sector Workers

By our Westminster correspondent

There is, at least, better news for one group of dedicated public sector workers who are getting a well-deserved pay rise which will hopefully compensate them for having to work long hours in cramped offices in an antiquated building situated beside a polluted river, which for most is distant from their homes. For that reason alone Members of Parliament surely deserve their £3,000 pay rise which brings their basic salary up to £81,932.
     Naturally this excludes expenses, but these have been tightened up with honourable members no longer able to claim for getting their moats cleaned without getting their names in the newspapers.
     Their pay is determined by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) which saves MPs from needing to go on picket lines. IPSA was set up after the 2009 expenses scandal which exposed the widespread misuse of allowances and expenses by MPs on both sides of the House. This included the exotic expenses claim mentioned and a Home Secretary claiming her main home was her sister’s front room so that she could claim her real house was a “second home” for the purpose of claiming expenses.
    The outrage on the street resulted in a large number of resignations, sackings, de-selections and retirement announcements in parliament. Some noble lords as well as former and sitting MPs were forced to repay substantial amounts. Others were even charged with false accounting or fraud and sent to prison.
    IPSA was designed be “independent” to end the spectacle of MPs voting on their own pay. Before the expenses scandal MPs voted to set their own pay scales. Some left-wingers noisily opposed the pay rises and some abstained, but the whips ensured that their numbers were not so great as to stop it being blocked.
     Nowadays MPs can put their hands on their hearts and (with crossed fingers) truthfully say “Nothing to do with us, it is independent”. Next year IPSA is set to authorise a 4.1 per cent increase – taking MPs’ salaries up by about £3,360 from the new figure of £81,932 to over £85,000.
     Even so, this is tough for people such as Boris Johnson. He made an immense sacrifice when he gave up his Daily Telegraph column which paid him £250,000 a year, a figure he described as chicken-feed. He now has to eke out a miserable living on his prime ministerial salary which is only about double that of a back-bench MP. It is extremely noble of Johnson to take huge pay cut so that he can devote himself to public service.

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Danger Money

 By New Worker correspondent

Another dispute is brewing in Hackney, this time as part of a national campaign to secure a decent wage increase for local government workers.

After the rejection by Unite members of the 2.75 per cent wage offer for local government workers in England and Wales, local pay battles are now taking place. These individual battles are seen as pathfinders in the hope that local victories will persuade other local authorities to fall into line. This is the first skirmish, of what is called a “pathfinder” strategy.

Those involved are 32 drivers and passenger escorts on the borough’s school buses for disabled children in Hackney. The aim is to secure a one-off £500 payment and an extra day’s holiday for risking their health working through the pandemic. One of the reasons for choosing Hackney was that the Labour council had earlier reneged on an earlier local deal that would have given them a lump sum and made agency workers permanent employees.

Unite’s regional officer for London, Onay Kasab, said: “The national cost of living rise for 2020 has now been settled and this has been reluctantly conceded by our members.

“However, we feel that many of the issues in the national claim, such as the working time and annual leave elements, remain outstanding – and that there is scope for negotiations with local council employers.”

He also noted that there were serious concerns about Covid-19 measures on buses – specifically because buses with a capacity of 30 have over 20 children on them. No social distancing is possible and the ‘bubbles’ that are in force in schools are broken on buses where new ‘bubbles’ are formed.

This is part of a national campaign for a one-off £500 payment for frontline workers as compensation for the added pressures of working throughout the pandemic, a reduction in the working week to 35 hours from 36 with no loss of pay, and an extra day of holiday.


Saturday, October 03, 2020

End sanctions on Democratic Korea!

 by New Worker correspondent
 Korean solidarity activists returned to Whitehall on Saturday to demand an end to British sanctions against Democratic Korea in July and an end to all the other sanctions imposed on the DPR Korea by US imperialism, the European Union and America’s lackeys in Japan and south Korea.
    NCP leader Andy Brooks and other comrades including London organiser Theo Russell, joined the picket called by the Korean Friendship Association on 26th September by the gates of the road leading to the Foreign & Commonwealth Office, just a stone’s throw from Downing Street and the heart of government.
    In a lengthy interview with a London journalist Dermot Hudson, the KFA chair, explained why they were picketing the Foreign Office. He denounced the unjust sanctions imposed by the British government and defended the human rights record of Democratic Korea against false accusations.

Saturday, September 12, 2020

NCP and Donbas communists hold Skype conference

By Vperyod correspondent

On 4th September, a Skype conference took place between Boris Litvinov, the First Secretary of the Communist Party of the Donetsk People’s Republic (CPDPR) and the General Secretary of the New Communist Party of Britain Andy Brooks.
     Mikhail Kukhtin, the head of the international department of the CPDPR and Theo Russell, a member of the Central Committee of the NCPB also took part in the discussion.
    During the discussion, Boris Litvinov informed the British comrades about the current state of affairs in the Donetsk People's Republic and the situation on the line of contact. In particular, he stressed that the diplomatic efforts of the participants in the Minsk process managed to achieve a ceasefire.
    But, despite the agreement reached, provocations by the Ukrainian army and its advance into the neutral zone and the side of the DPR people's militia positions pose a threat to a fragile truce. This is not the first time such tactics of the Ukrainian side, the use of a truce to create favourable conditions for the further unleashing of hostilities, have been used.
    Andy Brooks informed Boris Litvinov about the work of the New Communist Party of Britain and its supporters to support the struggle of the people of Donbas to strengthen their statehood. At rallies and demonstrations held by left wing movements in Britain, the communists carry flags and symbols of the DPR, express demands to the British government about non-interference in the internal conflict of Ukraine and the former part of it which has embarked on the path of self-determination and regularly cover their activities on the pages of their weekly, the New Worker. According to Andy Brooks, there are up to 100 British military advisers in the Donbas who train the Ukrainian army according to NATO standards.
    A significant place in the conversation was taken by the discussion of the question of the entry of the DPR Communist Party into the Solidnet international organisation of communist and workers' parties.
    Mykhaylo Khuktin confirmed that there have been talks between Boris Litvinov and some leaders of the Communist Party of Ukraine. He said “Our striving to join Solidnet was welcomed at least by some of them, although the overall situation remains complicated”.
    The British comrades were interested in the issue of the Donetsk communists’ relationship with other communist parties that are members of the Union of Communist Parties – Communist Party of the Soviet Union (SKP-KPSS).
    Boris Litvinov said that the CPDPR is an official observer in the SKP-KPSS, which actively participates in the work of this organisation and maintains close comradely ties with all participating parties.
    A special relationship has developed between the Donetsk communists and the Communist Party of the Russian Federation. Six years ago, the head of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation, Gennady Zyuganov, provided support and gave valuable recommendations during the creation of the CPDPR.
    The Communist Party of the Russian Federation provides significant humanitarian aid to the people of the Donetsk republic, especially its children. The General Secretary of the New Communist Party of Britain expressed the hope that in deciding the question of admitting the CPDPR to Solidnet, the Communist Parties of the SKP-KPSS will show their support.
    During the conversation, issues of the international situation were also discussed and the positions of the communists in various areas of party activity were expressed. Thus, the communists of the DPR and Britain agreed that the events in Belarus are an attempt by the West to first subjugate and then destroy the sovereignty of the state, toturn the Republic of Belarus into another springboard for an offensive against Russia.
    At the end of the Skype conference, the parties thanked each other for exchanging views on all the topics discussed and agreed to hold the next meeting in November.

Friday, September 04, 2020

Not so royal Windsor


the castle towering over the town
By Carole Barclay

Royal Windsor on the outskirts of London conjures up sedate images of the castle on the Thames, Eton college, a popular racecourse and Legoland. But behind the veneer of bourgeois respectability lies a much more turbulent past.
    Just down the road is Runnymede, where bad King John was forced to sign the Magna Carta in 1215. Charles Stuart was held in Windsor castle during the Civil War before his trial and execution in London in January 1649, and Queen Victoria narrowly escaped death in 1882 when a “madman” took a shot at her outside the royal railway station.
    The massive fortress that towers over Windsor has dominated the town since Norman days. Although the bastions and curtain walls still follow their ancient course, the castle has long been a royal palace and what we see today is essentially a Georgian and Victorian gothic fantasy.
    The castle was originally built to control a strategic section of the River Thames in William the Conqueror’s day. It was converted into a royal palace a century later and so it remains until this day – but it wasn’t always so.
    In the 17th century Windsor was a Puritan stronghold. During the civil war it was occasionally used by Oliver Cromwell as his headquarters and a gaol for Royalist prisoners. In Cromwell’s day the castle became a home for invalided members of the New Model Army and their families, but it reverted to the Crown after the Stuart restoration in 1660.
    Wandering the streets you will see relics of bygone ages. Shops that go back to Elizabethan days and a 17th century Guildhall designed by Sir Christopher Wren. The grand central station once used by royalty now just provides a shuttle service to Slough; but the massive concourse has been converted into a Victorian-themed shopping centre that preserves many original features such as the Jubilee Arch and the Royal Waiting Room. Outside one of the cafes in the complex there’s even a full-size replica of the steam engine that hauled Queen Victoria's Royal Train.
    Just over the river is Eton college, the paramount public school that has reared the offspring of the ruling class since its foundation in 1441.
    The Duke of Wellington said that the battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton and he was probably right. Old boys include Boris Johnson and 19 other Prime Ministers, as well as a predictable bunch of military men, artists and sportsmen. It was also the alma mater of Guy Burgess, who went on to study at Cambridge in the 1930s. There some students embraced the communist ideal. Some joined the workers movement, others fought in Spain. But Guy and his friends, Donald Maclean and Kim Philby, went a step further by taking the principled decision to struggle for peace by working for Soviet intelligence.
    The “Cambridge Spies” whose defections rocked the British establishment in the 1950s and ‘60s all ended up in the Soviet Union. Guy Burgess died in Moscow in 1963 and his ashes now lie in his family's plot in West Meon in Hampshire.
    Etonians are naturally ‘conservative’ with a small ‘c’ and most of them are imbibed with the ‘One Nation’ Toryism that one would expect from a school where much of its intake comes from the landed gentry. But the school does encourage open discussion and in October 1998 NCP leader Andy Brooks was invited to address a packed meeting of Eton’s Shelley Society on the communist ideal. One or two of the boys even said they considered themselves to be “Marxists”. I wonder where they are now…

Thursday, August 27, 2020

It was only a matter of time!

Red Beret
By Rossotrudnichestvo correspondent

Well done to Thomas Arthurton for having one of his works selected for the final exhibition of the National Portrait Gallery's world-famous BP Portrait Award 2020; it’s a fantastic work of art!
    We met Thomas couple of years ago at the Russian Culture House in London. From our first meeting we knew that his passion would unlock any doors and pass the entry exams to St Petersburg’s State Academic Institute of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture, where he is currently enrolled as a student specialising in portraiture. Born in Norwich, Thomas studied history of art at the University of York and The Courtauld and studied painting at the Florence Classical Arts Academy before going to Russia.
    The portrait, Red Beret, was painted on a dark winter evening in the attic of the St Petersburg Academy of Fine Arts. Arthurton said he left some parts of his work slightly unfinished “so that the painting is like a memory in which parts fade whilst at the same time remembering what is essential”.

Unfair Fares

 by New Worker correspondent

The Government have come up with another wheeze to get people into their cars. It plans to put up the price of train season tickets. According to ancient tradition, the annual January increase depends on the July inflation figure. This year, because of an unexpected jump in the July figure, they will be going up 1.6 per cent.
    This will apply to nearly all regulated fares in Scotland, and all regulated fares in England and Wales, as well as most off-peak long-distance fares.
    The Department for Transport said they are considering other options, including introducing flexible tickets. Rail minister Chris Haton-Harris said: “We expect any rail fare rise to be the lowest in four years come January and any increase will go straight to ensuring crucial investment in our railways.”
    Londoners will suffer most, with a 2.6 per cent rise due to the funding agreement between the government and City Hall after the coronavirus crisis. RMT instead demanded a five per cent cut fares. This could easily be achieved by redirecting funds paid to private operators since the pandemic.
    Transport Focus, a passenger watchdog, has joined forces with RMT to call for the introduction of a new season ticket to reflect current working patterns and to make travel more affordable for part-time commuters. Labour called for a re-nationalisation of the rail network and pointed out that that fares have risen by 42 per cent in real terms in the last decade.
    Transport Salaried Staffs' Association (TSSA) General Secretary Manuel Cortes, supporting the call for a freeze, said: “There should be no planned increase in rail fares, doing so in the middle of a health emergency and emerging economic crisis will help no one.
    “Since the pandemic hit our shores, our railways have kept key workers and vital supplies moving. There can be no doubt how vital our rail infrastructure is for the wellbeing of our nation and for our efforts to decarbonise our economy.
    “This is the moment for Government to come clean and tell us that not only will there be no increase in fares but that they are taking our railways back into public ownership.
    “We simply must get more people to use our railways for leisure travel as there is very likely to be a drop in commuter numbers as we feel the bite of what is expected to be a very deep recession and also increased homeworking taking hold.
    “This means putting in place a new affordable and more flexible fare structure which serves the needs of changing working patterns and which strongly promotes people using our railways for leisure purposes.”

Friday, August 21, 2020

Voices of War at the War Museum

Voices of War at the War Museum In 1940, Donald Lashbrook from Exeter left behind friends and family to embark for India to serve in the British Army in the Second World War. He spent five years on the frontline in India, Afghanistan and Myanmar, as the British Army joined China and the United States in their fight against Japanese forces. On 15th August 1945, the war was declared over and Lashbrook, then 25 years old, was able to return home. "VJ (Victory over Japan) Day came, it was all over. Everybody was 'we're on our way home,'" Lashbrook said in an archived audio interview that now features in the Voices of War soundscape collection at London's Imperial War Museum (IWM). His voice is one of the many personal accounts presented by the IWM in the exhibition that was set up to commemorate the Second World War 75 years after its end. From 8th May to 15th August the museum has been sharing the personal stories of people who stood together during a time of national crisis and their reflections on a time of both celebration and cautious relief in the summer of 1945. "With Voices of War, IWM will be bringing the stories and memories of those who lived through the conflicting jubilation, hope, sadness and fear that was felt during the summer of 1945 directly to homes around the country. We want the public to reflect on this important historical milestone as many others did 75 years ago," said Diane Lees, director general of the IWM. Anthony Richards, head of documents and sound collection at the War Museum, played a key role in pulling together the audio and text archives. Spending years researching into private papers and interviewing relatives to help piece together a retelling of the personal lives impacted by war. The voices, testimonies of personal responses to moments in the war from people who were actually there, are selected as representations of three important anniversaries: VE Day (May 8th), the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki (marked on August 6th) and VJ Day (August 15th). Among the voices, there is one from a British soldier, who was bayoneted in the arm by a Japanese soldier, about how joyful he was when he finally went home from the battle in 1945: “There was a banner outside, you know, 'welcome home' and it took me quite a while to knock the door. Just the feeling of getting home really you know and you hadn't seen your family for nearly four years and it was a very joyous occasion really”. There is also the voice of a former Japanese officer who took part in battle in both India and Myanmar but many years later worked hard to promote reconciliation between former enemies, saying "We arrive now after the war because of the many, many, war dead. So we owe them. We owe the dead." Extensive research was required to put the collection together. For Richards, it meant that he had to dig through the museum’s extensive archives, which held records of testimonies, interviews and documents going back to 1917 and beyond. To capture the voices of war he also went out to people's homes to sit down with them for hour-long interviews and cover their entire lives and their experiences of warfare. The intention behind the Voices of War project, he said, was to try and break down the complexities of the end of the Second World War through the personal stories of those who were directly impacted by it – and to show people today just how awful war is. He sees Voices of War as a reminder of how badly war affects ordinary lives and that is something he feels we ought never to return to. “In a way, it tells you more about how awful war is than anything else. It's the effect of ordinary people in ordinary lives,” Richards said. Despite victory and the war coming to an end, the audio interviews also detail people's concerns and uncertainty on “rebuilding the world”, something that according to Richards, resonates strongly with how people may feel today amid a global pandemic. “Looking at the wide variety of voices that we used for this project, I think they're interesting because they show how events at the end of World War II were never as clear cut as people think they were,” he said. “Current events in the news today are immensely complicated, and there's multiple viewpoints...And things were not straightforward. People felt very confused. They didn't quite know what was going to happen,” he added. Hearing the personal accounts of confusion and uncertainty, Richards feels that the voices from the exhibition – although from a different era – can be of inspiration to the people of today living through a global pandemic. “And obviously, it (global pandemic) is very different to a major world conflict. But there are parallels to be made there and I think we can take that away from the voices from 1945,” he said. Xinhua

Defending Liam Campbell

By New Worker correspondent

Supporters of the Irish Republican Prisoners Support Group - Greater London picketed the Irish embassy in London on Saturday in support of the campaign to stop the extradition of Liam Campbell to Lithuania. 
Liam Campbell, a dissident Irish republican, was arrested in Dundalk on 2nd December 2016 on a warrant issued by Lithuania and endorsed by the High Court in Dublin. He is facing extradition to Lithuania pending an appeal against the 13th July order in January 2021. If extradited and found guilty, he faces a sentence of 20 years. This latest attempt to extradite Liam comes after a legal battle lasting nearly 12 years in the High Court in Dublin. 
In October 2013 his brother Michael Campbell was acquitted of all charges in Lithuania because the court believed he was framed by MI5. His lawyer, Ingrida Botyriene, said: “A person cannot be sentenced for a crime committed by state officials. He was acquitted because the court found that what he was accused of was a provocation. It was just an activity of the state security services. Michael Campbell was set up in a ‘sting’ operation by MI5, the Irish and Lithuanian intelligence agencies and jailed in Lithuania on 21 October 2011 for 12 years. The spooks had in fact initiated the arms deal on which he was convicted. He would never be involved in arms deals and would never go to Lithuania for such an affair if he had not been provoked by secret agents”.
The same judgement should apply to Liam now as the circumstances are exactly the same.