Solidarity 229, 11 January 2012

Organise next pensions action now!

The decision of Unite’s local government committee to follow the lead of its health committee in rejecting the latest pensions offer is a significant development in the fight to defeat the government’s attacks.

Unite says only that its local government members will “now consider their next steps”, rather than definitively committing to further action. In Unite now, the battle for activists is to ensure that the union organises further strikes, and quickly.

Edd Bauer: how I beat university bosses and won reinstatement

Edd Bauer, recently reinstated Vice President of Education, Birmingham Guild of Students, spoke to Solidarity.

I was released from prison on 26 September [Edd was arrested for doing a banner drop at Lib-Dem conference] and immediately went to the Guild of Students (Students Union), but found that I had been suspended from my office.

The following morning the President and the CEO (general manager) of the Guild gave me a letter banning me from the Guild premises for the remainder of the investigation surrounding my suspension.

Syria: Arab League fails

Since the opposition took to the streets in March 6,000 people have been killed and at least 14,000 are estimated to be in detention.

The opposition, organised through a loose network of local coordinating committees, and with a political front, The Syrian National Council (SNC) outside the country, has grown in strength while the state’s authority has withered.

Neighbouring fear the deepening chaos and even — in the worst case — the break-up of the country in sectarian civil war.

Essex NUJ strike

National Union of Journalists members working for newspapers owned by the Newsquest company have voted to strike in a dispute over pay.

Workers face a pay freeze, meaning that if no pay awards are made in 2012 it will be the third year out of the last four of standstill for Newsquest journalists. Management also want to impose a single pay “anniversary” (the point in the year at which pay is renegotiated) for all editorial staff, meaning some workers would not even be considered for a wage increase until June 2013.

M&S warehouse workers strike

Workers at a Marks & Spencer distribution centre, operated by logistics firm Wincanton, struck on 22 December against a plan by management to create a two-tier workforce by linking a new pay scheme to the introduction of worse terms for new starters.

The new deal would cut the hourly rate from £8 to £6.45 for new employees. The new package would also drastically lower shift premiums and overtime payments.

As well as the one-day strike, workers also launched an indefinite work-to-rule.

East London school strike wins concessions.

Teachers at Langdon School in Newham, East London, voted to suspend their strike action following concessions from the school management and the council.

Members of the National Union of Teachers at the school voted unanimously to suspend the action after council commitments to reign in the school’s scab-herding, bullying management. However, their strike ballot remains live should they decide the concessions are not being properly delivered.

Messages of support for the workers can still be sent to

Reinstate Pat Markey!

A long-serving humanities teacher at Duston School, Northampton, is facing victimisation and possible dismissal at a disciplinary hearing this week.

Northampton National Union of Teachers (NUT) branch secretary and Duston School NUT Rep, Pat Markey, has been suspended from his teaching post since September 2011.

Sparks' fight goes on

The seven construction contractors planning to unilaterally impose their own new agreement (“BESNA”) set 9 January as the new date by which electricians must sign up to the new terms or face the sack.

Private sector pensions fight

The ongoing pensions battle in the public sector has now spilt over into the private sector.

The Association of Consulting Actuaries (ACA) has reported that pensions in the private sector face “seismic collapse”. Nine out of ten private sector defined benefit schemes are close to new entrants, and four out of ten schemes do not allow existing staff to build up further benefits. Last week, Shell closed its final salary pension scheme to new workers, despite the pension pot being in surplus and Shell reporting profits over £4.5 billion in the last quarter of 2011.

This is Dystopia, lady!

What world is this, sir?

This is Dystopia, lady!

World of hallucogenic sights

And waking nightmares;

Realm of Dire Remembrances

And of things seen in our Bleak Imaginings.

Strange ancient worlds still are threaded in

This ending-time of mankind’s long pre-history:

See it through the lenses of its parts,

Its smaller, true and fancied,

Past and present, parts,

And of its pasts,

If you would see it plain,

And know what centuries this is:

Here old and new combine;

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