Solidarity 257, 19 September 2012

Greek strikes build to 26 September

Published on: Wed, 19/09/2012 - 11:47

On 26 September the Greek government, led by the right-wing New Democracy party with the support of Pasok (similar to Labour) and the Democratic Left (soft-left), will take its latest round of cuts to parliament.

Some Democratic Left MPs, such as former Pasok rebel Odysseas Voudouris, have denounced the cuts.

On 14 September, Christine Lagarde, head of the International Monetary Fund, said that giving Greece two more years to do its cuts “needs to be considered as an option”.

Austria’s finance minister Maria Fekter concurred: “We will give Greece the time they need for that. There will

Capitalism: a murderous system

Published on: Wed, 19/09/2012 - 11:41

At least 314 garment workers burned or suffocated to death in two factory fires in Pakistan on 12 September.

Twenty-five people died in a shoe factory in the city of Lahore, when chemicals caught alight; 289 died in a garment factory in Karachi.

In the Karachi fire, workers were trapped inside the burning building because exits had been locked and they could not open security grilles at the windows.

Factory bosses and government officials, who have turned a blind eye to the flouting of health and safety regulations, are being prosecuted in the wake of this national scandal. But, equally, as

Rescue the NHS from demolition

Published on: Wed, 19/09/2012 - 11:33

The size and scale of the NHS demolition project is slowly coming into view.

Every Primary Care Trust is now putting three services out to tender. In April 2013, the National Commissioning Board will sell off 912 specialist services (or “products” as they are referred to in government reports). By October 2013 a further three chunks of the NHS will go to the private sector.

In total the Financial Times estimates contracts worth a staggering £20 billion (or 20% of the NHS) will be in the hands of private contractors in the next few years.

The Tories have decreed that PCTs must have completed

Industrial news in brief

Published on: Wed, 19/09/2012 - 11:25

Workers involved in a long-running battle with contractor Carillion at Swindon’s Great Western Hospital (operated under a Private Finance Initiative) took the fight to Portsmouth’s Queen Alexandra Hospital (QAH) on Tuesday 18 September.

Carillion managers at QAH have been accused of the same bullying and harassment practises against which the Swindon workers have taken 21 days of strike action. One Carillion manager from Swindon also works one day a week at QAH.

GMB Regional Secretary Paul Moloney said: “We are not anywhere near resolving this dispute at Swindon. The company has yet to meet

Discussing autism at work

Published on: Wed, 19/09/2012 - 11:12

[img_assist|nid=19580|title=cartoon by Landon Bryce,|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=400|height=192]In October and November, trade unionists from a variety of different unions will attend a one-day seminar on “Autism in the Workplace”, hosted by the Workers’ Educational Association London Region.

Working with the WEA, and with RMT’s sponsorship, I have put together this seminar to enable trade unionists to mobilise around this issue, effectively representing autistic workers and those who care for autistic dependants, tackling discrimination, and engaging with political debates

TUC: considering a General Strike?

Published on: Wed, 19/09/2012 - 11:08

The motion that caused the most controversy at this year’s TUC Congress (9-12 September) was from the Prison Officers’ Association, calling on the TUC at “the consideration and practicalities of a general strike”.

It resulted in a lively debate.

Unite, the largest voting bloc at Congress, agreed to support the resolution. Unite’s Steve Turner argued that it would be a “political strike” (rather than an industrial one). Unison also supported the motion. The union was opposed by more historically conservative unions such as the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, civil service managers’

Film protests: any “struggle” will do?

Published on: Wed, 19/09/2012 - 11:03

Like many others, I watched The Innocence of Muslims thinking it must be some kind of satirist’s joke — that this couldn’t possibly be what all the fuss was about. It was too ludicrous, too obviously amateurish and awful, for anyone to take seriously.

I had precisely the same experience reading articles by the International Socialist Group (Scotland) (which is linked to the English splinter from the SWP led by John Rees). Someone, I thought, has written a parody of playschool “anti-imperialism”.

But no. David Jamieson, a student at Glasgow Caledonian University, writes: “Another day, another

Support the independent left in Venezuela

Published on: Wed, 19/09/2012 - 10:55

The Venezuelan elections on 7 October are an important turning point for the Chavista movement in the country and for the international left.

Hugo Chávez faces not only a resurgent right wing candidate Henrique Capriles, but also a socialist challenge in the shape of Orlando Chirino. Chávez, despite being hampered by his treatment for cancer, has over 40% in most reliable polls and is well ahead of Capriles. But it is around Chirino that the genuine working class forces can coalesce.

The traditional forces of the right have united around Henrique Capriles of the centre-right Justice First

The history of school exams

Published on: Wed, 19/09/2012 - 10:47

The government plans to replace GCSEs with a new qualification, the English baccalaureate, which will put the focus on end-of-year examinations.

Pat Yarker discusses the history of school exams, and how they have been used.

End-of-school exams for all, like mass compulsory education, arrived fairly recently in England.

The situation before 1945 was different, but for two decades or so after that date most working-class pupils were prevented from sitting public exams. Denied access not only to fee-paying schools but also to the grammar schools Labour had established, they could not take the O

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