Solidarity 324, 14 May 2014

Political change can drive out Boko Haram

The impressive “Bring Our Girls Home” social media campaign has succeeded in drawing attention to the audacious and cruel abduction of 276 schoolgirls by the Nigerian Islamist sect Boko Haram.

The actions of the nihilistic group, who view the girls’ lives as more-or-less expendable (no more than their value in ransom), have rightly been condemned. But we need to discuss the political conditions in which such an organisation takes root.

Make 10 July the start of a fight over pay

The Sunday Times “super rich list” shows the UK has more billionaires than any other country per head, and London the most of any city worldwide. Their collective wealth has risen by over 20% in one year.

Meanwhile 650,000 local government workers in the UK have seen a real-terms pay cut of 20% over the last four years. They will now be balloting for action over pay (the ballot begins on 23 May)

If there is a yes vote for action, as is expected, there could be a strike on 10 July involving members of Unison, GMB and Unite in local government and schools.

Industrial news in brief

Workers at the Ritzy cinema in Brixton, London are balloting for more strikes. The campaign is gathering momentum but management are still refusing to negotiate on demands for the London Living Wage. Workers have struck three times in the last three weeks.

Students support Lambeth College strike

The dispute at Lambeth College between workers and management continues. UCU members at the college are fighting against reduced terms and conditions for new workers, as well as threats to the conditions of current staff.

Labour: rebuild the NHS!

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence watchdog has warned that NHS under-staffing is a threat to patients’ safety, and is calling for a 1:8 ratio of nurses to patients.

According to Nice’s “report found understaffing at Stafford hospital, caused by cost-cutting by the trust, had contributed directly to what a previous official inquiry called ‘ appalling care’ which led to patients dying and suffering serious harm.”

NUT stepping up?

According to the website of the National Union of Teachers, the union is “stepping up our campaign”.

Some on the left in the NUT praise the plans as “a turn to political trade unionism”. However, the political activity proposed is weak.

The union leadership is semi-committed to another one-day strike this term, and if Unison and other unions go for 10 July, the NUT may strike on the same day, and produce an important protest against the Tories.

CWU edges towards “two funds”

The CWU (Communication Workers’ Union, covering post and telecom workers) met for its postal, telecom, and general conferences on 27 April to 1 May.

The biggest political debate was on Scottish independence. Several Scottish delegates spoke for a “no” to independence, saying that “as a union, we’ re stronger together” and they won a large majority. Only one of the 13 Scottish branches is pro-independence.

Of the two motions on the Collins Review, the more combative was defeated, and the “steady as you go” one was carried.

PCS discusses Unite takeover

Two contrasting views of the proposed takeover of civil service union PCS by Unite by a PCS activist and a Unite community member.

PCS-Unite: no to merger!

A PCS activist

The annual conference of PCS, the largest civil service trade union, on 20-22 May will debate a motion submitted by the union’s Executive (NEC) on PCS merging into the big general union Unite.

Syria: Assad gains ground

After three years of intense fighting, famine-like conditions and immense bloodshed, the city of Homs has fallen to the Assad government in Syria.

Assad’s allies have hailed the negotiated retreat (completed 8 May) by the remaining rebels into rural areas north of the city as a decisive victory.

“The capital of the revolution”, as it was called after the beginning of the anti-Assad revolt in March 2011, will now be “rebuilt” from a gutted shell.

India: “rather like Mussolini”

The results of India’s elections are due on 16 May, with many expecting the victory of Narendra Modi and his right-wing opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Modi is the front-runner, and faces Rahul Gandhi, Vice-President of the ruling Indian National Congress party. Modi hopes to break the grip of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty and its Congress party which has dominated Indian political life since the country gained its independence in 1947.

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