Archive | October, 2009

Posties on Strike!

23 Oct

On Thursday the 22nd, In Manchester 1400 mail centre staff went on strike and nationally 42,000 mail centre staff went on a 24 hour strike. As a part of their strategy, 78,000 of the delivery workers will follow them on the following day. According to the CWU’s General Secretary Dan Ward, “Postal workers do not want to have to take strike action, but neither are they prepared to put up with continuing attacks from a management which is failing” (CWU, press release 13.10.09).

Why are the postal workers striking? The Communication Workers Union (CWU) Royal Mail branch has called this strike in response to the breach of their agreement. The said agreement was one on modernisation, pay, and conditions. The strike is aimed at addressing the rise of outsourcing, the depletion of pensions, and jobs. In an article in Socialist Worker magazine, a leaked powerpoint showed the aims of management to be: “Deliver the necessary 2009 changes with or without union engagement”; “Deliver ongoing changes required to complete the transformation-both operation and people/ relationships”; “Maintain stakeholder confidence”; and, “minimise impact on customers”. According to the UK Independent, in addition to the management’s desire to “deliver”, “with or without union engagement”, the Prime Minister Gordon Brown has urged the Postal Workers back to the table or go through the independent arbiter Acas, a conciliation service.

However, mediation and modernisation won’t solve the problem. Despite Business Secretary Lord Mandelson, Gordon Brown, and the Labour backbenchers’ attempts at political mediation the bosses have a record of occupational and economic manipulation.

At the frontlines of the protest on Thursday, I interviewed an organizer and postal worker who I call Jimmy X. In response to the 30,000 temporary scabs the Royal Mail is in the process of hiring he had this to say: “there will be a police presence to escort them.’ ‘We have to keep it legal, because if we control it then it is official and if they control it is unofficial”. Therefore, under the current law any interference with the police may be seen as unlawful. In a later exchange Jimmy stated that, “they are now bringing in agency people to wind us up staff in Manchester sat in the canteen today in protest”. In accordance with the management’s strategy of disruption, however, according to the Guardian’s 22nd of October coverage, the union will seek an injunction to stop the scabs as an illegal strike breaking measure.

The fight is twofold: outsourcing, and conditions. Since the conservative reign of Thatcher into the expected cuts under Prime Minister Gordon Brown the public sector has been increasingly open to privatisation and public-private partnerships. One such use of public funds and resources for private gain was described by Jimmy as private mail services dropping off letters to the Royal Mail, and while they pay the RM 13 pence per letter their profit margin is intact. The problem with this is: the postal workers still deliver it.

Since private companies deposit a lump sum to pay the RM’s charge on the letter the private services charge to the consumer is profit gained from using the public postal service; this in Jimmy X’ words is the private sector “cherry picking all of the raw services”. This is absolutely unacceptable according to Jimmy X. Among honks of support and waves of gratitude from commuters and customers he has described this fight as “defending the postal service”. He also stated for those that wanted to assist the striking workers, “write [also call, and e-mail] their MP’s and tell them to abide by the [2007] agreement”.

In this time of economic distress, and employment worsens the public is behind the strikers and behind a recovery for all of us. More strike action is on hold for the next six days, but next week 43,700 (Manchester evening news, CWU, The Guardian, and The Independent) are expected to follow the striking postal workers next week.

For the e-published version, go here: http://themule.info/?p=1059

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Taking back the streets from the Fascists

12 Oct

Thousands of people marched against fascism on Saturday, Oct. 10th 2000. “Diversity is what makes the world beautiful”, said Abby; a Manchester Metropolitan University student. People from Manchester and Liverpool (later on, London) arrived to confront the English Defence League and their supporters, which only numbered 300. Last Saturday the anti-fascist presence overshadowed the bile of the EDL, with the beauty and force of our diversity; which was illustrated by, as one Asian supporter observantly exclaiming, “We have more white people than you do”! In short, the day belonged to the protestors, not simply because of our racial, religious, and diverse personal backgrounds, but it was also our politics and the formidable presence among a massive police and paltry EDL presence.

The student rally proceeded as the first manoeuvre of the day at 11:45am, which presented itself as a contingent of 70-100 students, youth and community supporters blazed through Oxford rd. After 12:00pm the student contingent joined the main demonstration, which later pushed against the police lines, and thereafter the demonstration would become a convention. Despite the lack of discipline from unaffiliated protestors who wanted to fight, and no support from Local Labour leaders and their allied Imam’s we realized the slogan: Black, Asian, and White, UNITE! SMASH THE EDL”! Unfortunately, according to the Manchester Evening News and the Times, 44 people were arrested and 10 seriously injured, however 2000 remained committed to opposing them and around 5pm (the official end of their permitted demonstration). Despite, the residual EDL watchers and earlier crowd infiltrators, the anti-fascist activists safely left in groups. From the student rally, to the tripartite challenge of the police blockade, to confrontations with the EDL, and to the rally featuring vibrant speakers; the EDL was shamed and their message, neutered.

The English Defence League’s platform is one based on “opposing radical Islam” which manifests itself as attacks on Muslim communities; for example, the desecration of sacred property (i.e. – desecrated graves in a S. Manchester cemetery). In a off-the cuff discussion with an EDL member and a more official discussion with an Air Conditioning Engineer named Mark (29 years old, unaffiliated, yet shares EDL’s views), one begins to understand that the narrative of the EDL appeals partially to the uneducated working class; for example, when asked about Immigration laws he stated: “We should shut the borders.’ ‘England is too small”. The EDL uses the fear of disenfranchisement and of “radical Islam” to entice people like Mark to eventually join their ranks. However, it is plain fact that their philistinism only inspires EDL and anti-Muslim/ immigrant hate.

In refection, the protest was worth it; the community took control of its streets and stood on the side of social justice. The EDL proselytise that England is coming to an end; conversely, it is our job as activists to educate and to continue to agitate to take the wool from over their eyes. As opposed their racist football hooliganism; we all can unite against their daily conditions of disenfranchisement.

To Protest Hate

9 Oct

On Saturday, October 10th the English Defense League is coming to Manchester to rally and they must be opposed. On their website they emphatically declare that they are “peacefully protesting militant Islam”, however, given the current trends of the far right and the violent nature of their protests it’s imperative that the group is scrutinized and their message confronted.

In a Friday, Sept. 11th article in The Guardian a minister of parliament was cited as saying, “If you look at the types of demonstrations they’ve organized … it looks pretty clear that it’s a tactic designed to provoke and get a response, and hopefully create violence” (MP John Denham, “Minister Warns of 1930’s Style Fascists in the Streets”).The mission of the EDL, according to their rhetoric is to “oppose Radical Islam and Sharia Law’ ‘Not Muslims, but Radical Muslims”, however, in an August 2009 piece in The Times reported that a peaceful march in Birmingham ended up with violence and 35 arrests. The violence is alleged to be due to tensions between the anti-fascist and EDL individual supporters, but according to the Muslim Public Affairs committee, last Sunday the police reported a “race hate crime” of desecrated Muslim graves in a southern Manchester cemetery. Their violence is not incidental; it is the modus operandi of a hate group that uses violence to spread fear and bewilderment.

The rise of the right seems paradoxical in the “age of Hope” (alluding to Obama’s globally popular image), however as commentator William Pfaff of truthdig.org stated: “the left in Europe has run out of gas”. New Labour and the soft-left have failed, and the pendulum has violently swung back towards violent disillusionment. Many uninformed white, working class, and or apolitical citizens are being manipulated across the board. Fear, is the catalyst that has transformed violent disillusionment into “placards – with slogans such as ‘Ban mosques’ – as well as the vile racist abuse the crowd hurled” (Salma Yaqoob, the New Statesman).

We must protest, confront, and stanchly denounce the message of the EDL. Fear is toxic, and with a message of hate it is deadly. In the U.S. fear of “death panels” and the loss of “my America” has manifested virulent (and gun-toting) right-wing resistance; however, here in Britain the EDL and the rising British National Party use the same right-wing phobia model and reproduce fascistic manifestations. As Martin Luther King Jr. said, “An injustice anywhere, is a threat to justice everywhere”, and silence poses a threat to justice.

After all, if they are only protesting “radical Islam”, then those same Muslim “radicals” (neighbors, doctors, teachers, secretaries, students, etc…) have the inalienable right to peacefully counter-protest in solidarity with other citizens that want a diverse Britain; whom love a diverse Manchester, and live in the present and not the Dark Ages of ignorance.