Friday, December 21, 2007


all the best for 2008
London District NCP

London news roundup

City courier sacked for asking for Christmas Eve off

PAUL WHIELDON, a member of the GMB general union employed for five years in the City of London as a pushbike courier has been sacked from his job by CitySprint because he requested that he be allowed not to work on Christmas Eve.
He wanted to spend the day with his partner of 18 years, Kim, who’s celebrating her 40th birthday on that day. The request was refused and he was sacked by phone. CitySprint operate all over England, Scotland and Wales.
Paul and his 40/50 push bike colleagues cycle between 50 to 60 miles a day in the course of a five-day working week for which they earn around £350, depending on the number of jobs and how fit they are.
The push bike couriers deliver in the centre of London. Paul and his other CitySprint push bike courier colleagues have had two pay cuts since 2006. In 2006 a delivery journey from EC1 to EC2 earned a courier £2.90. For the same journey they now earn only £2.20. If couriers are unable to work they do not get paid. There is no sick pay, no pension scheme or paid holiday arrangements. The couriers provide their own push bikes but are charged each week, by the company for a company uniform, rent for a radio, Citytracker equipment that gives them their delivery schedule, GPS equipment and goods in transit insurance. This amounts to an estimated total deduction from the pay of over £9.00 each week. Paul has been working on the American Express contract. For this he received a daily retainer rate of £60.75 which was paid to him by CitySprint and is paid for each job on top.
Terry Flanagan, GMB Professional Driver Branch Secretary said, “The courier business is full of companies like CitySprint who treat their employees in the most uncaring and unprofessional way. The constant driving down of prices in the delivery sector leads to ordinary workers like Paul being forced to work for very poor pay providing services to the very profitable financial sector, and being forced to pay for the equipment he needs to do his job. GMB have experienced low standards in the courier industry but we do expect them not to sack people for asking for time off at Christmas. Paul offered to work over the period between Christmas and New Year and asked only for Christmas Eve off to be with his partner Kim on her 40th birthday.”

Fight against mental health unit closure

PATIENTS and staff at a key mental health unit in Surrey are alarmed at a decision by the NHS trust to close it. They say the Henderson Hospital offers unique help to people with complex mental health problems.
The South West London and St George’s Mental Health NHS Trust, which made the decision to close the Sutton-based hospital, said it recognised the tremendous contribution that the Henderson had made over the past 60 years in treating patients from many other areas as well as locals.
In a statement, the trust’s chief executive Peter Houghton said: “The trust can no longer afford to subsidise the hospital at the expense of other services. It is with great sadness that this decision has been taken.”
Medical staff at the Henderson say the closure has been forced by changes made to Government funding arrangements. A year ago, the hospital received national funding, and had a six-month waiting list. But then funding passed to local NHS trusts, and referrals dwindled.
Currently, only 12 of its 29 beds are occupied. Residential care is expensive but psychiatrists say the cost of treatment at the Henderson is recouped in the long run because, after patients leave, they tend to be far less dependent on other services.
The hospital does intensive work with people who have a moderate or severe personality disorder. This means they have enduring emotional and behavioural problems which can involve them harming themselves or others.
Many people at the Henderson have experienced serious neglect or abuse in earlier years.
A consultant psychiatrist, Dr Diana Menzies, said: “These are people who, if not treated, tend to come back through the revolving door and on to acute wards in psychiatric hospitals.
“Closure of the service will add to the impoverishment of psychological treatments. It will be the most vulnerable in our society who pay.”
A woman former patient described the difference the Henderson had made to her. The woman, who was treated at the hospital for a year when she was 25, said: “Before I had always been isolated. I was self-harming, and struggled to be by myself for any period of time. I was like a timebomb of self-destruction.
“But there you learn to let other people help and support you – and you do the same for them.
“Now I’m not involved in psychiatric services in any way. I’ve been completely discharged for two years. I’m working full-time, and I manage to live on my own. Basically I now have a life.”

Friday, December 14, 2007

London news roundup

Campaign against Climate Change

LAST SATURDAY’S demonstration in London against global warming was hailed as a great success by the organisers, the Campaign Against Climate Change as more than 6,000 people braved wind, rain and freezing cold to show their support.
Demonstrators carried banners with slogans like "cut carbon not forests" and "actions speak louder than words". Some posters carried a picture of George W Bush and the words: "Wanted for crimes against the planet".
Media coverage was good, with the march featuring on the front pages of the Sunday Times and the Independent on Sunday, and good reports from the BBC.
At the same time protests were held in over 50 countries, with over 10,000 participants in Taiwan and Germany.
The protesters were demonstrating primarily to save the planet and billions of people on it from the horrific tide of death and destruction that will come from the catastrophic destabilisation of global climate.
But the march stressed two main points, reflected in the route chosen. It started at Millbank near the House of Commons and marched past Downing Street, where marchers delivered a letter to Number 10.
The focus here was pressure on the British government to pass a strong Climate Bill. This will establish in legislation a cap for the whole of Britain’s emissions.
The campaigners pointed out that this made it different from other climate initiatives – very good in themselves but at risk of being cancelled out by an increase associated with another sector of the economy.
Also, they said, people cannot make meaningful reductions by their own individual efforts alone – these efforts will be wasted unless they are part of an overall plan coordinated by Government.
The march finished by the United States Embassy because clearly whatever is achieved in Britain will be no use in solving this global problem except insofar as it encourages other nations to act and gives a stronger hand to those working to achieve a global agreement that will establish a cap on the global total of emissions.
That is why the "National climate march" was part of a Global Day of Action with demonstrations and events in more than 50 countries demanding real action on climate from world leaders at the United Nations Climate Talks in Bali.
But the biggest block on progress at those UN Talks is still, as it has been for a decade or more, the United States.
In particular the Bush administration has both rejected Kyoto (in 20001) and cynically manoeuvred to sabotage progress at the UN Climate Talks. It still refuses to accept binding targets (the only basis for a meaningful treaty) in a post Kyoto agreement and demands action, first, from China and India despite the fact that these countries emit far less per person, are much poorer with fewer resources to take the necessary action and do not have a historical responsibility for much the greater part of the greenhouse gases currently in the atmosphere.
Most recently Bush has tried to derail progress on climate at the Washington Climate Conference on the 27th-28th September.
This was a transparent attempt to divert the world down a blind ally of "voluntary measures" and "intensity targets" and thereby pre-empt and derail real progress on absolute and binding targets (the only thing that can really work) at the official UN Talks in Bali.
This comes after he forced the final communiqué at the G8 in Heilegendam in June to abandon any firm emission reduction commitments.
Bush has been forced to change his language on climate but continues to be the major obstacle to progress. He may be on the way out but he is still doing damage and the cost of the delay he is imposing could ultimately be measured in millions of lives.
That is why the march finished at the US Embassy with a massive demonstration to show that people will not just stand by and allow Bush – or anyone else – to wreck the global effort to save billions of lives from climate catastrophe.
Meanwhile UN figures released last week show that greenhouse gas emissions in Britain have risen by nearly a fifth in the past 20 years. The figures leave out emissions from aviation, shipping and the carbon content of imports.
Oxford University experts claim that if these emissions were included then it would be seen that the lifestyle of people in Britain has a much greater impact on climate change than the Government likes to admit.


London bus pay dispute

MEMBERS of the giant union Unite employed by First driving buses in London are set to take strike action this Friday in the first of a series of strikes in a dispute over pay.
The average pay for drivers is £23,000 and members have resoundingly rejected a pay offer of 4.25 per cent on the basic rate with minor conditions improvements, which is lower than elsewhere in London.
The action will affect First Capital East services in Hackney, Dagenham and Northumberland Park garage; First Centrewest at Westbourne Park, Alperton, Greenford, Uxbridge, Hayes, Orpington, Acton, Willesden.
George Dodo Williams, Unite regional industrial organiser said: "While First enter the FTSE 100 for the first time, and the group boasts about the significant guaranteed increases for shareholders over the coming years, our members in London Buses who are helping to generate these healthy profit margins by their sweat and tears, are being hung out to dry.
"London bus workers have consistently delivered huge increases in efficiency and performance – more than six million passengers carried each day – a 40 per cent increase since the return of local government to London. Yet these workers in one of London’s top companies are being forced to take action to stake a claim to their share. They are however determined to achieve a decent settlement."

Defend Council Housing lobby in January

THE CAMPAIGN group Defend Council Housing (DCH) is planning a mass lobby of MPs on 22nd January 2008, calling on the Government to adopt the "fourth option" and invest in existing council housing and to build a new generation of first class council housing.
They are calling on all local groups and progressive organisations to send a delegation to the lobby and to mobilise support.
The lobby is timed to coincide with debate in the Commons on amendments to the Housing and Regeneration Bill.
Campaigners invite everyone to use their new leaflet to mobilise support for the "fourth option" and ensure that tenants, trade unionists and councillors from every area respond to the call by the House of Commons Council Housing group for evidence to support amendments to the Housing and Regeneration Bill.
They want MPs to be asked to sign early day motion 368.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Witness from the West Bank

Daphne Liddle recently met Comrade Fouad, a member of the Palestinian People’s Party, from the village of Beit Furik in the occupied West Bank, who has come to London on a brief speaking tour about the conditions and problems currently facing Palestinians under Israeli occupation.

Daphne Liddle: What do you hope to gain from this visit?

Fouad: "Originally to build solidarity between our community and to meet people here to find out their views about the struggle. In addition to that I am interested to get to know more deeply the people who are active in building solidarity with Palestine and deepen my knowledge of the situation here.
I am very grateful for the invitation because on a personal level it gives me the opportunity to advance the twinning process in a more concrete form.
I will be taking part in the twinning conference and we’ll be taking practical steps to make it all happen. This relationship needs to be developed on an organisational level and there is a lot of work to so. That is why this visit is so important to build something definite that we can benefit from.

DL: How can people in Britain help?

Fouad: In Britain there is a strong sympathy here because there is a tradition of civil liberties and human rights, more than in some other places and because of this we want the friendship of the British people. Britain is so powerful internationally, so it helps if the British people can put more pressure on the British government through their politicians to help the people of Palestine. We want you to put more pressure on your government.
What I witnessed today on the street in Lewisham at the Palestine Solidarity Campaign stall, just talking to the people of Britain and telling them about the human rights problems, I was very impressed by the friendship shown.
We need to raise awareness of our problems and we hope that some of you will come and visit us.

DL: The British government in the past has played a role in creating the problems, for example through the Balfour Declaration and so on. How do you feel about that?

Fouad: "That’s really why I’m here. I was being a bit diplomatic before. The British people are now becoming more aware of their history and the wrong deeds of the British Empire. Your government helped to bring about this situation and it has a responsibility to be involved in resolving it to bring peace and justice. We want you to put pressure on your government.
At the same time we are asking people who are concerned to come and visit Palestine to see for themselves the reality of the situation.
You are interviewing me for a communist newspaper, I too am a communist, a member of the Party of the Palestinian People and we have friendly relations with many other communist and workers’ parties, including the Workers’ Party of Korea. They are among those who support our struggle.

DL: Do you believe that Saudi Arabia could do more to help Palestine?

Fouad: Yes, the Saudi government could put more pressure on the strong governments in the world. Money and charity are not enough, we do not want to be beggars, we want a free independent state and to support ourselves. The Saudis should support us in this.
Palestine is a full member of the Arab League; its laws say that if one member is in trouble the others should give support but this is not applied to us, we do not see it.
There are meetings and meetings but we do not see anything, nothing effective happens.

DL: We have seen lately some divisions among the Palestinians, is Islam a force for progress or reaction?

Fouad: The presence of Hamas in the government of Palestine is the result of Fatah’s failure to make progress. The people are not concerned about Islamic fundamentalism; they voted in revenge for the non-success of Fatah and not because of a commitment to Hamas. If you speak to the people they are far from being religious extremists.
When Hamas took over the government they suddenly discovered they were facing more political issues than religious. Hamas is now longer quite so popular. Why? It’s because elections are really a political matter and not religious. Hamas believed the people had voted for them for religious reasons so they started to push the religious aspects of their policy and the people did not accept it.
Fatah are doing a bit better now on certain issues.

DL: Is the legacy of Yasser Arafat still important to the people of Palestine?

Fouad: Yasser Arafat was a militant person and everybody respected him. But some of those around him grew corrupt. He led as a strong personality. As long as he was alive this corruption did not emerge but when he died it came out into the open.
The Palestine Liberation Organisation included everybody, it was an umbrella movement. Arafat was a great individual personality but people who were not so good were attracted to surround him. After he died they did not give good leadership and Hamas won support.
There has been a big confrontation with Hamas in Gaza and Fatah is now getting better organised. This is terrible that brother is fighting against brother when we should be fighting the common enemy.
Fatah needs to reorganise but it still has problems with people who were in the old leadership and who were corrupt. That’s why the people were turning to Hamas.
Now there is a new young leadership trying to move those people. Because of them Fatah was not operating professionally.
We wanted to build the first independent sovereign state on Palestinian land. And we as communists really supported the state at the beginning and had real hopes to build a government with human rights and a civil society.

DL: Does the Israeli occupation make it impossible for any Palestinian government to achieve progress?

Fouad: This is true but it is the job of Palestinians to confront this and fight against it. If it requires us to rethink and retrain ourselves and to build unity then we must do this to confront the enemy.