Thursday, 20 December 2007

Respect goes West: Mikes letter from America #2

Earlier this month, I attended my first demonstration in the USA. 200 of us braved the snow to protest about a recent incident where a series of hangmen’s nooses were discovered in a classroom on the Central Michigan University (CMU) campus. The hanging of nooses, the tool of the lynch-mob, is of course, widely recognised as an act of racist provocation. The demonstration called for the local public prosecutor to take action against the culprit, and more generally for the issue of racism to be taken more seriously by the authorities. To date, over a month after the incident, nobody has yet been charged.

Going on a demonstration in the US, especially among African-American civil rights activists, was rather different from anything I’ve experienced in the UK. The feeder march from the university to the prosecutor’s office began with everyone joining hands in a prayer, reflecting the involvement of church groups in coordinating the rally. Several speakers were church ministers, and they brought an evangelical fervour to the event. The presence of US flags on the march was also unexpected. In part, the use of the flag on demonstrations reflects the timidity of American liberals who fear being branded unpatriotic, but it also has a progressive element in the context of an anti-racist march, sending out the message that ‘we are Americans too’, and demand equal treatment. This is why the flag was so prominent on the marches of the Civil Rights movement in the ‘50s and ‘60s. Unlike the Union Jack, the US flag was once a banner of revolution, and was carried into battle by black and white soldiers fighting to end slavery in the Civil War. Significantly, one of the flags was flown upside down, signalling protest or distress. Two of the speakers were military veterans, who made the point that they had not served their country in order to be treated as second-class citizens.


The appearances of nooses at CMU is the latest of a series of such incidents across the country since the Jena incident in Louisiana, when African American students who attempted to desegregate their school premises by sitting under a so-called ‘White Tree’ where greeted with a set of nooses hanging from its branches. It would be easy to dismiss this as a throw-back to the days of segregation in the conservative south, except that some of the ‘copycat’ incidents that have followed occurred in the ‘liberal’ north. In one incident, a noose was found on the door of an African-American professor at Columbia University, an Ivy-League school on New York. Michigan, like New York, is a ‘blue’ (that is, mainly Democrat) state, with a large minority population, and a tradition of anti-racism stretching back to the ‘Underground Railroad’, the secret network that smuggled escaped slaves to Canada, but this has not stopped a recent rise in racism.


The right (which, sadly, appears to include the CMU student newspaper) has responded by trying to minimise the significance of the noose incident. The perpetrator confessed (anonymously) on-line, claiming it was a ‘prank’, and that he had not known the significance of nooses as a racist symbol. This is hard to believe, given the publicity surrounding the Jena and Columbia incidents, but if true, it reflects the extent to which the assault on ‘political correctness’ has succeeded. The dominant consensus in much of the media and popular culture today is that racism isn’t really a problem anymore, and that anti-racists are hypersensitive about ‘jokes’. The reality, of course is very different: African-Americans are twice as likely to be unemployed as their white compatriots, and if they are fortunate enough to find work, are paid on average about two-thirds the salaries of whites. However, the backlash helped the passage in last year’s elections of Proposal 2, a measure which bans the state of Michigan from promoting affirmative action programs that assist women and minorities. Needless to say, Proposal 2’s supporters did not say how they would end the affirmative action system that promotes idiot white male sons of ex-presidents to the highest job in the land.


Against his background, it was good news to hear about Oxford anti-fascists’ successful demonstration that stopped Nick Griffin and David Irving form speaking at the Oxford Union. And it’s even better news to hear o split sin the BNP. This just shows the effect that mass opposition to racists can have, and it’s a lesson and inspiration to us fighting racism in the USA.

Sunday, 16 December 2007

Oxford Respect Xmas Curry

Over twenty people came along to the Oxford Respect Xmas Curry night at the Mirch Masala on Cowley Road this Friday. Oxford Respect would like to thank the restaurant staff for an excellent evening and send seasonal greetings to all our members, supporters and friends.

Sunday, 9 December 2007

Local activists join climate protest

Members of the local CWU branch (left) were amongst a coach load of people from Oxford who joined the Campaign against Climate Change march in London this Saturday.

The march was part of a global protest in more than 50 countries demanding that governments meeting for Climate talks in Bali establish a strong and binding treaty to cap Co2 emissions.

The London protest was addressed by, amongst others, Tony Kearns from the executive of the CWU union. Trade union involvement in the Campaign against Climate Change is to be strengthened by a special conference in February, a flyer is avaialble here: http://www.campaigncc.org/CCCTUConf.pdf


For a BBC report of the protests see here: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/7134060.stm

DWP strike solid across Bucks and Oxfordshire

A strike by civil service workers in the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) brought job centres, benefit offices, the Child Support Agency and call centres to a halt on Thursday, the first day of a two-day strike.

The PCS union members are striking against Gordon Brown’s below inflation pay offer.
The two-day stoppage adds more pressure on a government already surrounded by controversy.

The strike was triggered by a pay offer imposed by the DWP which will see approximately 40 percent of staff receiving 0 percent pay increase next year.

“An estimated 70,000 PCS members supported the first day of the two-day strike over the imposed below inflation pay offer,” said a PCS spokesperson. “Many reps reported a better turnout than the excellent national action in May.”

Kate Douglas, joint branch secretary of Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire PCS, reports that the strike has been well supported across the region. “The strike was very solid at the Oxford job centre where I work,” she said.

“We were also really pleased to hear that there were strong pickets at both sites in Aylesbury. Milton Keynes, where there are about 250 DWP workers, also had an excellent turnout for the strike."

The strike ends on Friday at 7pm and will be followed by a two-week overtime ban.

Some info on the strike:

Why are civil servants on strike?
The Government have insisted that pay rises for public sector workers are below inflation increases. But for staff in DWP the limit is to be capped at 1% per year over the next 3 years, with no increase at all for many in 2008.
Meanwhile inflation is over 4%.

DWP management have just imposed a 3 year pay offer despite it being rejected by a 3 to 1 majority of PCS members. Now they are refusing to even talk to the unions about this.

DWP staff perform vital jobs in getting unemployed people into jobs and paying pensions and benefits to millions. Every citizen uses the DWP during their life. The staff who work there should be valued for this work.

I thought civil servants were well paid?
Civil servants in DWP are on very low wages. Over half of DWP staff are paid less than £17,700. Some are on as little as £12,500 a year. Thousands have to rely on tax credits to make ends meet. It is a national scandal that the government stands back and lets city workers get £8 billion in bonuses while saying that civil servants must accept paltry pay raises to keep inflation in check.

The pay might be poor but aren't civil service jobs for life?
Not any more. In DWP alone we have lost over 25,000 jobs in the last three years, with still more cuts planned by the government. Hundreds of our members are currently under threat of compulsory redundancy and face an uncertain future. Management have refused to rule out compulsory redundancies, even though there is no real need for any in DWP.

Sunday, 25 November 2007

Karen Reissmann, Psychiatric nurse sacked for speaking out

Below is the report of yesterday's Manchester demonstration in defence
of sacked UNISON steward, Karen Reissmann. The issues there are huge
with these loathsome employers even threatening to report striking
nurses to their professional registration body, the NMC.

It was great to see Lillian Macer, Chair of UNISON's Health Group Exec
speaking out with UNISON assistant general secretary Bob Abberley.

UNISON's Health Service Group exec is calling for branches to make the
5th of December a day of solidarity with Karen - with stewards and
activists encouraged to organise a lunchtime protest (perhaps at the
hospital gates) with staff wearing gags and inviting the local media
along to protest the attempt to silence a union rep for spaking our
against service cuts.

Please have a look at these pictures and the report below.
http://picasaweb.google.com/OxonTUC/Mchrdemo


Regards, Mark Ladbrooke
Health Group Exec member SE Region



Reissman: What was said at the rally
nicola dowling
25/11/2007


HERE'S a selection the messages of support sent to Karen Reissmann as
hundreds of people marched in support of the sacked mental health
nurse.

Star of Shameless Chris Bisson read this letter of support from the
show's writer Paul Abbott who could not attend the rally because he
was in America on business.

He said: "Dear Karen,

So sorry I can't be with you at the rally in your support, but sadly,
I'm committed to appointments abroad.

"I hope you already know how much admiration I have for you and your
colleagues now striking in defence of your outspoken feelings about
the alarming state of mental health services in Manchester, which for
years we all know, were woefully under-funded in the first place -
never mind the sheer madness of cutbacks.

"They could wave as many spreadsheets as they want to justify the
economics of this but what's betting the number-crunching won't
include the damage to Britain's economy from the needless suffering of
undiagnosed mental illness in our citizens, which, if treated earlier,
and professionally can prevent the pointlessly heartbreaking
destruction of people and their families.

"Prescription chargers for anti depressants alone cost £36 million a
year. Add to this the national loss of work hours, and the vast
expenditure on long-term disability from welfare support and tell me
there's a single atom of sense in their arithmetic to justify the
economics of this. There isn't. Never could be.

"At 15 I was sectioned for my own protection following a suicide
attempt. Back then, I experienced the privilege of help and support
from nurses among other mental health practitioners to see me
patiently through that crisis. Without them, I wouldn't be alive
today.

"The thought of ever going back to that jet-black underworld still
haunts me constantly. But if I had no choice, surely in all decency,
I'd deserve more specialist nurses like Karen Reissmann to help me
break my fall, not half the number doing their work on a fraction of
the funding spent 30 years ago.

"We pay the health trust salaries, we, the shareholders. In effect we
subsidise their families. Can we get a pledge that Sheila Foley and
her teams at Manchester Mental Health Trust will be held accountable
for the catastrophic consequences of their negligence?

"Using crass free-market economics on public funded mental health
services, is honestly far more deluded than I was the day I was
sectioned. If Manchester Mental Health Trust aren't up to basic adding
and subtracting, it's time we had their jobs not Karen Reissmann's."

Karen's mum Hella Reissmann, 80, was in tears during the speeches
after the rally, saying she was overcome with pride for her daughter
and the strength of support for her.

The retired general nurse said: "I came from York and was nervous
about speaking because I had a stroke recently, but I just had to be
here. I am very emotional about all of this. She did it for the
patients. On the same day my daughter got the discipline letter she
got another one offering her promotion, they were signed by the same
person. It is unbelievable."

Manchester Central MP Tony Lloyd said: "Karen is my constituent, but I
am not here in that capacity. I am here because there is a basic trade
union principle here. That principle is the right for an active trade
union to speak out about what's happening in a public service that we,
everyone, of us owns and is accountable to every one of us here
because it is the service which in the end we all depend on.

"As an MP, I have dealt with some of Karen's patients over the years
and I know how much people value and need the service of the Mental
Health Trust.

He referred to the fact that Ms Reissmann was offered promotion on the
same day she was sacked. He said he hoped Karen's appeal would be
successful so that she and her colleagues could go back to work.

Manchester Lawyer Robert Lizar said: "I, in my work, advise people
about their rights under the Mental Health Act. I come into contact
with people in the hospitals covered by Karen. What's clear is that
Karen was completely right to speak out about those services and their
inadequacies.

"The journalistic cliché is that this is a Cinderella service which
employs people who are dedicated and hardworking, but is grossly
under-funded.

"Karen is not a Cinderella though because she just didn't sit there
passively waiting for the Fairy God Mother or Prince Charming to bring
some funding, she spoke out in a way we would all want to hear.

"Her reward for speaking out was that she was sacked. That, to me, is
absolutely outrageous. As a lawyer looking at the charges brought
against her, they look like something from Alice in Wonderland or
George Orwell.

"I wasn't aware that it was an offence to speak out, to tell people
she had been suspended and assert that she was innocent. She was
charged with asserting her innocence! I can't take that in.

"The charges centre on her going to the press. There are major
organisations which do include it in their contract that employees
don't talk to the press and disclose material that could be damaging
to the company such as Coca-Cola and Astra Zeneca, organisations that
have major secrets they have to protect. What's the secret this
hospital trust are trying to protect here?

"Their secret is that they are making cuts not expanding a service
that desperately needs more funding. There can never be any
justification for that kind of approach. There can be no excuse
because the trust are managing this service on our behalf, this is a
public service. We need to hear this debate."

Wednesday, 21 November 2007

Respect goes West: Mikes Letter from America #1

Before I left for the USA, I was repeatedly asked ‘how are you going to cope as a socialist in America?’ The assumption is that the USA is irredeemably reactionary, and that being a socialist will mark me out as an un-American alien. Well, there is some truth in the idea that the USA is more right-wing than Europe; this is a country, after all, in which there isn’t even a Labo(u)r party, and where ‘liberal’ means left-wing.

My early experiences in mid-Michigan seemed to confirm this. The first political posters I saw at the university where my wife works were placed there by the Right. One even said ‘Happy Columbus Day’ below a picture of a heroic Columbus surrounded my kneeling subservient ‘Indians’. Since then, there have been a number of such incidents culminating in the hanging of nooses (a racist act designed to invoke the memory of lynchings). Fortunately, these acts are being resisted by both faculty and students.


While this is obviously hardly a left-wing hotbed, the city has its share of progressive groups, such as Amnesty International and the Sierra Club (an environmentalist group with slightly dodgy politics on population control – we are talking RELATIVELY progressive here), and a Green Party city commissioner (equivalent of a councillor in the UK). Not too bad for an area which is colored red (i.e. Republican) on the electoral map.

So much for the local scene – what about national politics? I will write some other time about the presidential election campaign – it has another 12 months to run, so I’ll have plenty of opportunity to do so. What I suspect will interest Respect supporters more is the small upsurge of labor (as they spell it here) militancy. I am not referring here to the auto workers strikes, which were something of a charade, called by the union bureaucracy to distract from the fact that they are busy negotiating away their members’ pensions. They were dubbed by some ‘Hollywood strikes’ – that is, just for show. I am referring to the real Hollywood strike, of TV and film script writers. They have been out now for over two weeks, striking against the refusal of studio bosses to give them a share of the sales of DVDs and internet downloads. This may seem a rather obscure cause, but it is basically another example of bosses trying to screw some extra surplus value from the workers. The strike began to bite immediately, with talk shows being replaced by re-runs. The studios fear that drama series will be affected next, which could result in more ‘reality’ TV shows, which require no scriptwriters. Now, if that doesn’t make the public beat on the doors of the studio bosses demanding they concede, I don’t know what will.
No sooner were the writers out on the picket lines in California than another group of entertainment workers followed them on the opposite coast. This time it was the Broadway stage hands. They have been working without a contract since July, and came out when management tried to impose new work rules, threatening to lock out the stage hands if they did not accept. Readers will be sad to hear that the strike failed to stop Duran Duran’s appearance in New York – they relocated to a theatre not affected by the action.

Now, these may not sound like major strikes compared to the action of the French rail workers, but it would be wrong to dismiss them as trivial. Firstly, there is great symbolic importance in two of the most American of institutions – Hollywood and Broadway – being shut down by strike action. But more importantly, entertainment is an important plank of the ‘new economy’ in the US. It has been estimated that the New York economy loses up to $2 million every day the theatres are on strike. This is not small change for US capitalism. More broadly, the service sector is seeing the highest increase in levels of unionisation. For example, here in central Michigan, the Teamsters union is attempting to organise casino workers.


Moves like this are significant, as casinos are seen by some state politicians as a way of replacing the declining auto industry, much as Tony Blair promoted ‘Super Casinos’ in Britain.

So, far from being ‘unAmerican’, militant trade unionism is as American as apple pie!

Sunday, 18 November 2007

No platform for fascists in Oxford Union Rally Tues 20th Nov

Rally Tuesday 20 November, 7.30pm, Oxford Town Hall

Speakers: Martin McCluskey, Oxford University Student Union President ;

Ruqayyah Collector, NUS Black Students Officer;

Scott Cuthbertson, NUS LGBT Officer;

Megan Dobney, TUC South East Region Sectretary;

Lee Jasper, National Assembly Against Racsim Secretary;

Weyman Bennett, Unite Against Fascism;

Nigel Carter, Oxford District Trades Council.


Demonstration Monday 26 November, 7pm outside Oxford Union

Next Oxford Respect Branch meeting Thurs 29th Nov

Please note the next Oxford Respect branch meeting will be on Thursday 29th November, 7.3o in Oxford Town Hall

Thursday, 8 November 2007

No platform for fascists in Oxford Union

Demonstration Monday 26 November, 7pmVenue tbc

Oxford Unite Against Fascism, Oxford University Student Union, Oxford Respect, Oxford University Labour Club, Oxford and District Trades Council, Oxfordshire UNISON Health and Unite Against Fascism have called a peaceful demonstration in the event of fascist BNP leader Nick Griffin and Holocaust denier David Irving speaking in the free speech forum on Monday 26 November at Oxford Union.We are still campaigning for the Oxford Union to rescind the invitations to Griffin and Irving.

There is a world of difference between defending free speech and choosing to provide a platform for fascists. Far from being the champions of free speech history shows that when fascists rise to power they destroy freedom of speech, democracy, human rights and they have murdered millions of people and attempted to annihilate entire communities.Wherever fascists have a presence, violence and intimidation increases. Fascism threatens the safety of Black, Jewish, Muslim, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people of Oxford including students and academics. Wherever fascists are active or have a presence, racist attacks and other hate crimes increase.

Sunday, 28 October 2007

Oxford Anti Academy Alliance keeps up the pressure

PUT IT TO A VOTE!

Anti Academy campaigners claim that the Peers academy plan is being driven through without adequate debate and public support and are demanding a vote of parents and teachers.

The following open letter has been sent to the proposed sponsors of the Peers Academy bid and the County Council.

Dear Sir or Madam

Peers School Academy Bid-
Open letter to sponsors and the County Council

We are concerned by recent comments by supporters of the Academy bid for Peers School, including the Mayor of Oxford, claiming popular support for this proposal. We would note that as only 22 people have responded to the initial consultation exercise and of these only 10 were in favour, 'popular support' is clearly unproven.

We have sought at length to secure a public debate on this matter with Andrew Smith MP and we very much hope that one of the principle supporters of the bid will be open to further public discussion, so that parents and teachers are able to take an informed view on this important issue.

Furthermore given the failure of the initial consultation exercise we would hope that the sponsors would feel sufficiently confident of public support to put this matter to a simple vote of parents and staff.

I trust that such a vote can be rapidly and inexpensively organised to inform the second stage of consultation.

We look forward to hearing from you on this matter.

Yours sincerely


Oxford Anti Academy Alliance

Friday, 28 September 2007

Respect vows to fight mail centre closure threat

Respect members vowed to fight the proposed closure of the Oxford mail centre at the recent Oxford Respect Annual General meeting. The mail centre is being targeted in order to penalise post workers who have taken industrial action over bullying and victimisation of union reps. The closure of the centre could mean the the loss of nearly 450 jobs from east Oxford.

Below a union rep from CWU South Central No 1 branch (pc) sets out some of the background to this battle.

In a clear case of “If you can’t beat ‘em, close ‘em”, Royal Mail announced the proposed closure of Oxford mail centre in 2009 – with the loss of up to 430 jobs – just hours after the CWU union announced further national strike action.

Oxford is one of the best union organised and most union-minded mail centres in the country.
It has a reputation for standing up for its members, and showing solidarity to others.
Managers told us of the closure plans during worktime learning sessions, without consulting the union beforehand.

We were informed that the proposed closure was a result of Oxford’s deteriorating quality, low efficiency and high running costs.

That was news to us, as we had previously been told that all our targets were being met, and that standards set by the regulator for first and second class mail were all within “desired quality of service levels”.

There was no kneejerk reaction by our members in response to the closure announcement.
We are convinced that this is the latest attempt to provoke unofficial action at Oxford – and therefore justify the company’s attacks on us in the media.

When the national union started its current campaign, we knew it was not only about pay, pensions, working conditions, and our hard fought for terms.

We knew that mail centre closures were going to be an issue nationally too.
That’s why CWU deputy general secretary Dave Ward is absolutely correct to write, “This announcement was in direct conflict to the existing national agreement, which deals with mail centre structure.

“The union will be insisting that the national agreement is honoured.”
We all know the company wants 40,000 jobs to go.

That means the issue can never be just about one mail centre, but must be all of us together in a battle to protect all our jobs.

The battle to save the threatened mail centres has rightly become part of the national dispute.
Royal Mail scare tactics are an integral part of its attempts to intimidate us.

It believes that by isolating parts of the workforce, it can then ruin the national dispute and break the union.

But rather than weaken resolve, our determination to fight back as part of our national union has only grown stronger.

(Repoduced from Socialist Worker)

Saturday, 15 September 2007

Oxford Anti Academy Alliance Meeting- 7pm Peers School Thursday 20th Sept

Letter in Oxford Mail- It's backdoor privatisation

To the Editor

Your editorial notes the lack of response to the official consultation exercise for academy status at Peers School (Oxford Mail, September 4). It's easy to become apathetic when local councils and the Government pay lip service to community empowerment and then regularly ignore the results of consultations.

No wonder people are turned off when the official literature doesn't put any arguments against academy status.

Perhaps the fact that the consultation brochure comes across as simply a propaganda exercise populated with photographs of smiling children (not from Peers), with a series of leading questions in the back, is the reason for the lack of responses.

Clearly, there is no popular desire for an academy experiment at Peers - only an obvious desire for increased funding and support for the existing school. Now that representatives of all political parties in Oxford have taken a position against academy status it is surely time for the county council and the Church of England to reconsider their plans for Peers.

The Anti Academies Alliance is campaigning to raise awareness over this backdoor attempt to privatise education in Oxford. I encourage anybody who wants to find out more to come to our next meeting at Peers School next Thursday, at 7pm.

DAVID RADFORD Oxford Anti-Academies Alliance

4:27pm Wednesday 12th September 2007

Saturday, 1 September 2007

Oxford Respect Annual General Meeting-Tues 25th September

On Tuesday 25th September 7.30 Respect National Secretary John Rees will be speaking at Oxford Town Hall on ‘The Future of Respect’, the meeting will be open to mebers of the public and will be followed by the Oxford Respect Annual General Meeting at which only members will be able to vote. Membership forms will be available on the night and can be obtained in advance from Dave 07985056089.

Sunday 16th September- Respect End of Summer BBQ!

Sunday 16th September – Oxford Respect will be having an end of summer BBQ from 12-4pm at Wolfson College. Bring burgers and drink.

For map see http://www.ox.ac.uk/aboutoxford/maps/colls.shtml its no 44 at the top by the river.

There will be volleyball and rounders for the kids and a raffle of the new book by Newsnight journalist Paul Mason ‘Live working or die fighting’ , signed specially for Oxford Respect.

Plus Mike E is selling of his extensive book collection before heading the states.

Friday, 10 August 2007

Next Oxford Respect branch meeting Tues 21st August

The next Respect branch meeting will be held at the town hall 7.30pm on Tues 21 August.

There will be a talk on 'India's struggle for independence' by George Roe.

Non members welcome.

Labour leader defeated for second time by Respect in East London

Congratulations to newly elected Respect cllr Harun Miah.

Harun won the Shadwell by-election in Tower Hamlets, East London on Thursday defeating the former Labour council leader Micheal Keith. Keith was first defeated by Respect in last year's council election but was hoping to use the by-election to return to power.


Respect gained 1,512 votes (43 percent) while New Labour gained 1,415 (40 percent). The Tories gained 476 (13 percent) and the Lib Dems received 98 votes (2 percent).

The coucil by election was imprtant as New Labour mounted a massive effort to try and get Micheal Keith re-elected. Gordon Brown, government ministers, former MP Oona King, and councillors and Labour Party workers from across London were all drafted in to support the campaign in the area.The Respect vote remained rock solid after a powerful grassroots campaign focusing on housing, privatisation and New Labour's support for the property developers' agenda in Tower Hamlets.

Harun Miah said: "I am overwhemled by the support local people have given Respect. This result sends a clear message that the people of Tower Hamlets are unhappy with New Labour's policies. I send my condolences to the losing candidates."

This is a humiliating blow to New Labour's wider credibility, not only in Shadwell. It clearly indicates that people want an alternative to privatisation, war and the housing crisis, and that where Respect stands in elections and campaigns around these issues, Respect is that alternative.

The win is a major boost for Respect in the Greater London Authority (GLA) elections next year, as we continue to build support both in East London and in all the constituencies across London.

Thursday, 26 July 2007

Background to the Oxford post strike

Respect members and other Trade unionists from Oxford joined a rally yesterday to mark the start of the the latest 24 hour strike by post workers in Oxford.

Below Paul Garraway explains the background to the recent strike. Paul is the political officer of the CWU’s South Central No 1 branch. He writes in a personal capacity.

Workers at the Oxford mail centre were last week provoked into seven days of unofficial strike action, but Royal Mail’s attempt to break the union failed

“Suspension should only occur when it is necessary to prevent the risk of further breaches of conduct, to protect employees, property or mail, or to protect Royal Mail’s good image and standing in the community.” The Royal Mail Conduct Code

On Monday 16 July Royal Mail suspended Steve Gill, the area processing rep for Oxford mail centre and escorted him off the premises. He had been interviewed and asked only two questions – “Were you working on the 7 July?” and, “Were you doing your collection in Watlington?”

No charges were presented, yet Steve was immediately suspended. It was later to emerge that the interview was a response to a complaint from a sub-post office manager, whose small workforce had worked through the national dispute.

The suspension was looking very much like a stitch up. If these charges were so serious, why had it taken managers nine days to act on them?

Royal Mail had broken the agreed conduct code when they removed Steve from the mail centre – it was taking unofficial action! There was no reason why Steve could not continue with his duties while any charges, however spurious, were being investigated.

This was rightly seen as a direct attack on our CWU union. A meeting was quickly arranged in a car park and workers voted unanimously to walk out immediately.

In the run up to the first national strike on 29 June, Royal Mail had stopped all overtime in the Oxford mail centre.

They even started redirecting work elsewhere – something they continued to do up until the walk out. Workers were removed from their normal duties and made to work elsewhere, while an untrained manager did their work.

Royal Mail also brought in rules that were designed to humiliate workers, like having to hold your hand up if you want to go to the toilet.

Oxford CWU members showed incredible restraint and refused to be provoked during the period of national dispute. Our branch requested an official ballot for industrial action – following unanimous votes on every shift – in an effort to keep a lid on the growing anger.
Interviewed

However, Royal Mail was determined to drive the mail centre out on strike – and, by suspending one of our reps, it ensured that the dispute would be unofficial.

Managers then announced to the media that they had suspended two people. The second being a driver, who was still out on collections and therefore oblivious to what was happening.
He had not been interviewed, formally charged, or even told of his impending suspension, yet he was already “guilty”.

On his return to the mail centre, bosses attempted to interview and charge him but they would not allow him any union representation. So he refused to be interviewed and went out to join the picket line.

The next day workers from the mail centre voted to stay out until Thursday in the hope that Royal Mail would be reasonable and lift the suspensions. But when it had become obvious that this was not going to happen, they voted unanimously to stay out until the following Monday.
In response Royal Mail threatened to suspend Bob Cullen, the area processing rep, and Brian Jeffries, the area drivers’ rep, when they returned to work.

Three delivery reps were also given written warnings indicating that they would be next for suspension. When the national union sent an officer to help deal with the situation, Royal Mail remained intransigent and escorted him off the premises.

Over the weekend negotiations reached their highest level with Dave Ward, the CWU deputy general secretary, and Martin Collins, the assistant secretary, becoming involved.
Agreements

It was becoming apparent that the “charges” against the suspended workers were as ludicrous as we had always been believed. Royal Mail agreed to a three-week timescale in which the investigation into the incidents would take place.

It was accepted that no one was to face charges for their actions during the strike, and that all threats to holiday and overtime agreements were to be withdrawn.

Management agreed that national officers of the CWU could defend the two suspended workers until the matter was concluded.

The branch committee therefore decided to recommend a return to work.
Workers had lost money but had made their point. And, although the two were to remain suspended, the branch felt that they would be proved innocent, and would be back at work within three weeks.

Dave Ward offered the workers at the mail centre an opt-out of the national action on 25 July so that they could recuperate some of their lost income. However, they flatly refused this. The Oxford mail centre remains defiant and voted to join the national dispute in solidarity with the rest of the country.

Monday, 23 July 2007

Flooding in Oxfordshire- Why are we spending millions on a disastrous war when we should be investing in the global battle against climate change?

For years scientists have been warning that global warming does not simply mean warmer weather, but more extreme weather patterns as weather systems like to gulf stream are affected by rising temperatures.

Climate change really is the elephant in the room as politicians talk about building flood defences and drain repairs before moving onto defending corporate pressure for more unsustainable building on flood plains.


In the UK we need to thinking about cutting CO2 emissions by 90% over the next thirty years, yet the Labour government is pressing ahead with road widening and airport expansion and putting only pitiful amounts of money into renewable energy development.

Basic rational solutions like bringing buses and trains back into public control and expanding cheap, convenient and affordable public transport to reduce car use are not even discussed. Even more crazy are the budget cuts faced this year by the Environment Agency, even as people struggle to deal with the aftermath of the floods, it has been revealed that England’s flood defence programme is facing funding cuts that could last until 2011!

Oxford Respect calls for:

*Government aid to support communities affected by flooding, especially low income families who may not have full insurance cover.

*Investment in safe affordable council housing that meets the highest standards of energy efficiency and built in sustainable locations.

*A return to public control of rail and bus services.

*Significant and sustained investment in development of renewable energy sources for implementation both in UK and in developing world, with free transfer for renewable energy technology.

*End to all subsidies for nuclear power.

*Heavy fines for companies that pollute the environment to make it more cost-effective for them to implement safeguards against pollution incidents.

*Adequate investment in flood defence, drain and sewerage systems.

Ultimately to safeguard our environment, we need to build a society based on human need, not the need for profit.

Sunday, 22 July 2007

Rally to support post workers this Weds

A message from Oxford and District Trades Council

Dear brothers and sisters,

Dave Ward, CWU Deputy General Secretary (Postal sector), met with the Oxford Royal Mail management yesterday and negotiated a return to work agreement for the Mail Centre the members were happy with and voted to accept. In exchange for the unofficial action to be called off, Royal Mail have:

1) disclosed the accusations against Steve Gill and the suspended driver
2) accepted to follow the correct disciplinary procedure with an unusually fast and strict timetable of 3 weeks;
3) accepted that a national official will deal with both cases (also unusual at this stage of a disciplinary);
4) withdrawn all threats to Bob, Kevin and Bryan

During a packed meeting at the Cowley Workers Social Club this morning Dave Ward told the members that in consideration for the loss of pay in the last week the workers at the Oxford Mail Centre had special dispensation from the CWU national leadership NOT to take part in the planned official strike this coming Wednesday (from 7:pm through to Thursday). Guess what? Those pesky posties voted to accept the deal and go back in on Monday, but unanimously voted TO STRIKE on Wednesday with the rest of the Mail Centres in the country.

(Please note that according to the national CWU plans, Delivery Offices will strike separately from Friday evening through to Saturday).

CWU have asked us to show our support with a RALLY THIS WEDNESDAY from 7:00 pm, when the pickets arrive at the Mail Centre. Please circulate the request widely, come along with colleagues, family, friends and banners. Let's force the Oxford Mail to publish photos showing that Oxford supports the posties and thanks them for withstanding the horrendous pressure and attacks from all sides, even if (shock and horror!) they dared having a barbecue on the picket line last week instead of publicly flagellating themselves. They have again shown wonderful solidarity with each other while defending the mail service for us all.

I hope to see you there.

Fraternally,

Dona Velluti
President
Oxford & District Trades Union Council

Monday, 16 July 2007

Oxford post workers take a stand against bullying management

Postal workers at the Holloway depot in Oxford have walked out today on unoffical action in response to a CWU rep being victimised.

More details to follow.

***Apparently the other union officials have also now been suspended.

This is a serious attack on one of the best organised CWU branches in the country.

There will be a protest this Friday in support of the Cowley postal workers, please try to attend and bring union branch banners where possible. Assemble in the car park at Holloway Mail Centre, at the top of the Cowley Road 6.30pm***

*****The protest has now been postponed until next Tuesday*****

Thursday, 12 July 2007

Oxford post workers stand up for a public postal service

Respect members again joined local CWU picket lines this week to show support for the strike against job losses and pay cuts, as New Labour continue their attempt to ram through privatisation of the mail service.

Gordon Brown: Everything changes to stay the same

By Tom McCulloch, Oxford Respect

Thirteen years have passed since Gordon Brown and Tony Blair sat down for dinner at the Granita restaurant in Islington and carved up the leadership of New Labour. Brown agreed to take control of economic policy, allowing Blair to take the crown. The rider was that when Blair stepped down Brown would step up.

Thirteen years. Unlucky not for Brown, whose craving for ultimate power is finally satiated, but the millions of working people who have come to loathe the warmongering Circus of Spin that is New Labour.

It was a disappointment to many that left-wing MP John McDonnell could not muster enough support to stand against Brown for the Blair succession. It further disappointed thousands of Labour activists, eager for an opportunity for serious debate on the direction of the party. There is anecdotal evidence that lapsed Labour members were even re-joining the party in the hope of voting McDonnell. That the disappointment has been so muted is testimony to what many have long suspected; New Labour cannot be reclaimed for progressive politics. The party is emasculated, power resting firmly with the leadership.

That Blair has been forced from power in disgrace, long before he wanted to, should rightly be celebrated. It is a victory for the Anti-War Movement, which has constantly hounded a Prime Minister guilty of taking the country into an illegal war. Senior diplomatic sources at the Foreign Office and Ministry of Defence have told reporters it would not upset them too much if Blair was tried as a war criminal.

However, Blair could not and did not take Britain to war in Iraq and Afghanistan on his own. The presidential tone of his premiership is perhaps sufficient for ministers to absolve themselves of guilt. It is not enough for the millions who find the government collectively responsible. Blair needed cabinet and MP support and got both.

As the leading New Labour ‘intellectual,’ Gordon Brown is a powerful and influential advocate of war and other aspects of the party’s neo-liberal programme; new Trident nuclear weapons, more nuclear power stations, a public sector pay freeze, private sector expansion into the NHS and education, and the legislative erosion of civil liberties and harassment of the Muslim community that has resulted from the ‘War on Terror.’

Talk of a Brownite-Blairite split is a red-herring, peddling the illusion of a healthy and dynamic battle of ideas at the heart of New Labour. Roy Hattersley in 2000 claimed Brown was a ‘secret socialist,’ the myth being that because Brown is a product of the Scottish, old Labour establishment he is more ‘left-wing’ than Blair. In fact, the reality of the Blair-Brown friction is rooted in the altogether more grubby realities of ego and ambition. An overview of the Chancellor’s record makes the ideological commonality crystal clear.

Despite the introduction of a low minimum wage and modest tax credits the income gap between rich and poor has not narrowed under New Labour. Indeed the gap between North and South is growing and in April it was announced that UK child poverty had risen by 100 000. Also, the growth in inflation means real income is falling as the cost of living increases. Meanwhile, Brown demands public sector pay rises of 2%, while happily watching executive pay skyrocket. In 2006 the wealth of the richest 1 000 people in Britain increased by 20%.
Yet billions are set aside to pay for disastrous wars, the nuclear ‘deterrent’, and new generation nuclear power stations, hugely subsidised at the expense of clean, sustainable alternatives. The cost to the NHS of Private Finance Initiative hospitals, containing on average 28% fewer beds and staff, is 45 billion. The scenario is repeated with PFI schools, despite them being ‘significantly worse’ than other schools, according to the Audit Commission.

Internationally, Brown poses as a friend of the poor. However, only the very poorest and most heavily indebted countries will qualify for the debt-relief deal he brokered at the G8 meeting in 2005. All participants also have to adopt ‘structural adjustment programs,’ i.e. privatization, de-regulation, and the opening of markets to international competition. The human cost of these programmes is well documented: poverty, unemployment, and political persecution, as people fight the erosion of their human rights. Refugees, seeking respite from these conditions, are met in Britain with draconian anti-asylum legislation, backed by Brown.

There should be no illusions about Gordon Brown. The unpopularity of Blair and the media obsession with the ‘Iron Chancellor’s’ ambition and ‘psychological flaws,’ have meant his personal responsibility as the architect and banker of so many of New Labour’s neo-liberal policies have been somewhat masked. Prime Minister Brown shall have no such cover. As a result, many more Labour party members and elected officials shall join the exodus to Respect, making it the natural home for those who believe in peace, solidarity, and public services.

John Rees on The future of Respect July 2007

Friday, 29 June 2007

Post strike solid

Picket lines in Oxford and Aylesbury reported that the postal strike was solid in Bucks and Oxon.

Postal workers have become increasingly disillusioned over the pay offer of 2 per cent, which effectively amounts to a pay cut, as inflation stands at 4.5 per cent and continues to rise. But the decision to take industrial action is more than about pay. Royal Mail wants to close 2,500 post offices and cut 40,000 jobs. It plans the destruction of the Post Office network, particularly in rural areas, and further privatisation of services, including handing over offices to WH Smith.

Royal Mail management had also been intimidating staff in the run-up to the strike ballot and threatening active trade union leaders. Respect completely opposes the attempt to decimate the postal service and believes that postal workers should be paid a decent wage because they provide a vital service.

For reports from around the country including Oxford see here

Monday, 25 June 2007

Why the post workers deserve support

by Oxford postal worker

The postal industry in this country is in the process of radical change. Driven by ideology and a worship of the market the New Labour Government has forced competition into the postal industry years in advance of the rest of Europe. In the name of profit the postal industry has been opened up to competition with destructive results for the service to the customer and for those employed by Royal Mail.

In the past the postal industry was cross-subsidised and paid for itself. Those parts that could make profit subsidised those that didn’t. When opening up the market New Labour ensured that those rich pickings would then be available to private companies such as TNT, DHL, etc. The profit would no longer serve the public but go to the Fat Cats of the private companies. With the flow of cash draining out of the public service this has meant round after round of cuts to the service.

In recent years we have seen the second delivery disappear forever. Local Post Offices have closed at an alarming rate and to such an extent that those that remain open have a queue that winds around the shop and out into the street. As well as increasing the cost of postage in recent years Royal Mail have also included further complications of size and weight to further baffle the customer. In Oxford the local delivery office in Headington has been closed ensuring that residences have to now travel around the ring road to Sandy Lane West to pick up a package. Or if they lack transport they now have to take two bus journeys each way. All this is supposedly to improve the service! How can moving a delivery office miles away from it’s delivery points create a better service? How can shutting Post Offices improve the service?

It was only in recent years that Alan Leighton and Adam Crozier (those presently running Royal Mail on behalf of the government) were shouting to the world how they had against all the odds turned the business around and into a quality service that was making large profits. There was so much money sloshing around that Adam Crozier even gave away a million pounds to the Olympic bid! Those days are now forgotten as we set for more cuts and the slashing of a public service. This year alone Royal Mail are looking for another 350 million pounds of cuts and a further 1.2 billion pounds in the next five years. It is hard to imagine what the postal service will be like in five years but if it continues in its present direction it does not look promising!

For those that work in Royal Mail it has meant that the job has consistently got harder and harder over the years. Yet Royal Mail believe that the massive redundancies in recent years is not enough and want a further 40,000 post workers to go. They also believe that the post workers that remain should pick up the slack caused by this shortage and do the work for a less than inflation pay rise. A pay cut! They believe we are over paid and under worked. They also wish us to take on more work but wish to take back the present payments for said work.

In reaction to this crisis the CWU have balloted all their members concerned nationally. The result was a massive YES vote that may yet make both Royal Mail and the Labour Government return to the table and see sense. Both the public and those employed in Royal Mail deserve better than what New Labour are delivering!!!

Sunday, 24 June 2007

Brown coronation in Manchester

Oxford Respect members joined the Stop the War protest outside the Labour special conference in Manchester where Gordon Brown was appointed Labour leader.

Brown has stood shoulder to shoulder with Blair on the Iraq war and has made it clear that New Labours support for the Neo Conservative administration in the White house will continue.

BBQ Success

Thats to everybody who helped with the BBQ last Saturday. Look out for details of forthcoming events on the blog.

Sunday, 17 June 2007

Oxford Respect- Branch Meeting this Tuesday (19th June)

The next Oxford Respect branch meeting will be this Tuesday 19th June, 7.30pm in the Town Hall. There will be a talk on 'Will Brown be better than Blair?".

Peers School- "Trust us" say sponsors

After two of the four consultation meetings being held by consultants Mouchel Parkman it is clear that many important details regarding the proposed Academy at Peers School have not been decided, which begs the question what exactly are local residents, teachers and parents being consulted on?

For example the design and extent of the new buildings, the land to be put in Trust, the format of the sponsor appointed governing body, the extent to which existing educational law will be adhered too, the role of the local authority in the running of the school and the list goes on.


By the second meeting the panel had moved away from purely warm words about the educational potential of local children to accepting that many Academies around the country had been disasters but claiming that despite this they should be trusted in this instance.


The final consultation meetings are June 18th , 4.30-6.30pm at Peers School and June 19th 3.30-5.30pm Pegasus School.


The Mouchel Parkman feedback form can be found here: http://www.theoxfordacademy.co.uk/consultation.htm

Thursday, 31 May 2007

Lobby Brown in Oxford- June 10th

Lobby the Labour hustings in Oxford- Sunday 10th June
Assemble 11.30am on Pembroke St (by the Westgate Centre).

In May and June, Gordon Brown will be holding a series of hustings around the country. Stop the War groups are organising lobbies at all of these hustings, demanding that, as the next prime minister, he brings all British troops home from Iraq now, in keeping with the view held by the majority of British people.

Called by Oxford Stop the War Coalition,
East Oxford Stop the War, Oxford Student Stop the War

Saturday, 26 May 2007

Oxford post fight is on the cards

Postal workers in Oxford are to ballot after management imposed job cuts without agreement.
CWU union members at the delivery office in Oxpens Road have called for a fast-track ballot after six jobs were deleted.

Oxfordshire CWU rep Bob Cullen said, “Management has taken executive action to make six positions redundant. The individuals involved have been redeployed, but it means that at Oxpens Road deliveries are heavier, we will be working a longer day and we will be struggling to complete jobs.”

If a strike goes ahead it will hit the OX1 and OX2 postcodes, which include the city centre.

Thursday, 24 May 2007

Peers Academy meeting successes

Two successful estate meeting were held this week at Rose Hill and Blackbird Leys community centres. Both drew audiences of around 50 people, giving campaigners the sense that this fight can be won and the attempt by New Labour to break up the local comprehensive system defeated.
Amongst the speakers was Neil Williams from the Milton Keynes Respect who spoke about the local Anti Academies Campaign and how it had started to rattle the Lib Dem unitary council. In Milton Keynes parents were petitioning for the right to have a vote over the future of their schools.

At the Rose Hill meeting the Head Teacher of Peers joined other teachers from the school in the debate. Although she argued that she supported the bid she made it clear that she felt herself to be in 'a difficult position'. Other teachers and campaigners spoke convincingly about the improvements taking place at Peers over the recent period and the disruption and long term damage to accountability and fairness that would be done by academy status.

At the Blackbird Leys meeting two New Labour County Councillors sat through the meeting without putting any arguments for academies. Local parents reacted angrily to the suggestion from them that no parents were present and they were forced to apologise. Councillor Val Smith, wife of the local Labour MP, claimed that she would put the arguments for the academy at the formal consultation meetings in June, but again when challenged it was clear that she did not yet know what these would be.

To contact the Oxford Anti Academies Alliance e-mail: OxfordAAA@molesend.demon.co.uk
For Oxford Mail article on Rose Hill meeting : http://www.oxfordmail.net/news/headlines/display.var.1421216.0.peers_academy_plan_very_scary.php

Saturday, 19 May 2007

Levellers Day

Members of Oxford Respect joined local trade union activists and peace activists at the annual Levellers Day event in Burford in Oxfordshire.

The day commemorates the events of the 17th May 1649, three soldiers were executed on Oliver Cromwell’s orders in Burford churchyard, Oxfordshire. They belonged to a movement popularly known as the Levellers, with beliefs in civil rights and religious tolerance. During the Civil War, they fought on Parliament’s side, had at first seen Cromwell as a liberator, but now saw him as a dictator. They were prepared to fight against him for their ideals and he was determined to crush them. Over 300 of them were captured by Cromwell’s troops and locked up in Burford church. Three were led out into the churchyard to be shot as ringleaders.

For more information see: http://www.levellers.org.uk/index.htm


Academy consultation farce

From the Oxford Mail:

Dear Sir,

The sight of the advertisment for a principal of Peers Academy (salary circa £100,000) in the Education Guardian took me by suprise.

I understand that we were in a period of consultation with the local community about the proposal to establish the academy.
Does this mean that whaterver we say will be conveniently ignored and that the decision to press ahead with the academy has already been made?

Chris Blakey
Vice-President
Oxfordshire National Union of Teachers

Oxfordshire climate groups come together to lobby over new climate bill

Letter to the Oxford Times

Dear Sir - In March this year the Government published its draft Climate Change Bill, which sets out a legally binding framework for reducing the greenhouse gas emissions which lead to climate change.


This is now in a consultation phase, in which members of the public are invited to submit their comments by June 12.

As representatives of local environmental and community groups in Oxfordshire, we welcome this development, but we believe the current draft of the Bill does not go far enough towards achieving the size of emissions cuts we need.

The Bill's target of a 60 per cent cut in carbon dioxide by 2050 needs to be at least 80 per cent to take account of the latest science The draft Bill proposes five-year "carbon budgets", but this is longer than the electoral cycle and so would make it too easy for successive governments to blame each other for any failure to meet the targets. Instead, we propose three per cent cuts every year The two fastest growing sources of emissions, international aviation and shipping, are excluded from the Bill The Bill should increase aid targets to help communities in poor countries adapt to the impacts of climate change.

The consultation offers an opportunity for these and other shortcomings to be addressed, and we, therefore, encourage your readers to respond to it by visiting the I Count website at www.icount.org.uk or writing to Patrick Erwin/James Hardy, Climate Change Legislation Team, Area 4/F5, Ashdown House, 123 Victoria Street, London SW1E 6DE.
Colette Humphrey, Banbury Friends of the Earth,
Maureen Dyroff, Chinnor & Thame Friends of the Earth,
Hilary Blake, Christian Aid, Oxford Unit,
Maranda St John Nicolle, Christian Concern for One World,
Tim Baster, Climate Outreach and Information Network,
Jill Haas, Oxford Campaign against Climate Change,
Karl Wallendszus, Oxford Friends of the Earth,
David Taylor, Oxford Oxfam Group,
Ingrid Royle, Oxfordshire Greenpeace Group,
Kevin Meaney, Oxford World Development Movement Group,
Martin Hodson, Sage (Oxford's Christian Environmental Group),
Simon Pratt, Sustrans South East Regional Office,
Adam Twine, Director, Westmill Wind Farm Co-operative Ltd,

Saturday, 12 May 2007

Call to build for International Climate Protest December 8th 2007



Oxford based activist Jonathan Neale spoke about the forthcoming December 8th International Climate Protest, planned to coinside with the UN Climate talks in Indonesia.

The meeting took place at the International Climate Conference in London this weekend.

See http://www.campaigncc.org/ for more details.

Thursday, 10 May 2007

Michael Lavalette victory in Preston

Respect councillor Michael Lavalette routed New Labour to retain his seat on Preston council. Respect polled 1179 votes, beating New Labour by 462 votes.


"New Labour threw everything at us in this campaign but they lost this among working class voters of every background. They lost it on the Iraq war, on the NHS and on privatisation" said Michael Lavalette.

Polling over 50 percent of all the votes cast in the Town Centre ward this is a massive reverse for New Labour in Preston.

In the Preston Riversway ward Respect's Elaine Abbot came second to New Labour and in the St Matthews ward the Respect candidate Samira Rezwan also came second to New Labour polling 339 votes to New Labour's 675.

Michael added, "This is a tremendous result for Respect. It is a vindication of our strategy for the the past four years of representing people, taking up casework, holding regular surgeries, and combining this with the big issues, such as opposing the war on Iraq and defending the NHS and the welfare state.

"When I was elected in 2003, Labour said that our vote was just a flash in the pan and a temporary anti-war protest vote. But we have raised our vote in the ward by 633 votes.

The full result in the Town Centre ward was:

Respect 1179
Labour Party 717
Liberal Democrats 206
Conservative Party 87
Greens 63


In Birmingham Respect's Mohammed Ishtiaq beat New Labour by over 1,000 votes to join Salma Yaqoob as Respect's second councillor in the Sparkbrook ward. The Liberal Democrats trailed in third with a poor 919 votes.

In Bolsover, Respect's Ray Holmes took 53 percent of the vote to gain the Shirebrook North seat from New Labour.

Tuesday, 8 May 2007

Serious move in Oxford dispute

Striking security guards at three of Oxford’s park and ride sites are considering escalating their action to an all-out strike. The council has threatened to replace the striking workers during stoppages, and to take disciplinary action against them.

Security guard Paul Griffiths said, “Our action is for our right to be safe at work and for our customers to be safe while on our premises.

“Lone working in car parks at night will not only make us unsafe, but will render us useless in providing a service.

“Management have told staff to lock themselves in the office at night if they are alone.

“What is the point of security staff locked in a building watching a crime take place?

“They are trying to break us. We are going to find it extremely hard next month but the public support keeps us going.”

Monday, 7 May 2007

Yes to investment No to Academy status for Peers School!

The campaign against plans to hand a rebuilt Peers School over to private sponsors is building up steam. Trade Unionists and campaigners heard local teachers set out their concerns about the proposals at last Saturdays May Day march in Oxford. For a full report in the Oxford Mail see: http://www.oxfordmail.net/display.var.1380229.0.teachers_snub_academy_plans.php

Public meetings have now been organised to provide more information about the Peers School bid:

Rose Hill Community Centre 7.30 22nd May

Blackbird Leys Community Centre 7.30 24th May


(To help leaflet Rose Hill for the meeting meet 12noon at the Oval Sunday 13th May)

Also see previous posts:
http://oxfordrespectinformation.blogspot.com/2007/04/letter-to-oxford-mail-over-peers.html
http://oxfordrespectinformation.blogspot.com/2007/03/teachers-union-letter-to-oxford-mail.html
http://oxfordrespectinformation.blogspot.com/2006/12/our-schools-are-not-for-sale.html

Saturday, 5 May 2007

Oxford Park and Ride Dispute.


Union Rep explains issues behind Oxford Park and Ride dispute.

Donations to the UNISON branch hardship fund and messages of support should be sent to: UNISON Office, St. Aldate's Chambers, 109 St Aldate's, Oxford, OX1 1DS Cheques should be made out to ‘UNISON Oxford City Branch’ You can contact the branch on unison@oxford.gov.uk, or call 01865 252672

Friday, 4 May 2007

May 5th rally and march, local elections update and branch meeting details

1) Saturday MAY 5th
May Day March - Public Services Not For Sale
Assemble 12 noon Bonn Square, march to Manzil Way

Speakers:
Billy Hayes- General Secretary of Communication Workers Union
Simon Boniface- PCS Union
Yunus Baksh- Victimised Health Worker
Anti Acadamies speaker
Javier Ruiz – Justice for Cleaners Campaign TGWU

2) Excellent progress for Respect in local elections. Check out the results here: http://www.respectcoalition.org/

3) The next Oxford Respect branch meeting will be Tuesday 15th May at 7.30pm in the Town Hall. There will be a discussion about the local election results and the strategy in Oxford over the next year.

Thursday, 26 April 2007

Oxford Rally to Defend Jobs and Public Services May 1st

OXFORD RALLY
TO DEFEND
OUR JOBS AND
PUBLIC

SERVICES
Tuesday
1st May
Outdoor
Rally
at 12:00 noon
Bonn Square
Oxford



Speakers:
Andy Reid - PCS National Executive Committee
Mark Fysh - Unison County and TUC General Council
Dona Velluti - Oxford and District Trades Council


Tuesday 1 May is a key date for the fight to break Gordon Brown’s 2 percent public sector wage freeze and to defend public services.

This May Day will see 250,000 PCS civil service workers’ union members striking against job cuts that will devastate services, and against low pay and privatisation. Other groups of workers will protest and show solidarity with us.

The PCS is leading the revolt against Tony Blair and Gordon Brown’s plans to give workers an effective pay cut while forcing us to work harder.

But other groups of workers look set to join us. NHS workers in the Unison and RCN unions are planning to ballot to take action over pay. The Unison health conference also supported protests on 1 May.

The teachers’ NUT and NASUWT unions have both recently voted at their conferences to ballot their members if a 2 percent pay offer is made to members. Postal workers in the CWU union are also moving towards confrontation over the issue.

The Labour government stands behind the attacks on public sector workers and the services we provide. The same government that is proud to spend billions of pounds on wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is refusing to give its workers a decent pay rise.

The government is fighting hard against us. The Cabinet Office has declared that talks between the government and the PCS will not take place until the union calls off its industrial action.
Blair may be going very soon, but things aren’t going to get better under Brown, the architect of the cuts in the civil service, the pay limit and New Labour’s wider free market policies.
We will need to fight even harder under Brown. May Day will take place two days before local government elections across Britain, and elections to the Scottish parliament and Welsh assembly.

The strike and events on May Day will highlight the threat the public sector faces from New Labour. The PCS’s strategy in this dispute is based on raising the political issues to hit New Labour, and fighting for the biggest possible unity of public sector workers in action.

Kate Douglas, Oxford Respect and joint branch secretary of the PCS Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire DWP branch (pers Cap)

Wednesday, 25 April 2007

Oxfordshire Respect join Unite Against Fascism to campaign against the BNP in Henley

The BNP are standing a candidate in the local elections in Henley South. Oxfordshire Respect members joined other supporters of Oxfordshire Unite Against Fascism to leaflet the ward last Saturday and Sunday, urging people to vote to keep the fascists out.

A copy of the laflet can be found at http://www.uaf.org.uk/resources.asp.

A similar mobilsation against the BNP and National Front in Bicester at the last election saw the BNP disappear ater one challenge and the National ront candidte give up standing after getting nowhere. The people of West ward in Bicester responded with an increased turnout that destroyed the National Front's attempts to capitalise on an anti-asylum seeker mood.

The BNP are standing a record number of candidates across the UK. The BNP successes in recent years shows he need for campaigning n response to their presence. Even paper candidates help promote the idea that they are part of the potical mainstream. We cannot alow fascism to become part and parcel of polictical life in the UK.

Saturday, 21 April 2007

Letter to Oxford Mail over Peers Academy bid

To the Editor

The premise of academy schools (New Academy Offers Much, Letters Monday 8th April) is that in return for a negligible financial contribution sponsors are give more or less absolute control of the school's curriculum, ethos and staffing. They can control admissions policy and are allowed to select up to 10% of the intake should they choose. One of the scandals of the national academies debate has been the diminishing amount of funding required from sponsors before they are handed control of a school, which are normally built almost entirely from the public finance.
Nationally there has been a lack of transparency over contributions and I hope that the sums involved in the Peers bid will be made public so that people can have an informed debate on this matter.

The issue is not whether the people of East Oxford deserve a new £22m school, but why this school has to be established on such a convoluted basis. The academies framework is one derived entirely from New Labour market theology rather than from any local campaign or educational lobby.

In 2006 a hapless head teacher and New Labour wonk Des Smith was caught by a newspaper promising that honours could be lined up for supporters of the academy programme. A year on he is less sanguine, quoted as saying of academies 'Money has been wasted in the most appalling way. Many of them are the same schools with the same problems, just with new buildings' (Education Guardian, April 3rd 2007). Hardly a ringing endorsement.

David Radford
Oxford Respect


Above: Respect supporters out last weekend campaigning on the issue of Academy status for Peers School

Oxford Campaign Against Climate Change Meeting: 'Solutions to Climate Change: Contraction and Convergence', Thurs 26th April

Oxford Campaign against Climate Change will be hoting a meeting on 'Solutions to Climate Change: Contraction and Convergence- A global framework to cope with Climate Change'. There will be a short film and questions on C&C will be fielded by Dr Mark Levene.

The meeting will be a 7.30 Friends Meeting House, St Giles Thursday 26th April 2007

Left: Oxford Climate activists came together in Corn Market last Saturday to promote the 'Step it up' initiative, as part as global day of action against climate change.

Thursday, 12 April 2007

Oxford Respect Public Meeting: Exploitation in the UK- Issues faced by migrant workers

In place of our regular branch meeting this April we will be hosting a public meeting on the issues faced by migrant workers.

This will be at 7.30 on Tuesday 17th April at the Asian Cultural Centre, Manzil Way (Of Cowley Road).

We have a guest speaker - Nigel Carter from the Oxford Unison Health Branch (personal capacity).

Saturday, 31 March 2007

Teachers Union letter to Oxford Mail opposing Academy status for Peers School

Dear Editor

No parent, student or teacher would oppose the building of a brand new fully staffed and resourced community school. (School of the Future, Peers Academy proposal Thursday 22nd March, 2007) Indeed it is a fundamental birthright of every child to have access to free, high quality education in a good local school which is accountable to the community through locally elected councillors.

Transforming Peers into an academy would not turn it into an ‘effective community school’ as claimed by DfES spokesman Daniel Webb-Jones. Indeed quite the opposite would happen. The local community would in fact loose democratic control of the school. Academy sponsors can and always do appoint the majority of the governors. Parents, staff and Local Authority governors in the academy would be in a permanent minority.

In addition, the present publicly owned buildings and grounds would be transferred to the Diocese of Oxford and the three other named sponsors of the plan, Oxford Brookes University, Oxford and Cherwell Valley College and BMW. For a minimal financial contribution towards the £30 million cost of the new school these four unaccountable ‘sponsors’ would be given control of a modern independent school and receive the entire school budget directly from the Government. One has to ask why, if the Government is prepared to hand out such sums of money, it does not give the money directly to the local authority to build and control a new school.

The national bodies of the teacher unions NUT, NASUWT, ATL, and UNISON, the school support workers’ union, are all opposed to the creation of Academies and are part of the Anti-Academies alliance (www.antiacademies.org.uk). We must defend free public education and ensure that all children can attend a good local school which is democratically accountable to the local community.


Chris Blakey
Vice President Oxfordshire Association National Union of Teachers.
Brenda Williams
Secretary Oxfordshire Association NUT

Wednesday, 21 March 2007

Public Meeting on future of Learning Disability Services in Oxfordshire

There will be a public meeting on 27th March at 7.30 in Oxford Town Hall entitled "Should Learning Disability services remain in the NHS - or go to the cheapest bidder". The speaker will be health campaigner and Oxford Respect Chair John Lister.

The meeting has been organised by Oxfordshire Unison Health Branch.

Sunday, 11 March 2007

Anti war march in Oxford - Saturday March 17th

There will be a 'Troops Out- No Trident' march in Oxford next Saturday (17th March) to mark the fourth aniversary of the Iraq war.

The march assembles 12.30pm at Manzil Way (Off Cowley Road) and will go to Broad Street where there will be local and national speakers including Iraqi academic Sami Ramadani and Chris Nineham from the National Stop the War Coalition.

Next Oxford Respect branch meeting 20th March

The next Oxford Respect branch meeting will be at 7.30 Tuesday 20th March at the Town Hall. There will be a talk on 'After the tragedy of Iraq: Is Iran next?'.

Come and join the debate..

Sunday, 4 March 2007

500 march in Oxford against health cuts

Over 500 people attanded a demonstration in Oxford last Saturday ( 3rd March). The brightly coloured demonstration included three giant bananas symbolising new Labour's health policy.

Demonstrators carried NHS Together flags and union placards denouncing cuts, redundancy and privatisation. Workers from community hospitals, blood services, dentistry, learning disability, mental health and the Oxford Radcliffe hospital marched alongside council carers, printers, civil servants, car workers, pensioners and healthcare students. People received greetings from colleagues from Buckinghamshire and Berkshire.

The rally took many short speeches from those involved local campaigns and there were strong calls for a national protest against the attacks on the NHS.

Saturday, 24 February 2007

Oxford Respect mobilises for national anti-war protest

Another large turnout from Oxford at the national 'No Trident- Troops Out' demonstration this Saturday. Two full STWC/CND coaches and many more making their way down by Oxford tube. Once again tens of thousands took to the streets in a noticably young and diverse protest, which will serve to increase the presure on Blair and Brown to end the tragic British involvement in Iraq.

The presure will be maintained on local pro war Labour MP Andrew Smith with a lobby of his surgery planned for next Friday and a local 'No Trident-Troops Out' protest organised for March 17th (details to follow).

Tuesday, 13 February 2007

March 3rd - National day of action for the NHS! No cuts, No privatisation !

As part of the national campaign against health cuts and creeping privatisation of the NHS there will be a local march and rally on Saturday MARCH 3rd.

Assemble 11.30am for 12 noon departure from Bonn Square, Oxford. Rally 1pm Manzil Way, off Cowley Rd.

The protest is in support of the national initiative by joint NHS unions 'NHS Together' organised by the Oxford & District Trades Union Council, Keep Our NHS Public and UNISON Oxfordshire Health.

For more information See:

http://www.keepournhspublic.org.uk/

Saturday, 10 February 2007

Oxford Lib Dems and New Labour- talking tough on climate change……then cutting the budget for council house energy efficiency grants

In 2005 Oxford City Council produced an adventurous Climate Change Action Plan for the city aimed at establishing CO2 reduction targets and improving energy efficiency in the Council’s building stock.

Oxford Climate Change Action plan in PDF format: http://www.oxford.gov.uk/files/meetingdocs/32031/item%207%20part%202.pdf

As part of this process a budget was established to help council house owners undertake energy efficiency improvements. These funds were originally allocated to insure that any energy saving improvements would be cost neutral to the occupier, with the understanding that the initiative would eventually be self financing for the Council.

However at this Monday’s full council meeting (12th Feb) both the Lib Dems and Labour will propose budgets cutting by £150,000 the money available for energy efficiency improvements.

Only last week a report confirming the impact of human actions on global warming was published by the IPCC – the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The study stated that human induced carbon emissions will almost certainly increase global temperature rise far beyond the danger threshold – this will cause massive loss of life, species loss, humanitarian and economic catastrophe.

These Lib Dem and Labour proposals demonstrate that both groups are backtracking on their widely trumpeted commitment to tackle Climate Change at a local level. It also means that Oxford Council House dwellers are loosing out on a chance to improve the long term energy efficiency of their homes.

If you wish to join Respect and other campaigning groups in protesting at the proposed cuts then please e-mail the following councillors who will be proposing the Labour and Lib Dem budgets on Monday.

cllrbprice@oxford.gov.uk Labour
cllreturner@oxford.gov.uk Labour
cllrjgoddard@oxford.gov.uk Lib Dems
cllrstall@oxford.gov.uk Lib Dems

Respect's national policy on Climate Change can be read here:
http://www.respectcoalition.org/index.php?ite=920

Saturday, 3 February 2007

Come clean Mr Smith, will you vote to waste £76bn on Trident?

Oxford Respect members were out campaigning on Barns Road this weekend, demanding that East Oxford New Labour MP Andrew Smith make his position on Trident clear.

The question is why waste £76bn on a system we don’t need, can never use, don’t control and even military analysts agree we don’t have to take a decision on for another 15 years?

The fear is that when Trident replacement is voted on in March New Labour MP’s will dutifully file into the yes lobby without any pretence to a public debate.

Oxford Respect is calling on Andrew Smith to take a stand and sign the EDM (Early Day Motion) calling on a full public consultation on Trident replacement.

For details of the Early Day Motion See:

http://edmi.parliament.uk/EDMi/EDMDetails.aspx?EDMID=32245&SESSION=885

For details of the ‘No Trident- Troops Out’ protest on Feb 24th see below.

Saturday, 27 January 2007

Oxford civil servants set to strike

Thousands of civil servants working in Oxfordshire will be taking part in a one day strike this Wednesday (31st January) over government plans to axe over 100,000 jobs, which will decimate public services.

The one-day strike, which is the biggest in a generation, has been called by Britain’s largest civil service union, the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS). The strike also comes at a time when civil servants are not only facing losing their jobs but changes to their terms and conditions, sick absence arrangements and the prospect of working longer to receive their pension as the pension age could rise from 60 to 65.

Kate Douglas, Joint Branch Secretary in Department for Work and Pensions explains the reason for the strike:

“The message of our campaign is that the government can’t arbitrarily cut staff without it having a negative impact on local public services such as benefit payment, as well as the local economy. The people the government are seeking to axe aren’t bowler hatted Sir Humphries based in Whitehall or faceless bureaucrats, they provide vital services that touch everybody’s lives from cradle to grave. They work as a team delivering the things we take for granted, such as your driving licence, passport or child benefit. Collecting the taxes to pay for hospitals and schools, stopping drugs from flowing into the country and making sure people get their winter fuel payments doesn’t happen by magic.”

For example due to the job cuts, Crisis Loans, paid to the most vulnerable and desperate, is now a telephone based service. Some people spend days trying to get through and when they do are often cut off due to the overloaded telephone system. Before the cuts we had dedicated staff in local offices who could deal with these claims.

There will be picket lines at all government offices including Brize Norton air base! If you would like to show your support the best picket line to come along to is at the Jobcentre at corner of Worcester St and George St from 7.30 to about 10am.

There will be a rally at Bonn Square, Oxford at 12 noon on 31st January, with Mark Ladbrooke of Oxford Trades Council, and Lorna Merry of HMRC Group Executive Committee.


Please come and show your support.

Thursday, 18 January 2007

Dominic from Oxford Student Respect reports on the ongoing blockade at Faslane nuclear submarine base...

The weekend before last I went to Scotland to blockade faslane nuclear base with a group of students as part of the 365 day blockade campaign.

We were mainly from Oxford but there were others from Sussex, Cambridge and Edinburgh. We stayed a night in Glasgow in a church hall making final plans before heading to the base. On the Saturday we set up camp pitching tents on the side of the road near the base. In the afternoon we drove around the loch to get a good view of the base. It is actually massive, several miles long with massive office blocks and warehouses. We also saw the submarines which looked so innocent but in fact would be able to destroy 16 cities each. Then we headed back to the base and played a bit of samba at the gates along with chanting “illegal expensive and inhumane”.

On the Sunday we were joined by academics from across the world. They had a seminar launching papers on why trident was wrong and related matters. Each in there own field of speciality. In the afternoon after the arranged signal to “have some tea” we calmly filed into the road and sat down. The police had no choice but to let the seminar continue on the road as they only had twelve officers on the scene and there were probably around 60 of us. Soon an announcement in the base “the north gate is temporarily closed” could be heard and was greeted by cheers. After the seminar had finished we started to sing songs to keep our spirits up. The police were obviously hoping that the rain would make us give up but after 6 hours when it was clear we were going nowhere they decided to move in. We managed to reach a falsane365 record of blockade the base just over 365 minutes.

The police were very friendly even as they carried us off the road one remarking “they shouldn’t be spending £76 billion on trident when they cat get us a decent van” after having difficulty closing the door. There were 34 arrests that evening but everyone was let off in the morning and I still have not heard anymore from the police.