Friday, 28 March 2008

Oxford Respect select union rep to stand in Cowley ward

Paul Garraway, the newly elected branch secretary of the local post workers union branch has been selected as the Respect candidate for Cowley ward in the city council elections this May. Mr Garraway was unanimously selected by Respect branch members at a meeting in Florence Park Community centre.

Respect intend to make the proposed closer of the Cowley Mail centre and its relocation to Swindon a key theme of their campaign.Paul, who is 41 and works in the Littlemore delivery office commented that:

“As well as 400 plus families affected by the plans it will be a disaster for local small businesses, it will mean later deliveries and earlier collections, imagine you mail stuck on a truck in traffic on the Swindon Road, that’s what they are proposing. This is an attempt to break a union branch that is prepared to stand up to bullying and privatisation, there is no other explanation moving to Swindon, we are determined to overturn this decision”

Respect stood in Cowley ward in 2006 and obtained 13% of the vote. It will also be campaigning against the creeping privatisation of health and education by Labour, supporting the call for an oxford living wage of £7 an hour and keeping the pressure on pro war East Oxford Labour MP Andrew Smith over his support for the invasion and occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan. Respect point out that in the last election many people in Cowley voted Liberal Democrat to punish Labour over the war, only for the elected Lib Dem candidate to defect to the New Labour party.

Pippa Whittaker, a local teacher and Cowley Respect candidate for 2006, said

“Cowley is not being well served by New Labour, Council budgets are being squeezed at the same time Labour is pouring billions into the war and bailing out Northern Rock. I think it’s brilliant that Paul has agreed to stand, he is an excellent candidate”.

Wednesday, 26 March 2008

Respect goes west. Mikes Letter from America #5

Get stimulated!

‘Bear Stearns’ sounds like the name of a survivalist TV presenter: ‘This week, Bear Stearns climbs Everest one-handed, before feasting on caterpillars and patronizing the natives in East Borneo’. In reality, Bear Stearns is the name of an investment back, and is far from being rugged and sturdy right now. Last week, it became the latest ‘victim’ of the sub-prime mortgage crisis. The term ‘victim’ is relative: unlike the thousands of Americans who are suffering foreclosure on their homes, Bear Stearns was bailed out by J P Morgan, with the obliging aid of the Federal Reserve (the US equivalent of the Bank of England).

This was just the latest in a series of blows that have hit the US economy over the last few months. The sub-prime crisis broke last year, followed by: a stock-market crash (sorry, ‘correction’); the major bank Citigroup wobbling before being bailed out by the oil-sheikhdom of Abu Dhabi; oil prices soaring above $100 a barrel; and the dollar continuing to plunge. The Federal Reserve, led by the hapless Ben Bernanke, has been cutting interest rates faster than a carpet warehouse slashes its prices. All this is set against a global picture where US hegemony is threatened by the rising economies of India and China.
Economists often warn us not to read too much into financial ups and downs on Wall Street, and reassure us that these will not affect the ‘real world’. I would say that the 63,000 American workers who lost their jobs in February (the worst month for job losses in five years) are certainly feeling the effects in their ‘real world’. But in other ways, it’s true that the world of the bankers and that of the ordinary citizen don’t seem to connect. Not wishing to sound cynical, but you would think that this would at least be a good time to buy a house, with house prices at rock-bottom and interest rates plummeting. Yet while the banks benefit from low Fed lending rates, the borrowing rate for ordinary lenders is actually INCREASING! Not content with a planned bail-out by central banks, the predatory lenders who got us into this mess to begin with are trying to steady the ship by screwing extra money out of borrowers.

What is really galling about the credit crisis (apart from the obvious - working class people losing their homes) is the sheer hypocrisy. The people who tell us that the free market is the only system that works, and who laud the ‘risk takers’, are now happy to bail out the banks after their ‘risk-taking’ back-fired. Now here’s a novel idea – instead of spending public funds to prop up the banks, why not use them to help the people who are losing their homes to foreclosure? No, wait, we can’t do that – that would be state intervention, that would be dangerously close to (whisper it) socialism!

At least we still have the Bush administration’s ‘stimulus package’, which gives tax rebates in the hope of re-inflating the economy. Now, I have to confess that my wife and I are bad consumers – we put our tax rebate into our savings, instead of doing our patriotic duty by spending it on an American car or gambling it on the stock exchange. At $600 a head, the stimulus cheques are hardly an invitation to workers to spend, spend, spend. And there lies the basic problem with the US economy – American workers simply don’t earn enough. They have not had a pay-rise in real terms for the last 5 years – and in 4 of those 5 years, their salaries actually went down. And what happened to corporate profits in the same period? Why, they went up! [Statistics junkies can see this and other charts and analysis here: ]

As Robert Reich – Clinton’s former Labor Secretary – pointed out on NPR*, people took on sub-prime mortgages not because they were foolishly trying to get rich quick, but because they were struggling to survive on less than a living wage. With their homes gone, those families literally have nothing left to give. Reich is hardly a socialist – on his blog, he writes “I’m not suggesting anything so draconian and ideologically objectionable as public ownership. Perish the thought. Let the Brits bail out their big bank and nationalize it …” Rather, he realizes that a mass-consumer capitalist economy cannot function without workers who can afford to buy the goods that they produce.

The question is, how will the working class react? They are being offered no solutions by the Democratic candidates in their increasingly bitter feud for the nomination. The left in the US is weak, and its pro-Democrat section is busy campaigning for the pro-business Barrack Obama. So where does workers’ anger go? Does it go in nationalist and anti-immigrant directions? Or – to paraphrase the poet Langston Hughes – “does it explode”? There may not be an explosion on the horizon, but last year’s strikes in the entertainment industry showed there are sparks of militancy in the most unexpected areas. Something’s got to give.

*National Public Radio: the equivalent of BBC Radio 4, only with less funding but – on the plus side - no John Humphries.

Tuesday, 18 March 2008

Virgin health care protest

National protests are breaking out over Virgin's bid to take over NHS primary care. On Monday the 17th March 40-50 people attended the Oxford protest -activists lobbying both entrances to the Oxford university venue.

A new banner was commisioned for the occasion 'Virgin on theridiculous' featuring Richard Branson - clutching his assets!

Those who attended the Virgin event reported hard cash inducements to take part in the project- one familydoctor commented that it was a full 20 minutes before the word'patients' was mentioned.

The demonstration was backed by health unions, the Trades UnionCouncil, and greetings came from pensioners, NHS activists and postworkers.

For pictures see

Monday, 17 March 2008

Branch meeting tomorrow

The next branch meeting of Oxford Respect is tomorrow (Tuesday 18th March). 7.30pm Oxford Town Hall, At Aldates.

Oxford Respect branch meetings are on the third Tuesday of every month. Members and supporters welcome.

We will be discussing campaigning work and the May election.

Friday, 14 March 2008

Love Music Hate Racism takes off in Oxfordshire

Oxford support for the Love Music Hate Racism carnival is growing. In the last week the posties union CWU and health workers union UNISON have given over £800 towards the event itself and to help get as many people as possible from Oxford to London on the day.

Bands from across Oxfordshire have offered to play for free to help raise money, and volunteers are approaching venues and more bands and DJs to organise events. This has the potential to be the biggest blow against racism and fascism for over a decade - but to make sure we need your help.The Oxford LMHR campaign needs more volunteers to help publicise the carnival and associated events by putting posters in schools and colleges.

We also need people to go to gigs to hand out LMHR materials and sell coach tickets for the carnival - entry into the gigs will be free if you are helping. Perhaps you can put a poster up in your local shop or library, or get your mates to come to the carnival. You may have your own ideas as to what can be done - the sky's the limit.

Please email if you want to get involved in building the biggest most vibrant anti-racist music scene Oxford has ever seen. Let us know what you would be prepared to do.

URGENT. LMHR has been invited to do a stall at a gig tomorrow night (14th) at the Wheatsheaf Oxford town centre and they need a couple of volunteers to help with the stall. Bands include Little Fish, Reverse E, The Black Hats, Malenclavosse. You will need to be there for 8.15. Mail with a phone number if you can help.Oxford Love Music Hate Racism now has myspace account were you can see who is already supporting the campaign and where you can also add your support -

Coach tickets to the London Canival from Oxford (return) are on sale NOW. £10 waged/£5 unwaged or students. Coaches will be leaving Oxford 8.30 a.m. Sunday 27th April and returning for 8 p.m. the same day.Ask for a ticket c/o the LMHR

Thursday, 13 March 2008

Oxford Respect supports PCS Strike

Oxford Respect members have been active in building for upcoming strike action over pay in the DWP. The Civil Servants in the Department for Work and Pensions are striking on 17th and 18th March over an imposed 3 year pay deal. Below

Why are civil servants striking?

• The Government have insisted that pay rises for public sector workers are below inflation increases. But for many 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.

There will be picket lines outside the Jobcentre on Worcester St/ George St on both days from 8am until 9.30pm.

Monday, 10 March 2008

Oxfordshire NUT press for yes vote in strike ballot

On Thursday of last week (March 6th 2008) the Committee of Oxfordshire Division of the NUT confirmed the decision taken at its recent Annual General Meeting to support fully the recommendation from Steve Sinnott (General Secretary) and the National Executive to vote in favour of strike action on pay.

Teachers have had imposed upon them a 2.45% increase from September of this year when the Retail Price Index is running at around 4%, and pay increases in the private sector are averaging the same figure. This would be the first year of a three year pay settlement, which sets below inflation pay rises until 2011, and forms part of the government’s attempts to hold down public sector pay. Teachers’ pay was already increased by less than inflation in 2005, 2006 and 2007.

If teachers’ pay increases had simply been equal to inflation since 2005:

· The starting pay for newly qualified teachers would, in September 2008, be almost £1000 a year higher, helping them face the burden of student debt and the ever-rising costs of housing and transport;

· The pay rate for a more experienced teacher on the maximum of the Upper Pay Scale would be over £1600 a year higher;

· The average teacher’s pay will not provide enough for a mortgage for the average house price in Oxfordshire;

· Public sector pay increases do not cause inflation. Not even the Governor of the Bank of England supports the Government’s claims that public sector pay increases will lead to a rise in inflation. Increases in earnings and pay settlements in the private sector are rising on average by over 4 per cent. The pay of chief executives of the top 100 companies went up by 37 per cent last year.

Many NUT members, whilst angry about pay, state that workload is also still a serious concern. The Office of Manpower Economics 2007 survey showed that teachers work on average more than 50 hours a week. Much of this workload burden, which detracts teachers from their core role of teaching, stems from the government and is associated with externally imposed targets, league tables, Ofsted Inspections and performance management

Teachers are now being paid less for doing more!

The ballot is a significant step in the NUT campaign against below inflation pay rises. It is a serious challenge to the Government and could lead to the first national strike by teachers for more than twenty years.


Thursday, 6 March 2008

Oxford Respect supports the Living Wage campaign

Oxford is an expensive city to live in. At present employers are legally required to pay a minimum wage of £5.35 an hour to all workers over the age of 22. But this wage, as well as being wholly inadequate at a national level, also takes no account of regional variations in the cost of living.

Oxford Respect is supporting the campaign for an Oxford Living Wage of at least £7 and will be highlighting the campaign in the forthcoming May elections.

The Oxford and District Trades Council has made this campaign a central focus of its annual May rally this year, For more information see the ODTUC link on the sidebar.

Details of May day rally: Assemble at 12 Noon, Broad Street Oxford and march to Manzil Way, speakers on the minimum wage campaign, public sector pay cuts, job cuts at the Royal Mail Centre, celebrating international workers day, and opposing racism and fascism

Supported by:
Communication Workers Union (CWU), Living Wage Campaign, Unison Oxfordshire Health Branch, Fire Brigades Union, Local Government Unions, National Union of Teachers, Anti Academies campaign, Close Campsfield Campaign, Keep Our NHS PublicOxford - Ramallah Group, Colombia Solidarity Campaign, Cuba Solidarity Campaign

Wednesday, 5 March 2008

Aldermaston 2008

The government is proposing to spend £25 billion upfront and £79 billion over the next 20 years on new nuclear weapons. The buildings to test these weapons are almost completed at Aldermaston nuclear weapons factory about 30 miles south of Oxford.CND is working for a really big demonstration at Aldermaston this coming Easter Monday 24th. March.

A 75 seat double-decker bus has already been hired and we are aiming to fill this before hiring further transport. Tickets are already on sale and are being snapped up. The (return! - we expect to come back) fare is £6 with £4 (usual concessions). There are 3 tickets outlets:
1) Fairtrade shop, basement, St Michael's at the North Gate, Cornmarket
2) Uhuru Wholefoods, 58 Cowley Road
3) The Inner Book Shop, Magdalen Road
Alternatively, you can post a cheque (made out to Oxford CND) with a sae to 38 Yarnells Hill, Botley, Oxford OX2 9BE.

Tuesday, 4 March 2008

Keep Our NHS Public- protest against Virgin carve up of NHS

Richard Branson’s Virgin Group want to build and administer NHS health centres using sub-contracted GPs. Virgin will be quite prepared to offer “incentives” to GPs in order to break into what it sees as a potentially lucrative market where profit can be made.

Branson’s plans are a real threat to traditional GP surgeries. Other services ( laser eye surgery, physiotherapy, dentistry, podiatry) which people do have to pay for will be part of the building and this is how much of the profit is made. It seems GPs are promised 10% of these profits.

Oxfordshire Campaigners beat off plans over 2 years ago to privatise control over NHS spending in the area. Local people chose not to use the mobile cataract service provided by NETCARE, a private South African Company and Oxfordshire PCT have been forced into selling off the rest of the contact to other areas. Now VIRGIN are planning to provide a new GP surgery in the ‘M4 corridor’. Dr Ken Williamson retired GP and chairman of Oxfordshire KONP said ‘local people want to see tax payers money to be used to in order that their own local GP surgeries open more hours and provide more NHS services. They don’t want to see it funnelled into Richard Branson’s pockets.

Virgin are holding a meeting on Monday 17th March at St. Hugh’s College Oxford OX2.

Keep our NHS Public and Oxford and District Trades Council have called a demonstration.

Demonstration Monday 17th MarchMeet at 6.30pm St.Hugh’s College Canterbury Road Entrance OX2 6LE

Picket 6.30 -7.30pm

Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with us at the Rose and Crown , North Parade from 7.30pm onwards

Saturday, 1 March 2008

Oxford Stop the War meeting this Tuesday

Oxford Stop The War Coalition is holding a public meeting this Tuesday in the lead up to the international day of action and World Against War demonstration on March 15th.

There will be a national speaker from Stop The War Coalition and also local speakers from the PSC and CND.

The Meeting will take place next Tuesday, March 4th at 7:30pm in the Court Room of Oxford Town Hall.