Workers' Fight workplace bulletin editorials, 29 May 2007

29 May 2007

 Labour deputy contest: the dance of the clowns

Suddenly Labour party wannabe deputy leaders are discovering that there was something wrong, after all, with Blair's policies these past 10 years.

And of course they are all extremely careful to keep Brown's name out of the conversation!

Peter Hain tells us that policy under Blair has put the NHS into a state of "permanent revolution" and that it should be given time to settle down.

All the candidates tell us that the invasion of Iraq was not such a good idea. That is, except Tony Benn's son, Hilary, who is still defending the line that it "got rid of Saddam". Not one of them would, however, admit the catastrophic scale of the situation they helped precipitate in Iraq. And according to them the invasion was an understandable error, and only "with hindsight". Peter Hain tells us, that "everyone" believed in the WMD myth at the time. Sure, everyone without common sense and with vested interests.

You would think that people with the blood of hundreds of thousands men, women and children on their hands and who have helped turn the whole of the Middle East upside down for generations to come might show more remorse. But even PM-in-waiting Brown will only admit to "some mistakes" having been made by the government over its "handling of the situation" in Iraq.

In fact the candidates' performance on the Newsnight deputy leadership debate just exposed today's "democratic" politics for the total farce it really is. It came across just like a school contest for head boy or girl - and it was just as childish. Yet these are the people who are entrusted to run the country and make policies which launch wars!

By appearing as competing candidates with "different" things to offer, of course, they hope that the audience - and the electorate beyond - will be duped once more into going along with the sham.

Alan Johnson - the postman-poacher turned gamekeeper-politician, even went so far as to claim that there is full employment in Britain today!

As if most workers don't know that such "contests" are always an open and shut case. Whoever wins will be representing the interests of the class which is in power. If we want representation for the poor, the elderly, and the working class as a whole, we have no choice but to build it for ourselves.

 A rail system rigged in their favour - even when they kill us

Last week the Network Rail executive ordered that 119 maintenance workers in Cumbria who were working near the scene of the Greyrigg train crash should not be paid their annual £400 staff bonus.

They also ruled that 400 signallers who took part in a 2-day strike in Scotland should only get a reduced bonus of £150, as punishment for striking.

Meanwhile, within hours of these announcements, NR chief executive, John Armitt, was shamelessly awarding himself a bonus of £210,000 and his deputy and successor, Ian Croucher £173,000. Two other directors got £133,000 each! This public company had just registered a record pre-tax profit of £1.5bn!

When the unions threatened strike action to defend their maintenance members, the Network Rail bosses said they would forego some of their bonuses until the report into the fatal Greyrigg crash came out.

But they have not paid the workers. In fact this withholding of railway workers' pay is unprecedented. The most contentious issue after fatal rail crashes in the past, was the fact that the bosses got off scott-free, not that workers did!

The workers have always been blamed - and punished - with train drivers actually going to jail! But not one boss has even been imprisoned. The most that has happened is that they were fined.

All this was meant to change when the Corporate Manslaughter Bill, promised 10 years ago by Blair's government, was enacted. But it has still not got onto the statute books. Obviously it is precisely the refusal by the government to change anything which might make bosses culpable, which has led to the delay. But even if it does get passed, it has been so watered down, it will do little to stop killer bosses from pressurising workers or subcontractors into cutting costs and therefore safety.

The report into the Greyrigg crash, which is due out in the summer, will expose the lack of rail safety inspections. We are told that this could lead to criminal charges against Network Rail managers under the Health and Safety Act. But which managers? The top NR executives, who are also the bosses of the private train companies? Somehow we don't think so.