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Victimised TUSC agent writes
Last August I was hit with a legal aid bill of £8,847.07 because I lost my case (see "Outrageous sentence for TUSC agent in 'misleading electors' court case").
The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) organised a national appeal through the Socialist newspaper to help me. In July 2019 I made my last monthly payment to the collection agency of £737.26.
TUSC raised £4,623 of that. On behalf of myself and my wife Magdalena I thank all TUSC supporters, Socialist Party members and readers of your newspaper who donated to the appeal.
In addition to the appeal I received individual donations sent to me totalling £620. One donation was sent from an old friend who lives abroad, who was so outraged at the outcome of my trial that he and his mother sent a first donation of £500!
It has been a struggle at times making the monthly payments, but the monthly donations from TUSC took part of the pressure off us, and we are very grateful.
At last it is nearly over. My travel ban ends on 27 September. I will then be able to visit my relatives abroad.
I thank your readers for the letters that not only I received but also that Magdalena received, which lifted both of us.
My health has been affected, but I always look forward to receiving your paper and your journal, Socialism Today. Please keep up the good work that your party is doing in the trade unions.
Chris Fernandez, Derby
Profit, trains and climate change
On one of the hottest days on record, with the temperature around 38C, we attempted to make a three-hour train journey from London to Newcastle. However, like thousands of other travellers, we were met by chaotic scenes at the railway station.
Searing heat had frazzled lines across the rail network. Trains from Kings Cross to towns and cities across the country were being cancelled.
At one stage there was almost a stampede as a departure to Newcastle was announced. Then we were told the information was wrong and asked to return to the main concourse.
The rail staff were fantastic, but there wasn't enough of them. In the torturous heat there were announcements reminding people to drink plenty of fluids, but no drinking water was provided.
The conditions in the station felt akin to an under-developed country. There was no extra help for disabled people or families with young children. People were worried about where they would stay if they couldn't get home.
Elsewhere in London I heard of buses overheating and near-suffocating conditions on the tube.
This crisis was a culmination of the reality of climate change, alongside decades of under-investment as privateers raked in obscene profits from our transport networks.
If this heatwave, or the next one, goes on for any length of time, workers are going to have to demand safe working conditions through trade union struggle. We need to fight for a socialist green alternative, which would include all public transport being nationalised under democratic workers' control.
I eventually arrived home in Newcastle over 20 hours late. Today I'm shattered, but tomorrow will again join the struggle for the socialist transformation of society!
Elaine Brunskill, Newcastle
Education workers' pensions attacked
The government has issued a consultation document on proposed changes to the Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS). Most have little impact on workers.
But one proposal is to remove the current legal obligation to offer new non-teaching staff access to the LGPS from "post-1992 universities" (former polytechnics), sixth-form colleges, and further education colleges.
This move would introduce a two-tier workforce on this important condition of service - and presuming that a pension which is cheaper for the employers would be on offer, would add to the growing problem of pensioner poverty.
The proposals only apply to institutions in England, thereby creating disparities between England and Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Public service union Unison opposes these measures, and is urging branches to lobby employers to reject the proposed changes.
But if the government presses ahead with these plans, Unison should organise industrial action, in conjunction with fellow unions Unite and GMB, not just of college members, but across local government. The unions should point out that this move would significantly reduce income flow into the pension fund, threatening its viability for all members, in or out of education.
Roger Bannister, Liverpool
Water waste of money
It is a sure sign of the growing popularity of water renationalisation, and steps in that direction in the Labour Party's 2017 manifesto, that the regulatory bodies have realised their life of indolence is under threat.
So they must be seen to be 'doing something' about an industry privatised 30 years ago that "has been criticised for increasing charges while distributing billions of pounds to shareholders" (Times, 10 July).
Thatcherism is inextricably linked to de-nationalisation, but equally infamous was privatising regulation. The Environment Agency was set up by the Tories in 1996, while New Labour, not to be outdone, set up Ofwat in 2006. These governments effectively absolved themselves of any democratic accountability.
The Environment Agency, faced with year-on-year increases in 'serious incidents' that damage the environment, threaten wildlife or put the public at risk - 52 in 2017 and 56 last year - reported "we are not seeing dramatic improvements. As a result we will toughen our regulatory approach" (Times, 10 July).
Ofwat is also adopting a 'get tough' approach which from next April "will force through cuts in customer bills across the sector." As the Times further notes, Ofwat "has received as much criticism for failing to properly regulate... as the companies have had for loading up their businesses with debt to enable dividend payments."
Renationalisation of the water industry will be welcomed by "the many, not the few." But our bitter experience of privatised regulation - and, previously, bureaucratic state regulation - necessitates public ownership to be under democratic working-class control and management.
John Merrell, Leicester
Labour peers hypocrisy
"Labour peer" is a contradiction in terms. They are the polar opposite of the working class. And some of them hate Labour more than the Tories!
Derek McMillan, Worthing
In The Socialist 31 July 2019:
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