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From The Socialist newspaper, 21 August 2004

Action needed across the public sector

DESPITE TONY Blair taking it easy in the holiday homes of his rich friends in Italy and the Bahamas, there's been no let up in the government's assault on the public sector.

Bill Mullins, Socialist Party industrial organiser

Health minister John Reid has announced that 15 more hospitals will be built under the private finance initiative. This is in effect handing over another large chunk of the NHS into the greedy hands of big business.

This has been followed up by inviting private companies to take control of NHS Logistics, the stores and supplies wing of the NHS, responsible for supplying hospitals with "everything from syringes to Weetabix".

Labour's handing over of schools to big business has allowed evangelical Christian and car dealer Sir Peter Vardy, who runs the West London City Academy and the Kings Academy in Middlesborough, to make a tidy profit out of education as well as encouraging the teaching of creationism.


The wholesale privatisation of the public sector is Labour's goal. The ideologues of New Labour want to reduce the public sector to little more than a core workforce which will oversee the 120 billion a year spent by the government to provide services to its citizens.

Private companies will be able to bid for the contract to supply every public service, at a profit. This affects everybody - parents looking for a school for their children, the sick looking for a hospital, the low-paid looking for help to pay their rents and the unemployed.

To paraphrase Neil Kinnock's warning to the 1992 Labour Party conference about the prospects of a Tory government: "Don't get sick or unemployed under Labour, don't be homeless, don't be dependent on the state under Labour, for you will be in for a shock".

That is why the public sector unions have a huge responsibility, not just for their own members but for all the working class.

Labour wants to smash the public sector unions. They are consciously attempting to isolate the most left-wing unions, the civil service union PCS and the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) from the rest of the union movement. One councillor even told the Financial Times: "A lot of councillors and the government want to smash the FBU. Why don't they want to be honest about it?"

Unfortunately, the strategy of some of the left union leaders is to go along this path and separate themselves from the PCS and FBU. The announcement of civil service cuts was initially all but welcomed by some of them as "just a few backroom jobs". They have had to be more circumspect since chancellor Brown spelt out that 104,000 jobs would be going.

Only direct industrial action by the maximum number of public sector workers will make Blair sit up and listen. He knows that - that is why he is trying to divide and rule the public sector unions.

The Socialist Party, along with our supporters in the public sector trade unions, is launching a campaign to unite public sector workers in a one-day strike. We believe that only this will make New Labour sit up and listen.

All the best-worded resolutions on the TUC conference agenda will be as nothing unless it is backed up by action. What is needed is for all trade union activists to put their union leaders under massive pressure and demand action now in defence of the public sector.

Join the campaign:

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Leaflets and petitions are available for use inside and outside workplaces, as well as in general campaigning activities: contact PO Box 24697, London E11 1YD, 020 8988 8764,

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Coronavirus crisis - Finance appeal

The coronavirus crisis has laid bare the class character of society in numerous ways. It is making clear to many that it is the working class that keeps society running, not the CEOs of major corporations.

The results of austerity have been graphically demonstrated as public services strain to cope with the crisis.

The government has now ripped up its 'austerity' mantra and turned to policies that not long ago were denounced as socialist. But after the corona crisis, it will try to make the working class pay for it, by trying to claw back what has been given.

  • The Socialist Party's material is more vital than ever, so we can continue to report from workers who are fighting for better health and safety measures, against layoffs, for adequate staffing levels, etc.
  • Our 'fighting coronavirus workers' charter', outlines a programme to combat the virus and protect workers' living conditions.
  • When the health crisis subsides, we must be ready for the stormy events ahead and the need to arm workers' movements with a socialist programme - one which puts the health and needs of humanity before the profits of a few.
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In The Socialist 21 August 2004:

Warning: Public Sector Under Attack

Action needed across the public sector

New Labour at war with firefighters

The fighting spirit that saved a pit

Know your rights

Europride Manchester: Stop bullying and discrimination

International socialist news and analysis

Resistance in Iraq

Oil prices set to rock world economy

Armed intervention in Sudan must be opposed

Venezuela referendum - corrupt elite lose again

Boston: Hundreds pack Ralph Nader meeting

Building for a socialist world

Workplace news and analysis

Swansea staff fight outsourcing

Yorkshire bus drivers: Determination pays off


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