Issue 188 of SOCIALIST REVIEW Published July/August 1995 Copyright © Socialist Review
A recent article in Socialist Worker (3 June 1995) regarding the real scandal behind Islington child abuse is right to ask the question, 'What is wrong with equal opportunities?'
For the past 15 years the city of Leeds has been run by a Labour administration. A majority of the council's departmental directors are neither socialist nor adherents of equal opportunity policies.
Every fortnight the council produces a job vacancy list which is distributed to all staff. Originally the vacancy list carried the slogan, 'Leeds City Council is an equal opportunity employer'. They then changed it to read, 'Striving to be an equal opportunity employer'. Recently the slogan was changed again to read, 'Working towards equality of opportunity'. After 15 years of Labour control with a majority of over 30 they are no clearer in defining their commitment to equal opportunities.
In April of last year Anthony Backley was a temporary member of staff working on the switchboard in the council's environment department. Anthony is dyslexic and requires hospital treatment for a damaged vertebra. These facts were known when Anthony was interviewed for the job.
In the six weeks that he worked for the authority, management frequently condemned his handwriting ability, refused him time off for hospital treatment, and paid his wages into the wrong bank account, the result being that he received no wages for four weeks.
The final straw came when management called him into a meeting and gave him the ultimatum--resign or be sacked. Anthony was a member of Unison but was not granted permission to have union representation at this meeting. He was so upset by this treatment that he wrote out his resignation. But Unison advised him to withdraw his resignation.
The council told Unison that the authority does not have an obligation to employ Anthony and that management was not prepared to rescind his notice.
However, following a meeting, the council equal opportunity office put forward the modest and pathetic proposal that Anthony be employed for one further week before terminating his employment. But this was rejected out of hand by management. A meeting was then arranged between Unison and a councillor. All the councillor could say was that he would be considered for any job interview in the department for which management thought he would be suitable.
Anthony is still unemployed. As socialists we welcome the election of Labour councils and the creation of equal opportunities departments, but in the face of intimidatory management both were shown to be toothless in the fight to reinstate a dyslexic member of staff. The industrial action that was needed never materialised, but the shabby way in which temporary members of staff are treated makes it imperative that they join a trade union and fight to improve their service and conditions.
I am writing in response to Kath Jennings on Gay Pride (June SR). As a socialist and a lesbian, I do not feel that the decision to move Lesbian and Gay Pride away from Brixton 'smacks' of racism.
I attended Pride last year at Brockwell Park and was disturbed at the amount of homophobia openly shown on the streets of Brixton. I am not racist but I support the move. It is one thing to fight homophobia and quite another for lesbians and gay men to be attacked when walking alone through the streets of Brixton at night. Could Kath Jennings explain how gay people having physical confrontations when walking home is a unifying socialist experience?
I do not feel that the dilemma about where Pride should be held represents the crisis at the heart of identity politics.
First and foremost I am a Marxist. I will fight homophobia all the way, and racism, and sexism, and class conflicts, and anti-Semitism--and there are a lot of gay people who feel the same. Just because I stand in unity with other gay people does not mean I do not stand in unity with black people, or the working class.
To read this out of the present situation that the Pride committee has found itself in is extremely reductive.
It is, however, sadly the case that Pride becomes more depoliticised every year, and it is true that certain elements within the gay community seem more concerned with the pink economy than anything else. It seems to me that there is a need to put demonstration back into Pride, and this should be the socialist agenda, rather than highlighting squabbles about where it should be held.
I agree with you that the privatisation of nuclear plants will be a setback (Mike Simons, June SR), but you failed to show why socialists generally have to oppose nuclear energy.
There should be no doubt at all that nuclear energy is one of the most powerful weapons in the hands of the ruling class. It's not enough to oppose privatisation but to agree with state ownership in this case.
Nuclear energy is the most centralised and monopolised kind of energy supply whose owner can affect and rule every bit of our daily life.
Unlike the coal mines, there's no real union activity in this branch of energy because of the high skilled and well paid technicians employed in a nuclear plant. So the owner can be absolutely sure that there will be no resistance from inside the company.
These are the reasons, apart from the ecological threat to humanity, why socialists have to vote for decentralised renewable sources of energy, like wind and solar energy.
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