Alan Gibson

Irish nurses picket for pay

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Around 35,000 Irish health workers walked out of and picketed hospitals and clinics across the republic at the end of last month over pay and conditions.

Nurses and midwives are demanding a 12 percent increase in pay and improved conditions in a programme of action set to last two weeks.

In response, the Irish prime minister, Leo Varadkar, has claimed spending on Brexit preparations prevents him from ceding to their demands.

The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation says its members are working longer hours and receiving less pay than than they were in 2008.

Yellow Vests up the stakes

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A general strike of French trade unionists alongside further Yellow Vest protests at the beginning of February was set to up the pressure on president Emmanuel Macron to stop expenditure cuts, privatisation and a tax system weighted against the poor.

The continuing movement is also demanding significant wage increases and the right to protest without the fear of police violence; a factor that has seen, since the movement began last November, the police badly injure more than 2,000 protesters.

Tories can’t square the circle of Brexit

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The front cover of September’s Socialist Review asked, “Are the Tories heading for the rocks?” This month came the answer: a resounding yes.

While Theresa May seems to have seen off the initial rebellion against her draft withdrawal treaty from the EU, the Tories’ decades-long row over Britain’s membership of the EU could blow up at any time over the next few weeks, toppling May and crippling the government.

Labour should take a lead against Tories

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A general election now is the best response to the Tories’ crisis, so it’s unfortunate that Jeremy Corbyn and his close allies did not clearly make that call as soon as Theresa May delivered the draft treaty.

They are entangled in a row with Labour Party right wingers and many of the country’s major trade union leaders about the EU, and the call for a “people’s vote”.

However, John McDonnell did go on to call for a general election, and socialists must get behind that call and campaign to oust the Tories.

Nae Pasaran!

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This is an inspiring documentary about one of the high points of Scottish trade unionism. It follows four former Rolls Royce engineers who, in 1974, some six months after Pinochet’s bloody coup against the Allende government in Chile, led a campaign to “black” — stop all maintenance work — on the engines of Hawker Hunter jets flown by the Chilean air force.

Four engines ended up in crates at the back of Rolls Royce’s plant in East Kilbride for four years before they mysteriously disappeared.

Labour must hold the line against pro-remain centre

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Pressure is building on Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party leadership to agree to backing a second referendum on Britain leaving the EU. Several trade unions, including the GMB, are either balloting members over the issue or preparing to take motions to this month’s TUC conference in Manchester calling for Labour to adopt the policy.

In an email sent to GMB members, the general secretary, Tim Roache, wrote: “GMB wants to hear from members about your views on Brexit, and whether you think there should be a public vote when we know what the deal looks like.”

Who we are and how we got here

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We are all profoundly mixed up genetically, and our ancestors were always moving. These are just two of the discoveries that David Reich presents in this exciting book about the ancient DNA revolution.

Reich starts by explaining how rapidly analysis into ancient DNA has developed. Since 2001, when the human genome was sequenced for the first time, research has ballooned as costs have diminished and automation has mushroomed.

A Party With Socialists in it

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With the Labour Party’s swelling membership amid continuing tensions between the Labour’s left and right wings, a book that addresses the fortunes of socialists in the party could not be more timely. Simon Hannah has provided a good summary of their rises and falls, going back to the creation of the Independent Labour Party (ILP) in 1893, the formation of the Labour Representation Committee (LRC) seven years later, through to the rise of Jeremy Corbyn and ensuing battles with the party’s right wing.

Brexit: limited options

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The process of negotiating Britain’s exit from the European Union is getting no easier for the Tories as time goes on. Alan Gibson looks at the perpetual backing-down Theresa May and her ministers are being forced into, as well as the considerable pressures bearing down on Corbyn.

The government’s Brexit secretary David Davis hailed the transition deal signed with the EU’s Michel Barnier in March as a major breakthrough. But it didn’t come without the Tories backing down from a series of positions and promises it had made about what would be acceptable.

As the Financial Time said, “Monday’s announcement showed that the EU, without a great deal of cunning, had managed to call multiple bluffs from Brexiters about the transition period.”

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