Year 2000 No.15, January 28, 2000

Return the Kidnapped Cuban Boy!

Workers' Daily Internet Edition : Article Index : Discuss

Return the Kidnapped Cuban Boy!

Wandsworth Council Workers Persist in Strike Struggle

Services Hit by Hospital Closure

Immigration and Asylum Act to be Tested in Newham

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Return the Kidnapped Cuban Boy!

Millions of people throughout the world are demanding that Elián González, the six-year-old Cuban child kidnapped in Miami, be returned to his father in Cuba.

Here in Britain, an emergency picket of the US Embassy, Grosvenor Square, is taking place on Saturday, January 29, at 2.00 pm, to call for the boy’s immediate return and ensure that justice is done.

Elián González was taken out of Cuba by his mother without the permission of the child’s father. The mother paid some people who traffic in human beings illegally leaving Cuba. She and all but two adults subsequently died in the dangerous voyage across the Florida Straits and the child miraculously survived. Instead of returning the child to Cuba and his father, the child has become a pawn in the hands of the Cuban-American mafia. President Castro described it as a "flagrant crime of kidnapping by the US authorities". Millions of people in Cuba and throughout the world have demonstrated and are concerned that the boy should be returned to his homeland. Our Party, RCPB(ML), vigorously supports this campaign. The continued detention of Elián González is a dangerous precedent whereby children can be used as political pawns in the attempt by the US to subjugate and destroy an entire people and their state.

The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspect of International Child Abduction (October 25, 1980) established the legal rights and procedures for the prompt return of children who have been wrongfully removed from one country to another, or retained in one country. Many other international conventions as well as bilateral migratory accords between Cuba and the United States have been violated by the child’s abduction by the US. Besides anything else, the virulent anti-Cuba stance of the United States leads it to traffic in human beings, thereby completely discrediting all its actions which are said to defend the highest ideals.

Foreign Secretary Robin Cook has stated that he does not feel the matter is for his concern and that "I will not run my neck into that noose". This is coming from a person who everybody knows staked his claim to an "ethical dimension" in the British government’s foreign policy, while justice demands that Elián should be returned immediately and the US condemned for using the child for political purposes.

WDIE calls on the working class and people to join with the efforts of the people of Cuba and the peoples everywhere to make sure that the kidnapping of children is not used to compel an entire people to surrender, does not succeed as a diabolical weapon along with the barbaric economic, trade and financial blockade in denying a people the right to build the socialist system of their choice.

There must be no more pretexts for delaying the return of Elián González and further harming his emotional and mental health. Not to return the child immediately is to make a mockery of the law and is completely inhuman and only serves to further expose the case as kidnapping for political ends.

Elián Must Be Returned!

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Wandsworth Council Workers Persist in Strike Struggle

Hundreds of council workers took to the streets of Wandsworth on Wednesday in their struggle against the "draconian" and "discriminatory" work back/pay back scheme which Wandsworth Council is seeking to impose on them.

The majority of social services staff took part in the one-day strike, and most of the libraries in Wandsworth were closed and services at St George’s Hospital were reduced. The workers plan to next stage a two-day strike on Wednesday and Thursday next, February 2-3, having held a previous action in November last year. The Council has tried to denigrate the staff and their struggle, saying that "the strike is crumbling". They have tried to divide the workers, and claim that the strikers are isolated and have little support. While the workers in the UNISON union have persisted in the struggle, those in the GMB have accepted the proposals. Under these proposals, staff would have to work back or pay back days off ill over a certain minimum number, and to implement a reduction in annual leave entitlement by three to five days, time which could be "earned back" for low sickness absence. There are also plans to withhold pay rises from workers with an "adverse record" of absence due to illness, and to increase the present probationary period for new staff from six months to nine months.

It is to the credit of all the workers that they have taken a stand in defence of their rights and to safeguard social services, which the Council, in common with an anti-social offensive which is taking place throughout the country, has continued to cut back on. Only last year, the council staff waged a militant struggle against the reduction in social services staff, which was to cause immense difficulties for foster parents as well as other social services. The fact that some workers and not others have felt they have had no choice but to accept the Council’s proposals on this occasion is not the issue. At the very least, it does not mean they feel and think that these proposals are just, and the Council cannot claim that this is the case.

What it does underline is the necessity for workers to build conscious and organised resistance to the anti-social offensive, building their unity around a pro-social programme which stresses the claims of the people as against the claims of the rich, and which demands that investments in social programmes should be increased and not decreased. At the same time, illusions that the electoral political parties of any stripe are going to reverse the direction of the cuts should be dispelled. As Wandsworth Council, a so-called "flagship" Tory council, has itself pointed out, it is the Labour government which has called for local authorities to reduce staff sickness absence by 30% by 2003. The issue is not the manner in which this is being implemented, that is by confrontational means rather than by partnership, but that neither the rights of the workers nor the priority of social programmes is being recognised. In congratulating the Wandsworth workers for persisting in their struggle, we also call upon them and all workers in a similar plight to also envision the kind of society where such struggles against punitive measures are not necessary and where the claims of people on society for their needs are met as of right, and join with all who are struggling against cuts in social services and in defence of their rights in working to bring about such a society.

Article Index


Services Hit by Hospital Closure

Health services in South West London have been badly damaged by the closure of acute services at Queen Mary’s Hospital, Roehampton, according to an independent report published this week.

The report was carried out by London Health Emergency for Wandsworth Council. It found that the "chaotic, brick by brick closure of services at Queen Mary’s since the mid-1990s has had a devastating impact on hospital services" in the area. The effect that removal of key services has had on access to an quality of health services for the people of Putney and Roehampton has been "entirely negative", according to the report. It shows that at each stage in the reduction of services at the hospital, promises have been made but subsequently broken, and warns that there remains a risk that promises to build a "leading edge community hospital" on the Queen Mary’s site will be similarly abandoned.

In addition to the problems resulting from the closure of services at the hospital, it was announced recently that the development of the new community hospital on the site had been delayed until 2004/2005. It has become bound up in the massive financial problems facing the Merton, Sutton and Wandsworth Health Authority. The latest figures show a debt of £20 million, which includes the £3.6 million of special funding to cope with the Queen Mary’s development, which will have to be reinstated if the new community hospital is to be financially viable.

Ambulance, maternity, accident and emergency and "inpatient" services in South West London have been the most severely damaged by the closures of acute services at Queen Mary’s, the report highlights.

The report also explains how the influence of the "unelected and unaccountable" power of the Royal Colleges has led to the implementation of an agenda of the closure of smaller hospitals. The report points out that there is no evidence that concentrating acute services in large hospitals brings any financial or clinical benefits. It is vital that campaigners keep up the pressure for a replacement community hospital, says the report.

Wandsworth Council leader Edward Lister said the report illustrated the need for an urgent rethink of the orthodoxy that has been "driving the move towards bigger and bigger hospitals".

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East London:

Immigration and Asylum Act to be Tested in Newham

In the context of the stepped up racist propaganda which has been aimed at creating hysteria about "illegal immigrants", it has recently been announced that Newham in East London has been selected as the testing ground for a pilot project aimed at giving new powers to immigration officers. Under the government’s Immigration and Asylum Act, which will come into force next month, immigration officers in Newham will for the first time have greater powers to arrest and detain suspects. According to local newspaper reports, immigration officials in Newham will be given powers to raid addresses and search any suspects once they have been arrested. They will also be able to seize and retain documents. Although immigration officers have always had the power of arrest, the police have had to accompany them on house raids when the seizure of suspects was deemed necessary.

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