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'Star' row threatens endangered species

FIRST it was called the Daily Worker, then the Morning Star and now it has re-emerged, if briefly, as The Workers' Morning Star. Yesterday striking journalists at the paper made an uncomradely two-fingered gesture at their management by publishing a samizdat version.

The Morning Star proper has been off the streets for three weeks because of a walkout over the suspension and subsequent dismissal of John Haylett, the editor. Strikers have published two other small A3 substitutes for the Star but yesterday they produced an eight-page tabloid version. Habitual readers will find it ironic that staff introduced the adjective "Workers" into the masthead, given that the Star was always supposed to have been produced for the proletariat by the proletariat. The stoppage threatens the very existence of the last Communist daily in the English-speaking world. Managers and representatives of the National Union of Journalists met yesterday at the Acas conciliation service to try to resolve the dispute. Last weekend Mr Haylett appealed to the paper's management committee, but his attempt to win reinstatement failed.

But the Star's controlling committee put him back on the payroll, which means he will be drawing pounds 10,500 a year, the sum paid to all staff members. Talks yesterday were aimed at drawing up the terms of reference of a special appeals committee and deciding who should sit on it. Mr Haylett has been accused of "gross industrial misconduct", partly for unauthorised use of the office computer system. NUJ members say the charge is "trumped up" and accuse Mary Rosser, chief executive, of nepotism for promoting her son-in-law from deputy editor to editor in place of Mr Haylett.

The conflict began because of clash of personalities but is in danger of escalating into the kind of vicious political war beloved of the left. Management accuses strikers of cosying up to Arthur Scargill and his Socialist Labour Party, while in reply, journalists are levelling an allegation which for a Communist is the final insult. Pickets which attend daily outside the Star's offices in Hackney, east London, say their bosses are becoming too friendly with the Socialist Action group, an organisation associated with Trotsky, or the Great Beelzebub as he is known to orthodox Marxist-Leninists.