Year 2000 No. 156, September 21, 2000
Workers' Daily Internet Edition : Article Index :
British and Swedish Governments Champion EU Enlargement
Scottish Council Workers Continue Strike Action
Goodyear Threatens Pay Cuts
Dudley Hospital Workers Step Up Actions Again
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An article entitled Reaching Out to All Europe, jointly written by Tony Blair and the Prime Minister of Sweden, Goran Persson, is published in the Financial Times today.
The article is a further attempt by both governments to champion the enlargement of the EU and urges an early target date for the entry of new members At the present time there are thirteen countries seeking membership of an enlarged EU: Turkey, Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Slovenia, Bulgaria, Latvia, Romania, Lithuania, Slovakia, Cyprus and Malta. Six countries began negotiations to join the EU in 1998 and these countries are expected to be ready for membership by 2003. Six other countries began negotiations for membership in February 2000 and it has now been agreed that they should also be ready for admission by 2003. Each applicant has to fulfil conditions for membership the so-called Copenhagen Criteria, which amongst other things demand that new members must reach certain standards reflecting the neo-liberal values of the big capitalist powers.
According to the Financial Times article, Britain and Sweden are not just championing a speeding up of the enlargement process, but using the prospect of enlargement to demand that the next EU Inter-Governmental Conference in December reaches agreement on reform of the Common Agricultural Policy and institutional reforms in the European Council and Commission. Britain and Sweden are also urging that those applying for membership should be included in the negotiations on reforms and in discussions on longer term reforms designed to make Europe the world's most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy by 2010.
The British and Swedish governments are pledged to work together to promote what they refer to as a reformed and modernised Europe - neither a superstate nor just a free-trade area, but an open community of democracies based on the rule of law and values of liberty, openness and social justice, acting together to promote common interests. According to their vision this will be a Europe of equals but it is already clear that membership is only open to those countries that accept the neo-liberal values of Britain and the big capitalist powers in Europe, who are already contending for influence throughout the countries of central, southern and eastern Europe, and interfering in the internal life of these countries under the guise of championing their interests.
The fact is that the enlargement of the EU, the Europe of the monopolies, and the joint article by the governments of Britain and Sweden can only be seen in the context of the geo-political rivalry between all the big powers in the aftermath of the collapse of the Soviet Union and the bi-polar division of the world. The enlargement of the EU is only to the advantage of the monopolies of Britain and the biggest powers in Europe, which view eastward expansion as a vital part of their plans for global hegemony and as a necessary pre-condition for expansion in Asia and elsewhere. It is clear that the big European powers are already squabbling over which countries should dominate the EU, on the one hand, while they continue their contention with the US over who should dominate Europe as a whole. This rivalry, rather than ushering in an era of alleged peace and democracy and stability and prosperity has led to greater polarization between rich and poor throughout Europe, and greater rivalry between the big powers, bringing the prospect of war even closer.
On Wednesday, 70,000 council workers in Scotland took part in the second one-day strike. The first one day strike took place on August 29. The industrial action is continuing across Scotland's 32 local authorities in the face of the refusal of the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (Cosla) to increase the current pay offer of 2.5% and according to reports the strength of feeling is growing.
The industrial action led to the closure of hundreds of schools, as well as council offices, Libraries, Leisure facilities and disrupted bin collections and other services. But whilst the strike affected some services for children and the elderly the services to the most vulnerable were maintained by council workers and the union involved. UNISON the union leading the actions organised a rally in Princess Street Gardens in Edinburgh. A feature of the strike is its unity in that although thousands of council workers are in other unions that voted against striking their members have refused to cross picket lines. The current 2.5% pay offer is below inflation and less than that offered to council workers in England and Wales in their settlement.
The Union has arranged a meeting with Cosla on Friday and has already planned a third one day strike for October 11. The action by Scottish council workers shows their unity and perseverance in defense of their livelihoods. It is not only a just struggle but it is also bound to give rise to the question of how to defeat the anti-social offensive and how society should be organised to find a way out of the crisis.
Workers at Goodyear have been threatened with redundancy by the US multinational tyre company.
Goodyear is one of the West Midlands region's biggest private employers and is cutting back at its huge plant in Wolverhampton. An effort is being made to extract even more surplus value from workers by increasing productivity. Competition is great in a market that has already claimed jobs at Dunlop in Birmingham.
In order to obtain maximum profits, workers have been told that they must accept an initial 10% pay cut and a change to their shift patterns. The 2,000 strong workforce could also face 90 days notice of the firm's intention to cancel existing contracts.
The finger has to be pointed at the capitalist system of production, which cannot guarantee a future for workers. Overproduction in all branches of car manufacture has already threatened many workers. Anarchy always rules in the capitalist market causing chaos.
Workers cannot accept that their future remains under an economic system where exploitation and unemployment are a permanent threat. The working class must lead the way for a complete change in the way production is planned and organised. The question remains for consideration, "What kind of economic system do we want?"
West Midlands Correspondent.
Non medical staff in the Dudley Group of Hospitals in the NHS Trust are once more striking and picketing their hospitals. Their latest action coincides with a petition of the community, which they are going to hand to the Government.
There has been huge local support for the struggle of the workers against "The Summit" consortium's bid to privatise ancillary work. Most people believe in a fully funded National Health Service and are against the Private Finance Initiative (PFI).
On Saturday, 23rd September at Corbett Hospital, Stourbridge, West Midlands the workers are organising another demonstration in order to build up support for their actions. The profile of the struggle has been raised again by Rodney Bickerstaffe who brought up the issue in the TUC.
The Dudley workers' strike and political campaign has to be recognised by all workers as their struggle too. Support is growing and has to be stepped up nationally and internationally.
West Midlands Correspondent.
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