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Year 2000 No. 161, September 28, 2000 Archive Search Home Page

Militant Protests Against IMF/World Bank Summit in Prague

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Militant Protests Against IMF/World Bank Summit in Prague

Women Amongst Lowest Paid

Euro Affects Local Health Service

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Militant Protests Against IMF/World Bank Summit in Prague

The annual World Bank and International Monetary Fund summit taking place in Prague has hastily concluded following militant demonstrations by thousands of protestors opposed to globalisation.

The protest took place in opposition to the 55th Annual Meeting of the World Bank Group and the Board of Governors of the International Monetary Fund, the first event of its kind to take place in Central Europe. According to news agency reports, on Tuesday 9,000 demonstrators from all over Europe had managed to surround Prague’s Congress Centre in an attempt to prevent the summit from taking place. The Czech Republic mobilised over 11,000 police in order to guard those attending the summit and allow it to continue, but it has now been announced that the protests have led to its early conclusion.

A series of other demonstrations have taken place throughout the week, in opposition to globalisation and demanding an end to the great debt burden of the world’s poorest countries. Protestors also organised a Counter-Summit in Prague at which alternatives to globalisation and the policies of the IMF/World Bank were discussed.

The organisations coordinating the protests in Prague, including INPEG (Initiative Against Economic Globalisation) issued the following call on the occasion of the Prague IMF/World Bank summit.

‘On the occasion of the annual general meeting of the governing bodies of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank in the 21st century, we call for the immediate suspension of the policies and practices that have caused widespread poverty, inequality, and suffering among the world's peoples and damage to the world's environment. We assert the responsibility of these anti-democratic institutions, together with the World Trade Organization, for an unjust world economic system. We note that these institutions are controlled by wealthy governments, and that their policies have benefited international private sector financiers, transnational corporations, and corrupt officials.

We issue this call in the name of global justice, in solidarity with the peoples of the Global South and the former "Soviet bloc" countries who struggle for survival and dignity in the face of unjust, imperialistic economic policies. We stand in solidarity too with the millions in the wealthy countries of the Global North who have borne the burden of "globalization" policies and been subjected to policies that mirror those imposed on the South.

Only when the coercive powers of the international financial institutions are rescinded shall governments be accountable first and foremost to the will of their peoples. Only when a system that allocates power chiefly to the wealthiest nations for the purpose of dictating the policies of the poorer ones is reversed shall nations and their peoples be able to forge bonds - economic and otherwise - based on mutual respect and the common needs of the planet and its inhabitants. Only when integrity is restored to economic development, and both the corrupter and the corrupted held accountable, shall the people begin to have confidence in the decisions that affect their communities. Only when the well-being of all, including the most vulnerable people and ecosystems, is given priority over corporate profits shall we achieve genuine sustainable development and create a world of justice, equality, and peace where fundamental human rights, including social and economic rights, can be respected.’

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Women Amongst Lowest Paid

The West Midlands Regional Low Pay Unit has recently released a report showing that a third of women in the area are earning poverty wages. The figures show that 30 percent of women and 14 percent of men are earning less than £4.50 an hour.

The most common workers in the category for women were assessed from jobs that included the most at risk and these were hairdressers, kitchen staff and care workers. Workers in Sandwell are the worst affected with 34 percent of women and 16 percent of men losing out. The area is notoriously filled with bad employers who super-exploit workers inside and outside of the public sector. Other parts of the Black Country include Wolverhampton with 33 percent of women and 14 percent men and the same in Walsall. In Dudley 31 percent of women and 13 percent of men earn less than £4.50.

The survey has highlighted the continued evidence of job insecurity and social disadvantage in the region. The unit has pointed the finger at the government, which has failed to alter the situation with recent employment legislation. 19 percent of employees are still vulnerable to unfair dismissal and up to 20 percent of part-time workers are not getting their four week’s paid holiday entitlements.

The Low Pay Unit’s Research officer, Cameron Russell said, "There is still a lot of deprivation across the region with thousands of people struggling to survive on poverty wages".

The results show the underlying nature of the capitalist economy, which deprives women and all workers of their basic right to a decent standard of living. Despite legislation and the paltry minimum wage, capitalism still has the aim of maximising profits through the ever increasing exploitation of the working class. The gap between rich and poor continues to increase in society and the scandal of low pay remains an enormous travesty of justice. With the pool of low paid increasing in this new millennium it has to represent an indictment of the system that perpetuates the crime. If this is a sign of the direction the political representatives of the rich are intent on taking us, then it has to be said that a pro-people direction for the economy has to be adopted.

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Euro Affects Local Health Service

Already the cost of organising for the Euro is taking its toll in local health service costs. The Euro supposedly hasn’t been accepted yet but the government is taking health authorities through the painful process of conversion. It appears that £90,000 has been the estimated cost of the "Euro switch", money that could be better spent on improving health care. The cost is reportedly going to be taken up by converting Walsall hospitals’ computers, equipment and stationery to cope with the changeover to the Euro.

The costs have been included in a report to health officials at a meeting of the Walsall Hospitals NHS Trust on Wednesday, September 26th. Deputy chief executive, Mike Stevens said that external consultants would be used to convert the computers to Euros and they could be charging around £30,000.

Internal staff time spent on testing and training is expected to be equivalent to around £41,300 over the next three years. The costs are adding to the lucrative profits of contracts and businesses that are bleeding money from the already under- funded NHS. The aspirations of most people are for a fully funded NHS but money wasted on the Euro is not what the people have in mind for the development of the NHS as a treasured social investment programme.

The cost of converting tills, pay phones, vending machines and other equipment, apart from having new stationery printed will be £22,000 at today’s approximations, according to the report.

The changeover is already being discussed as part of the public sector plans, pre-empting a future referendum.

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