Year 2000 No. 196, November 17, 2000
Workers' Daily Internet Edition : Article Index :
Further Extending the Scope of PFI in the NHS
Workers Walkout at Postal Centre
Ford Workers Ballot to Save Dagenham
Meeting with Chancellor Schroeder:
Tony Blair Continues Britains Offensive on the EU
The World in Brief
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A couple of weeks after signing the Concordat with the private sector, Health Secretary Alan Milburn announced last Monday a £2.3 billion planned expansion of the Private Finance Initiative in the NHS.
Of course, the direction that the government is taking the NHS is privatisation under another name. But the crux of the matter is not the accusation and counter-accusation about whether this is really "privatisation", or whether the government still retains control of the NHS. The overriding issue is that the government is step by step opening up the provision of health care as a goldmine for the private monopolies. This goes hand in hand with a steady retreat from the principle that the government, as the representative of society, should ensure that the peoples needs for health care are met. These are the facts, and the governments protestations that the trend in the health service is for a "major renewal of the whole of our health service infrastructure" is increasingly exposed as a cover for the schemes to enrich the private enterprises.
Even before the social welfare state went into crisis, the health service was a haven of making fabulous profits by the drug companies. The crisis in the social welfare state was accompanied by the ideological offensive against the peoples claims on society for health care, education and other social programmes. With this neo-liberal agenda itself in crisis, the Labour government has championed the new programmes of public-private partnerships, PFI and the like. All these have the ring of the "Third Way" about them, and represent the needs of the monopolies in the present circumstances.
Thus, extending PFI "beyond the hospital gates", as Alan Milburn put it, is part of the governments attempts to establish a new coherence for the health service, but one based on major PFI deals and increasingly handing over the whole provision of health care to profit-making concerns. It is essential that the challenge to this new direction is deepened and stepped up, with discussion on precisely what new coherence is needed for the health service.
For example, it is quite shameless of the Health Secretary to acknowledge the opposition to PFI, yet ask his critics, "do they want new NHS facilities or not?" And to continue, "If they do, are they prepared to will the means as well as the ends?" But the whole point is that the government is concentrating on privatising the means, while in reality the ends NHS facilities that meet the full needs of the people for health care are considered incidental.
In other words, besides the Concordat under which the government buys expensive private health services, now PFI is to be extended to include GP surgeries, community pharmacies, health centres, and intermediate and long-term care facilities. Is this "patient-centred care" or is it a programme for handing over resources to the rich for private gain?
In Wolverhampton, 150 Postal workers have struck work. They took lightning action yesterday morning after the dismissal of a postwoman.
She was sacked after management invoked disciplinary procedures, which are supposed to deal with sick absence. Workers are insistent that their fellow worker was not treated fairly.
Postal workers voted to continue with unofficial strike action after unions met management for talks. Workers have won a partial victory after the woman was re-instated but only under conditions of appeal.
Workers have fought for fair disciplinary procedures and agreements but employers often jump over important stages. They do this to maintain the capitalist "right" to hire and fire whenever they please. Workers will only enjoy genuine employment rights when there is a system in place where workers have collective rights established by dint of them simply being workers. The working class must organise to make this kind of system a reality.
Ford workers throughout the Dagenham estate balloted yesterday on industrial action to save the assembly plant from closure. The result is due within a fortnight.
Mass meetings yesterday involved engineers, supervisors, office staff and the shop floor workers.
The fight to keep Dagenham open would be a significant fight for the working class. It would be a fight against the programme of globalisation of all the car monopolies. It would also be a struggle in opposition to the stand of the Labour government, which is to act on behalf of the monopolists in their programme to make the maximum capitalist profit, irrespective of human cost, and to come under the sway of the international financial oligarchy.
As such, a fight by Ford Dagenham workers would regain ground for the whole working class which the bourgeoisie is otherwise occupying.
WDIE will be with the Ford workers every inch of the way should they decide to stand their ground.
Meeting with Chancellor Schroeder:
Tony Blair is continuing with the governments strategy of going on the offensive over the EU in the run-up to the EU Intergovernmental Conference Summit in Nice on December 7-8.
Yesterday he held three hours of talks with the German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder. The Nice Summit will discuss new EU arrangements in line with plans to expand the bloc to take in Central and Eastern European states. At stake are voting rights in the EU and the right of individual countries to veto European-wide measures in such areas as tax and social security.
On Tuesday, Tony Blair had entertained the Finnish Prime Minister Paavo Liponnen, and had talked with French President Jacques Chirac by video link on Monday. Last month he visited Spain for discussions with Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar.
Last Monday, both Tony Blair and Robin Cook had given speeches setting out the British bourgeoisies vision of its leading role in a strengthened EU bloc.
November 13-24 NETHERLANDS: UN World Conference on Climate Change takes place in The Hague to decide mechanisms for measuring whether countries are observing agreements to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions and how to punish those that are not.
November 15-23 ETHIOPIA: Global Economic Developments and Prospects for Africa conference in Addis Ababa
November 17-18 PANAMA: The 10th Ibero-American Summit takes place. Fourteen heads of state including Argentina, Cuba, Venezuela, Peru and Ecuador have confirmed their attendance.
November 17-21 GERMANY: Representatives from all NATO countries, the Western European Union, the OSCE and the European Parliament and Russia attend a session of NATOs Parliamentary Assembly in Berlin.
November 20-21 RUSSIA: Tony Blair visits Moscow. Scheduled to hold talks with President Putin and other top officials on bilateral and international issues.
November 24-25 SINGAPORE: ASEAN plus three summit takes place. Attended by south Korean President Kim Dae Jung, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori and Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji.
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