Year 2000 No. 41, March 6, 2000

Consolidating European Union as a Military Superpower Is Very Dangerous Development

Workers' Daily Internet Edition : Article Index : Discuss

Consolidating European Union as a Military Superpower Is Very Dangerous Development

Midlands Conference: "Jobs and the Welfare State"

On the Government’s Draft Regulations on Part-Time Workers

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Consolidating European Union as a Military Superpower Is Very Dangerous Development

The plan of the European big powers to consolidate the European Union as a military superpower together with its politico-economic dimensions is a very dangerous development for the European peoples as well as the peoples of the world. Alongside the promotion of so-called "European values" it represents an agenda on behalf of the European monopolies and financial vested interests. This agenda is one for increased competition globally, the utilisation not only of individual states but blocs of states to serve these global interests, and of effectively wiping out any state that does not succumb to these values and agree to integrating their country into this "community of values" and open their nations to the penetration and exploitation of these interests under the banner of so-called "free enterprise".

The British Labour government is playing a leading and extremely reprehensible role in these developments. Not only is it championing European enlargement, but it has also been instrumental in bringing about the "European Security Initiative" in the context of this enlargement, and is providing it with ideological underpinning and is openly saying that these values should be adopted universally. It is extremely active on these fronts, in Europe itself, in the US and throughout the globe. Its policy of "stronger in Europe, stronger in the world" is the agenda it has adopted in its attempts for Britain to emerge as number one. It is significant that George Robertson is now NATO’s Secretary General. He has been telling the world that "the time for a peace dividend is over because there is no permanent peace – in Europe, or elsewhere. If NATO is to do its job of protecting future generations, we can no longer expect to have security on the cheap." It may also be added that while the big powers cannot agree on the next head of the IMF, one candidate that is now being considered is the former Conservative Chancellor Kenneth Clarke.

The British working class has its vital role to play in opposing this dangerous consolidation of the Europe of the monopolies and in condemning and breaking with these "universal values", which are in fact characteristic of Anglo-American domination and chauvinism. While Tony Blair is building these new arrangements with the European powers, he is also attempting to carry out a juggling act with the sections of the financial oligarchy that side with the US, as well as being active in other continents such as Africa in contention with other big powers. For the working class, Tony Blair has formulated a role of "partnership" and is floating all kinds of illusions under the signboard of a middle way, so that the workers are kept quiescent, side with the chauvinist promotion of "British superiority", and do not assert their rights.

The working class recognises that there was never any reality to the promotion of a "People’s Europe" as a model for democracy and the recognition of rights. Such a "People’s Europe" was premised not only on the adoption of the old values, but also on the elimination of the sovereignty of the European peoples, and was in any case impossible due to the rivalry between the European powers. Now more than ever this model is seen as a complete chimera. The only course for the working class is to oppose these dangerous developments in the European Union, the end to all interference and big power blocs and to call for modern sovereign states. Only if the workers of all the European countries are free to go for socialism will democracy and progress be the order of the day. Meanwhile, the workers must develop the movement against the very dangerous strengthening of the EU as a superpower bloc with its own military agenda and armed forces which are a grave threat to the world’s peoples.

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Midlands Conference:

"Jobs and the Welfare State"

The Campaign against Euro-Federalism (CAEF) is convening a conference in Birmingham under the above title. It will take place on Saturday, April 8, from 10.30 am – 4.30 pm. The venue is Carrs Lane Church Centre, Carrs Lane, Birmingham City Centre (near New St Station).

The organisers say that the conference is in support of local campaigns, which they list as those against privatisation of residential homes, against the sale of council housing, against PFI in the NHS and for protection of jobs and better pensions.

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On the Government’s Draft Regulations on Part-Time Workers

The government is due to implement the European Directive on part-time workers in April. It has recently published the draft regulations for its implementation of this Directive.

The TUC has said that it believes that the draft regulations, if unchanged, would not meet European legal requirements and leave the government open to legal challenge of the kind already brought by the TUC on parental leave regulations. It says that only 1 in every 150 part time workers might benefit (45,000 out of Britain’s 6.8 million part timers) according to the government’s own regulatory assessment.

The TUC says that the main problems with the regulations are:

·  They only cover employees (i.e. those with a contract of employment) rather than all workers – the term used in the European Directive.

·  Part timers will only be allowed to compare their jobs with a full timer doing the same job for the same employer. This means that millions of part time workers doing jobs only done by part timers such as catering and cleaning will not benefit.

·  The regulations have been drafted using different legal terms and concepts than those used in existing British law, such as the Sex Discrimination Act and Equal Pay Act. According to the TUC, this will make legal cases more complex and expensive, as lawyers will advise aggrieved part timers to challenge on both part time and sex discrimination grounds.

·  Parts of the Directive – such as protection against dismissal – have simply been left out.

TUC General Secretary John Monks said that the draft regulations are perhaps "the weakest and most disappointing produced by this government. Clearly the order has gone out to make them as weak as possible, and in practice they will make no difference to the vast majority of part timers." He said that the draft regulations clearly show that the government is not on the side of low paid women workers, but would rather listen to the "anti-red-tape brigade".

When the Employment Sub-Committee of the Commons Education and Employment Select Committee was looking in 1998 at the role that part-time workers play in business and how the law covers their rights, they heard evidence from representatives of the supermarkets Sainsbury and Tesco. The representative of Tesco said, "There is a clear economic driver for being able to design a flexible workforce whose main constituent parts will be part timers: hours of opening, the complexity of employing full timers and wanting to employ people when you need them. There is also a clear social driver too: women in the work force, women coming back to work and women having to balance family and working life."

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