Year 2000 No. 72, April 18, 2000

Vladimir Putin Puts the Stress on "New" Russia

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Vladimir Putin Puts the Stress on "New" Russia

UNISON Health Care Service Group Conference:
Debate on the Private Finance Initiative
For Your Reference: Composite Motion F (34&37)


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Blair-Putin Meeting:

Vladimir Putin Puts the Stress on "New" Russia

At least two issues were underlined by the visit of Russian President-Elect Vladimir Putin to Britain, where on Monday he met business leaders, the Prime Minister, and also visited the Queen at Windsor Castle.

One issue is that both Tony Blair and Vladimir Putin regard Britain as a pivotal country in Russia's development of relations with both the United States and with the European Union. The second is the stress of Putin on Russia's efforts to become the "new Russia", to "modernise" its economic processes, to join the community of the "western" nations.

Vladimir Putin is interested in playing second fiddle to no-one, but, as he said in the press conference that he and Tony Blair gave, is "convinced" that "the logic of isolationism" is "absolutely inapplicable to the relations not only between Great Britain and Russia but with Europe". This is a way of saying that he is determined that the aim of US imperialism to isolate and encircle Russia with NATO will not succeed, nor will the aim of the big powers of the European Union to bring the countries of the former Eastern European bloc into their orbit be met passively by Russia.

Aiming remarks at the financial oligarchy when he met "business leaders" on Monday morning, Putin said, "Our main goal is to make the Russian economy attractive for Russian and foreign investment. We will do everything to modernise our economy." Putin is following Tony Blair's lead in his method of "making Russia great again". Boris Yeltsin had come to power by force on the basis of bringing the political system and processes in line with a classical capitalist economy, and concentrating executive power in the hands of the President. Now Putin is utilising this power to bring about a "Third Way" type of economic programme in Russia, and stake a claim in globalisation in this fashion. Again, as he said to the business leaders, Russia's success depends on its partners: "Here I mean you… I believe you with your business acumen can seize the opportunities opening in the New Russia." He went on to say that the state should not dictate to business, tax burdens should be reduced, and ownership of property respected. A past problem had been a lack of political stability "and we are solving this problem very successfully," he said.

Great Russian chauvinism is not at an end, as can be seen by Russia's attempts to crush the independence movement in Chechnya, with which Putin is personally associated, and in his moves to create a stronger union with Belarus and the Ukraine. However, Putin reasons that extricating Russia from its economic crisis must be achieved along the path that Anglo-American imperialism is already embarked on. In this connection, Tony Blair remarked at Monday's press conference that he and Putin "began by discussing the Russian global economy and the plans for the Okinawa Summit [of the G7 countries plus Russia] and the President set out his reform plans, both for promoting enterprise and social solidarity in Russia. There is no doubt at all that he talks our language on reform and I believe form the comments of British business leaders who were with Vladimir Putin this morning that they recognise his commitment to economic reform in Russia."

It could be said that Vladimir Putin's visit to Britain marked a step in his programme to make Russia a major global power.

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Unison Health Care Service Group Conference:

Debate on the Private Finance Initiative

Report by Workers' Weekly Health Group

The debate on PFI, which took place on the final afternoon of Conference, was one of the most important questions conference discussed, yet it took place on afternoon when many delegates had left and where business was being rushed through. Conference passed a composite motion that "condemns the New Labour government for continuing with Tory policy of using the Private Finance Initiative (PFI) to develop NHS services. PFI is back door privatisation." The motion also criticised UNISON's "twin track approach" in that it had a "weakness in leaving branches isolated fighting alone in different times". The motion congratulated UCLH (University College London Hospital) UNISON branch on achieving the "best deal" so far under PFI after the strike there, but the motion reaffirmed "UNISON Health Group Policy and calls on the government to scrap PFI" and to take staff affected "back under NHS control". The Health Service Group Executive amendment was narrowly passed which deleted from the motion the call for "a national bill board campaign alongside national press, radio and TV advertisements". The SGE argument to Conference was that the health sector "could not afford such a campaign". An amendment to develop training courses for stewards on PFI was passed. An amendment that instructed the union to organise a national demonstration against PFI before the end of 2000 was narrowly defeated.

The debate was cut short by time considerations, reducing the time people could speak. Moving the motion for a national demonstration on PFI, a delegate from Leicestershire Health Care Branch, a new delegate speaking for the first time at Conference, said that a national demonstration would end the isolation that health workers feel and provide a focus to link up with public support. She said that this is a battle that the union cannot afford to walk away from.

The delegate from the Service Group Executive spoke in opposition to the amendment saying that a national demonstration was a tactic that needs to be used "sparingly". He said that rather a campaign is needed in local areas to "put pressure on backbench MPs".

A delegate from South Tyneside Health Care Branch said that the important thing was how serious this question was. It was one of the most vital issues that the union faced. He then gave figures on the huge amounts of money that New Labour was guaranteeing in contracted payments to big business under PFI. He said this is what the government is guaranteeing for big business whilst at the same time they cannot guarantee hospital beds for thousands of people. He emphasised "that the whole question being presented to the conference by this motion is that the union should treat the fight for this agenda against the PFI as one of the most important questions in safeguarding and guaranteeing the future of the NHS". He said if we don't fight on this question and raise the whole profile of the union on PFI, this will not be safeguarding and guaranteeing the future of the NHS. He concluded by saying that one of the most shocking aspects of PFI was that it was "guaranteeing that society is geared to paying the rich and this is what we have to call a stop to".

A delegate spoke from Dudley Group of Hospitals, one of the movers of the composite motion. She said, facing the PFI projects at her hospitals, members felt very let down by the union and this government. She said that the hospitals could not function without ancillary staff. She said we should start now by building a national high profile campaign against PFI. She said that in Dudley their branch was arranging a ballot for industrial action against the transfer to the private sector. She urged the union not to put up barriers to their struggle and other branches prepared to fight as had done to UCLH. She said UNISON should campaign to get members already transferred into the private sector back into the NHS.

A delegate from Newcastle City Health, co-mover of the composite motion, said that the PFI was the greatest threat to jobs and our service since the formation of the National Health Service. He said that unless we stand up and fight, the legacy of this Labour government will be the largest privatisation of the NHS since it was introduced by the Labour government back in 1948. He said, that is not a legacy that we should leave to our children. We do need to stand up and fight against it, he declared in conclusion, saying we should pay tribute to Dudley and to UCLH because they are a credit to the union and a credit to the working class.

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For Your Reference:



Motion submitted by Dudley Group of Hospitals and Newcastle City Health Branch

Conference condemns the New Labour government for continuing with the Tory policy of using the Private Finance Initiative to develop NHS services. PFI is back door privatisation.

UNISON’s national strategy of a twin track approach has its weakness in leaving branches isolated and fighting alone at different times. There has been no effective national public campaign that highlights the dangers of PFI in the NHS.

This Conference welcomes the report "The only game in town?", a report on the Cumberland Infirmary Carlisle PFI commissioned by UNISON Northern Region and the Carlisle health branches. It builds on the work already carried out of the Drybum Hospital PFI and once again exposes PFI for the fraudulent uneconomic scheme that it is. There is no economically viable argument for PFI. UNISON must continue its campaign against the use of PFI as the only way of building new hospitals.

Conference congratulates UCLH UNISON in achieving the best deal so far on PFI. Staff who face transfer to the private sector, at least do so with the guarantee of Whitley terms and conditions for the lifetime of the contract. This deal was achieved by having to resort to strike action. This settlement should be the benchmark for those branches still faced with staff transfers. Conference welcomes the decision by the Government in June 1999 that future PFI schemes no longer have to include staff transfers. This is recognition of the fact that PFI is bad for staff but unfortunately does appear to be somewhat of a red herring in that there are no automatic rights of protection for staff. UNISON should ensure that this concession is available to all branches facing PFI.

UNISON needs to build on these successes.

Therefore Conference resolves to:

· Reaffirm UNISON Health Group policy and calls on the government to scrap PFI.

· Call on the government to take any PFI scheme and the staff affected back under NHS control

Instruct the Health Group Executive to:

· Campaign for all staff to remain employees of the NHS

· explore any means to allow those staff transferred to the private sector in PFI deals the opportunity to come back into the NHS.

  • assist all branches facing PFI schemes so that they are able to take advantage of the concession on non transfer of staff.
  • support any democratically decided action within UNISON rules, including strike action by branches in opposition to PFI.
  • organise further national and regional meetings of activists from branches affected by PFI. These meetings are to develop co-ordinated national and regional strategies to step up the fight against PFI.
  • Send a copy of the Carlisle report to all health branches
  • Organise a lobby of Parliament to raise these issues with MPs.
  • develop further campaigning materials which raise the public profile of UNISON'S fight against PFI; in particular a national billboard campaign alongside national press, radio and TV advertisements.


In the final bullet point, delete all after "UNISON'S fight against PFI" and insert full stop.


Insert at the end "Develop training courses for stewards and activists on PFI"


Add at the end: "Instruct the Healthcare Service Group Executive to organise a national demonstration in London before the end of 2000 against privatisations and PFI. If possible this event should be organised jointly with unions and organisations campaigning against privatisation in other areas, such as the London Underground, but if this proves impossible there are sufficient local and regional campaigns against PFI schemes and privatisation in the NHS to build a massive demonstration on that issue alone. Therefore the Service Group Executive must not delay the demonstration or restrict its demands in order to secure collaboration from other groups or unions."

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WDIE No.71, April 17, stated "Zimbabwe … does not have troops in other countries". In fact, at present, and for about the last 20 months, there is a substantial Zimbabwean military presence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. They, along with their counterparts from Angola and Namibia, are there at the request of the government of President Kabila of the DRC.

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