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Year 2005 No. 31, February 25, 2005 ARCHIVE HOME JBBOOKS SUBSCRIBE

The Greatest Supporter of Bush’s "Alliance of Freedom"

Workers' Daily Internet Edition: Article Index :

The Greatest Supporter of Bush’s "Alliance of Freedom"

Further Education Lecturers Stage One-Day Strike

Cost of NHS Contracts Supports Paying the Rich

Africa is "Propping up the National Health Service"

Workers' Memorial Day – April 28, 2005

TUC General Council to Step Up Public Sector Pensions Campaign

Germany:
Monopolies Attack Labour and the Post-War Social Contract

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The Greatest Supporter of Bush’s "Alliance of Freedom"

Following his breakfast meeting with the US president on Tuesday morning, Tony Blair was full of praise for George W Bush and for the speech he delivered in Brussels on Monday. According to the Prime Minister, "what it (the speech) sets out is a very clear way forward for us now. Whatever the differences in the international community have been over the past couple of years," in Blair’s opinion, "we have a really solid basis now for going forward in a unified way. And if we take that opportunity," the Prime Minister added, "it will be greatly for the benefit of the international community."

Bush’s keynote speech in Brussels was billed as the centrepiece of his fence mending tour of Europe, in the wake of the differences that have emerged between the big powers over Iraq and other issues. It contained many references to the "democratic values" that allegedly unite Europe and the US, and that the US and Britain demand must be imposed all over the world and particularly at this time in the Middle East. But what was noticeable about the speech was that in addition to threatening Iran and Syria and issuing warnings to all "Arab states", including Egypt and Saudi Arabia, to "show the way toward democracy", Bush also took the opportunity to warn Russia, a country whose future he argued "lies within the family of Europe", that it too must "renew its commitment to democracy and the rule of law". According to the US president, Russia is not yet "democratic" enough, compared to its neighbours such as Georgia and Ukraine, countries which Bush felt were now firmly in the "camp of freedom". Therefore the only way in which Bush’s speech could be seen as the basis for any unity would be if all countries accepted the Bush doctrine and the US diktat without question. This is clearly already taken for granted as far as the Britain’s Prime Minister is concerned.

For Tony Blair, as for the US president, the crimes committed in Iraq and Afghanistan can be justified, since what are referred to as "democratic elections" have now been held, even if international law does not recognise their legitimacy. The Labour government now prides itself on being the most faithful and subservient ally of US imperialism, and appears to have relinquished the pretence of exerting any influence over Washington. The "mission" which the US has taken upon itself, to export "democracy" throughout the world, is to be a burden fully shared by Tony Blair and the British government.

The Issue of Palestine

In his speech, Bush placed particular emphasis on the US government’s approach to the question of Palestine, prompting Tony Blair to comment that the president had "set out very clearly a way forward on the Middle East peace process". The US government is presenting a resolution of this question as providing solutions to many of the problems facing them and the other big powers throughout the region. It is in this context that the British government is hosting the Conference on Supporting the Palestinian Authority, which will take place in London on March 1.

The London Conference will be chaired by Tony Blair and the Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, and attended by representatives from the Palestinian Authority, and the so-called Quartet, (the UN, the US, the EU and Russia) as well as from the G8. The title of the conference is entirely misleading, since far from supporting the Palestinian Authority, the aim is to impose the values of the big powers on the embryonic Palestinian state, with regard to government institutions, security apparatus and economic development. Indeed as Bush explained in his Brussels speech, "as Palestinian leaders assume responsibility for Gaza and increasingly larger territory, we will help them build the economic and political and security institutions needed to govern effectively".

Just as in Afghanistan and Iraq, the US and British governments aim to determine the future of the new Palestinian state too; to dictate the nature of the political system and the economy according to their Eurocentric values and in the economic and geo-political interests of the monopolies and financial institutions, rather than in the interests of the heroic people of that region. In this criminal endeavour, the Labour government of Tony Blair is showing itself to be the most zealous ally of US imperialism and the greatest supporter of Bush’s "alliance of freedom".

Article Index



Further Education Lecturers Stage One-Day Strike

Lecturers at 47 further education colleges across England staged a one-day strike on Thursday, February 24, in protest at the failure of their employers to implement in full the two-year pay deal agreed in the summer of 2003 between the lecturers' union NATFHE and the Association of Colleges, representing the employers. Strike action is expected at another five colleges on Tuesday, March 1.

In fact, balloting for strike action took place at 75 of England's 280 colleges of further education but action was suspended at 21 of the colleges after the management of those colleges either entered into talks on the implementation of the pay deal or agreed to implement it. The deal – which envisaged a 3% pay increase in August 2003 followed by a further 3% in August 2004 coupled with the introduction of a new 8-point pay scale to replace the existing 14-point scale – was won following sustained action aimed at gaining parity with school teachers carried out by FE college lecturers in 2002 and 2003. The new scales would give lecturers a starting salary of £20,283 and a maximum salary of £30,705 and allow for more rapid progression up the scale.

Barry Lovejoy, NATFHE's representative for further education colleges, stated, "Just the threat of strike action has produced great dividends – 35% of colleges have now come up with goods. But there are still 47 colleges that have failed to reach settlement with their NATFHE branches. At those colleges, lecturers feel more under-valued and demoralised than ever. That's why they have resorted to strike action. If those colleges do not cough up, Thursday's walk-out could be the first in an escalating programme of industrial action by their lecturers."

WDIE interviewed a lecturer on a picket line at one of London's colleges. He has worked in further education for the last five years and teaches practical maths skills to 16 – 19 year-olds.

WDIE: Why have you come out on strike today?
Lecturer: First, a national agreement has been broken by the employers; and secondly the inequality between further education and the schools needs to be addressed. Unless this is done, further education, which is vital in improving the educational provision for 16 -18 year-olds will suffer.

WDIE: The colleges claim that they haven't got the money to fund the full implementation of the agreement. What do you think of this?
Lecturer: The government says that the finances have been delivered to implement the agreement so there is suspicion that in those colleges which haven't implemented the deal the funds have been diverted. If this is so, this is wrong because it is teaching which is the key activity and which needs to be properly funded.

WDIE: In relation to the present situation, the government is proposing changing the retirement age for lecturers, along with other public sector workers, from 60 to 65. How do you think lecturers should respond to this?
Lecturer: There should be genuine concern at these changes to time honoured working conditions. It could be argued that in education and other caring professions there is an in-built gender bias because the majority of workers in these sectors are women. So the authorities believe that this is a trapped body of workers who can be paid at a lower rate. By raising the retirement age, women will be put on a gender par with their male counterparts in terms of retirement age but without earning equivalent pay. Overall, lecturers must be very aware of these developments and fight for an increase in our salaries. The level of salary will have an impact on the recruitment of new lecturers and this is important because we not only contribute to the individual development of our learners, we also contribute through this to the country's economy. In fact, we are making an important contribution to the country's future.

WDIE: What do you think of the idea of college lecturers putting forward their colleagues as candidates in the next general election so as to have their views and interests politically represented?
Lecturer: You cannot have a democratic society with one, two or three dominant political parties. It is essential that opposition come from outside of these parties to express the views of different individuals and groups in society. Democracy can only function in a society where everyone can express their views and it is important that people stand.

WDIE: Thank you.

Article Index



Cost of NHS Contracts Supports Paying the Rich

The fraud of increasing funding to the NHS is perpetuated by the New Labour government. Statistics upon statistics are stuffed down the throats of the polity by the monopoly-controlled media, particularly as we approach the General Election. What is becoming increasingly obvious to those at the "coal face" of the NHS, those that work in it, is that the figures do not support the reality of funding. Investment is not meeting the actual requirements demanded on the wards.

   The civil engineering contractor Carillion, for example, was said to have invested £13 million into Darent Valley Hospital, the first hospital built under a Private Finance Initiative (PFI) scheme. Within three years of it coming into operation, they have taken out £37 million in windfall profits already. Now the projection is to take a further £51 million from the government/private deal over its 35 year life, that is 60% higher than they had first expected with a 56% internal rate of return.

   The National Audit Office has said that Carillion has made most of this money so far by selling its shares in Derwent Valley to Barclays Bank. Most of the projected return in future will come from the refinancing deal, part of which has lengthened the contract from 28 to 35 years.

   Another aspect of the deal makes the NHS trust face bigger liabilities in the event of any failures. These PFI schemes ensure that borrowing is also from the private sector instead of the government, the interest rates are higher and the loans will have to be paid from public funds for decades to come adding to the NHS running costs. These schemes should be halted and society needs to stop paying the rich and increase investment in social programmes.

Article Index



Africa is "Propping up the National Health Service"

Nurses and doctors from across the developing world are migrating to Britain to fill vacancies in the NHS due to Britain’s shortage of skilled health professionals, the organisation Save the Children reports.

This is contributing to the collapse of health systems particularly in sub-Saharan Africa where the escalating HIV/Aids crisis, high rates of child mortality, malnutrition, disease and other symptoms of poverty further blight the continent.

Save the Children Director General Mike Aaronson says, "It is shameful that many poor countries are spending millions of pounds training nurses and doctors to prop up the UK’s National Health Service."

The number of overseas doctors and nurses working in the NHS has increased dramatically in recent years. While these health professionals have the right to migrate and make a valuable contribution to the NHS, the health services they come from are being undermined and children are unable to access healthcare in some of the poorest countries around the world.

The new research concentrates on Ghana, where one child in ten dies before the age of five. The Ghanaian government is making substantial efforts to improve health care but there is a rising shortage of health care professionals as the system suffers from migration to Britain and other developed countries.

It is estimated that Britain has saved £65 million in training costs by recruiting nurses trained in Ghana and the services delivered by Ghanaian nurses and doctors in Britain are valued at £39 million per year.

The British government has attempted to address the problem by implementing a code of practice for the NHS barring it from actively recruiting staff in developing countries, says Save the Children. However, the code of practice does not, nor should it, prevent health professionals from volunteering to work in Britain. The code of practice does not address the key issues underlying migration such as collapsing health systems, low pay and short supplies of drugs. This is why alternative policies for rebuilding health systems in very poor countries must be sought.

Article Index



Workers' Memorial Day – April 28, 2005

This year's Workers' Memorial Day theme, as defined by the TUC, is "Employer Accountability". When all those who are responsible for workers health and safety are truly held to account, the TUC says, there will be a significant improvement in the work-life and health of workers.

The purpose behind Workers' Memorial Day is to "remember the dead: fight for the living" and unions are being asked to focus on both areas, by considering memorials to all those killed through work but at the same time ensuring that such tragedies are not repeated.

 

National Events

Unison has produced a poster for the day and is encouraging branches to organise local events.

London

There is to be a gathering outside City Hall. Speakers will include the Mayor of London, and the gathering will be followed by reception inside in London's Living Room (the observation deck at City Hall). Timings are 1.00 pm for the rally and 1.30 – 2.30 pm for the reception.

Article Index



TUC General Council to Step Up Public Sector Pensions Campaign

The TUC General Council on Wednesday expressed their determination to step up their campaign for decent pensions for everyone, including defending fair pensions for Britain’s public servants.

The General Council welcomed the successful national day of action held on February 18 to raise awareness among MPs and the public of the anger and resentment felt by public service workers at the Government’s intention to impose an increase in the normal retirement age for most public sector workers and they expressed support for unions that are consulting members on possible industrial action.

TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said: "The Government should drop its insistence that increases in the retirement age are non-negotiable and enable genuine negotiations to take place on every aspect of their proposals right across the public services.

"Much can be done to meet the shared objective of creating sustainable public sector pensions through promoting, on a voluntary basis, choice and flexibility around the retirement age and implementation of best practice in the treatment of older workers across the public sector."

Article Index



Germany:

Monopolies Attack Labour and the Post-War Social Contract

The German Federal Labour Office in Nuremberg has released statistics showing unemployment in the country has exceeded 5 million for the first time since the 1930s depression. Compared with January 2004, the jobless total rose 573,000 month-on-month to 5.037 million.

"Naturally this is a horrendous figure but I warn all those with responsibility against falling into shock," Economy and Labour Minister Wolfgang Clement said. "Quite apart from these hysterical and sometimes absurd comparisons [with the period just prior to the Hitlerite Third Reich], the figures reflect what has been reality in the Federal Republic for years."

The German unemployed represented 12.1 per cent of the working population in January. Gerhard Schroeder, the current German SPD (social democrat) Chancellor, was first elected in 1998, partly on a pledge to halve unemployment from the then 4 million. 

"With the figures apparently the worst we've seen in the post-war period, these numbers are very charged politically," said Christian Jasperneite, an economist with MM Warburg.

Recent SPD anti-social labour market reforms and attacks on social programs were deeply unpopular within the SPD party, prompting summer street protests and the founding of a breakaway party. Die Welt newspaper said the SPD lost 6.9 per cent of its members last year.

Chancellor Schroeder insists the post-war social contract is dead and among other things plans extensive deregulation of business and the labour market to weaken the labour movement, emasculate contracted agreements between labour and capital, and cut back social programs. An aspect of the anti-social reforms is to blame the labour movement generally for unemployment and unemployed individuals for their particular plight. Using extensive ideological pressure the government is organising the dismantling of social programs under the fascist "fend for yourself" doctrine.

German manufacturing monopolies, including industrial giant Siemens AG, shed jobs in January at the fastest rate in 14 months, according to a recent survey. In early February, the fourth-biggest building firm, Walter Bau, which employs 9,000 people, filed for insolvency. Also, data showed retail sales fell 0.3 per cent month-on-month in real terms in December, and 2.7 per cent from a year earlier.

The head of Germany's association of largest monopolies, Dieter Hundt, said on ZDF television, "Politicians must go further to improve the situation for business. Schroeder's labour market reforms and welfare-state trims are only a start – more must happen.''

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