Monday, February 28, 2011

Twenty Years Ago... the New Worker

Hundreds of thousands of people are taking to the streets throughout Europe against the Gulf War. In Czechoslovakia information is only now beginning to filter through the dense wall of official censorship.

The state mass media, reflecting unquestioning government support for the “American ally” churn out American war propaganda day and night, continuously reminding the public of the divine mission of the “Allied” troops in their crusade against the Iraqi “evil”.

Speculation has now begun to appear over the actual purpose of the 200-strong Czechoslovak army unit to the Gulf for active service. Despite government claims to the contrary, this was tantamount to a declaration of war against Iraq, a strange act for a regime that claims to oppose the use of violence for solving political disputes.

Poverty pay among Britain’s farm workers is increasing. The wage gap between farm and factory is widening.

Farm workers will lobby their wage negotiators and MPs on Tuesday 12 March to demand a £180 a week basic rate and a reduction in the working week from 40 to 35 hours.

The employers claim that times are hard and say the proposed cuts in farm support make it impossible to increase wages.

The big farmers can afford to pay decent wages says the agricultural workers section of the Transport and General Workers Union.

The big farmers are getting richer – output and efficiency are up and land values have increased. Labour costs are low, compared with machinery, pesticides and fertilisers. The loss of jobs on the land is keeping the wage bill relatively low.

The wage demand is no threat to hard-pressed small farmers and can only lift the standard of living in rural areas.

The claim is on behalf of full-time hired workers, the main type of farm worker in England and Wales.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Twenty Years Ago... the New Worker

The newly privatised water and electricity industries are about to introduce sharp increases in their charges.

Rises in water bills will average just over 15 per cent while electricity bills will rise by 13 per cent.

But big industrial users of electricity could face 25 per cent rises because Energy Secretary George Wakeham has refused to extend a deal for cheap power.

He claimed it would be uncompetitive and breach European Community rules.

Among those worse hit will be steel and chemical companies already hit by the recession.

The Government chose the image of Frankenstein to sell shares as they privatised the electricity industry.

Now it seems their monster creation will be holding industrial and domestic users to ransom.

The electricity companies are planning their rise based on a formula that allows them to charge the rate of inflation – and they are taking last October’s figure of 10.9 per cent – plus a certain percentage.

Russian deputy premier, Gennady Filshin, has been forced to resign following charges that he was involved in large-scale currency deals.

Filshin was associated with the British businessman who has been held on suspicion of fraud. The scandal erupted after it was said that the withdrawal of 50 and 100 rouble notes was rushed to prevent a speculative coup led by western banks with the ultimate intention of ruining the government.

Filshin insists he was hoping to revive Russian industry, but his enemies say his plans would have simply striped Russia of all its assets.

The Government of the Russian Federation is led by Yeltsin’s anti-communist Democratic Russia bloc and Filshin’s departure is seen as a victory for the communist fightback.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Twenty Years ago... the NEW WORKER

Thirty nine weeks after being sacked 79 Midlands workers marched triumphantly back into their factory, having won their dispute. The predominantly Asian workforce of Hayes Shellcast at Wye, West Midlands were fired when they refused to sign new contracts and to accept cuts in pay and conditions. Macho management failed. The workers’ stand forced the company into receivership. The Transport and General Workers’ Union has negotiated an agreement with the new Company, which includes trade union recognition, re-employment for the sacked workers and a wage deal. The dispute began last May when Shellcast sacked the entire workforce of 130 after they took strike action to stop a wage cut of up to £130 a week. The management proposed the wage cuts in anticipation of the recession. Previous redundancies and productivity agreements had made the wage cuts even more unacceptable. Hayes Shellcast makes castings for the heavy motor industry and was profitable until it provoked the strike.

The direct hit on a Baghdad air raid shelter last Wednesday killed hundreds of Iraqi civilians thought to be mainly women and children. Eyewitness reports said the bodies recovered had been burned without recognition - the bombs had caused the shelter to burst into flames. According to the American news network (CNN) correspondent Peter Arnett the shelter, built during the Iraq/Iran war, had been used a great deal since the coalition round-the-clock bombing began on January 17. Alan Little, a BBC correspondent reported that the blazing shelter could not be doused as Baghdad now has neither the water or pumping facilities to cope with such a fire. News of the carnage was reported just a day after senior military spokespersons had been at pains to reassure us every possible care is being taken to avoid civilian casualties.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Twenty Years Ago... the New Worker

THE RATE of job losses throughout Britain accelerated sharply last week with a number of big employers announcing savage job cuts, amounting to nearly 116,000 jobs lost or threatened.
On Thursday came news of the collapse of the John Lewis chain of retail stores. The firm was founded in 1856 by David Lewis and has large department stores throughout the country.
Then came the news that Brel, the engineering division of British Rail now owned by the Trafalgar House construction and shipping group, is to cut 1,200 train-building jobs.
On the same day, called Black Friday by Jimmy Knapp, London Underground announced 1,000 job cuts.
Still on Black Friday, Federal Express, the International delivery group, announced 1,850 job losses. Three of the group's British distribution centres are to close: in Norwich, Alfreton and Exeter.
By the next day British Airways announced it is considering cutting between 3,000 and 5,000 jobs, up to 10 per cent of the total workforce.


THE AFRICAN National Congress called on western governments "not to be too hasty" in calling off sanctions on South Africa following the regime's decision to scrap many of the racist laws.
President F W de Klerk's declaration to scrap the Group Areas Act, which segregates residential areas; the Land Act, which segregates farming and rural land and the Population Registration Act, which classifies people by race has been welcomed by the ANC. As has been the publication of the Manifesto for a New South Africa, which will provide the climate for the writing of a new constitution.
But the ANC rejected de Klerk's proposal for the "integration" of the ANC into the existing state structure. Their demand is as before, for an interim government and an elected constituent assembly to draw up a new constitution, which must be based on one person, one vote.