New Worker Online Archive
Week of 15th November 1996

1) Lead story - Major fights to keep long hours and low pay.
2) Editorial - Give us a break.
3) Feature -  Mass actions against food imperialism.
4) International news - Israeli army calls for evacuation of Jews in Hebron.
5) British news - Unemployed outrage at false agreement.

1) Lead story

Major fights to keep long hours and low pay

PRIME MINISTER John Major vowed last week he would fight to reverse the European Court
of Justice's decision that Britain had to comply with the 48-hour maximum working week. He
threatened a drawn-out row with the European Union if the ruling was not changed.

 The Tories thought they had got out of having to implement any of the European Union's
social reforms when the British govemment was allowed to sign the Maastricht Treaty without
being bound to the terms of its Social Chapter. But the European Court's ruling was based
not on Europe's social policy but on rules concermng health and safety for workers.

 The govemment's reaction is appalling. The new rules are hardly revolutionary but merely
seek to give workers some measure of protection and legal tights.

The new rules are:
  That workers cannot be compelled to work more than 48 hours a week (calculated over a
four week period). There are a number of jobs that are exempted from this ruling.

 All workers will be entitled to three weeks paid holiday a year, rising to fourweeks in 1999.

 Workers are entitled to a rest period of 11 consecutive hours in every 24-hour period.

In each seven-day period workers are entitled to one rest day.

Where more than six consecutive hours are worked there must be a rest break given.

 Night work must not exceed more than eight out of any 24-hour period.

 Night workers should be able to have free health checks.

 These are the working conditions Mr Major wants to fight against.
 Labour leader Tony Blair said that Labour would accept the directive if the party was elected
at the general election.

 There is of course pressure on Mr Major from the Tory Euro-sceptics to object to what they
regard as interference from Brussels in Britain's intemal affairs. But this is not the main
reason why the Toties are fighting this directive.

 Their overriding concern is to keep what economic pundits call "flexible-labour" as a means
of giving Britain's bosses an edge. That edge is a low-paid labour force which includes many
workers being forced to put in longer and longer hours. Workers are of course under pressure
from the prevailing climate of job insecurity and high unemployment.

 At present Britain Is the only country in the European Union which doesn't have legal holiday
rights and it is estimated that 2.5 million workers, mainly women and part-time workers, get
no paid holiday at all.

 Both the Labour Party and TUC gave a particular welcome to the new rules on holiday

 Directives to the government are one thing, implementation is another. The new rules will
only benefit Britain's overworked and underpaid workers if the strength of the trade unions is
exerted on the employers.

 There is no substitute for increasing trade union membership and united working class
action. There are no short cuts to struggle.


2) Editorial

Give us a break

NEW WORKER readers won't have fallen over in surprise on hearing that John Major
opposes the idea of a maximum 48 hour working week, since we all know whose vested
interests the Tories serve -- the major employers and big business.

 The Tory government is so keen to keep this European Union directive out of Britain that it's
gearing up for a new round of arguments with Brussels and the other member states.

 Not that capitalists in the rest of the EU are any more progressive than those in Britain, nor
are they any more bothered about workers' conditions. Their concem is to level the playing
field for themselves and do away with what they regard as British capital 's extra advantage -
- that of operating in a low-wage, long-hours economy.

 The move towards the creation of a European state is gathering pace. The majority section
of the British ruling class wants Britain on the inside and, after a period of footshuffling, to
join the Single European Currency.

 Britain's capitalist class wants to reap the benefits for capital of belonging to the European
State but with all the costs involved being borne by the working class and not themselves.

 They don't flinch at the prospect of making swingeing cuts in public spending to meet the
criteria for joining the Single Currency -- after all that hurts working people. But the very idea
of cutting workers' hours -- seen as threatening a tiny bit of their sacred profits -- is a signal
for the gloves to go on.

 The govemment's stance should be condemned. It is, as if anything more were needed, a
further reason for kicking the Tories out.

 But we also know that whatever happens in the pushing and shoving between the capitalists
of Europe, the fight for higher wages, shorter hours and decent conditions has to be waged
and won by the working class itself.

 We do not have to limit our horizons to whatever terms they decide for us. Some of the far-
right critics of the govemment indignantly ask why Britain should accept interference from
Brussels in its industrial affairs. We ask why workers anywhere should put up with any kind of
capitalist institution, whether in Westminster or in Europe, imposing the bosses' terms.

 In a capitalist society there is no substitute for trade union organisation and unity in action.
Even if Major loses his battle and the EU's 48-hour maximum week is introduced in Britain it
would still need to be enforced by trade union negotiation and action.

 The directive outlaws the working of long hours (above 48 hours) only where they are being
enforced by the employer. And the directive would not cover all workers -- there are many

 There would still be horrendous long hours being worked in non-unionised sectors of the

 And what of the struggle for the 45-hourweek? What of the overall fight for pay and jobs?
These issues can only be fought for through the organisations of the working class, they will
not be handed to us from across the Channel.

 To listen to the mouthpieces of the ruling class you'd think that toiling away all day, every
day, was the law of nature, a normal and natural condition for everyone -- except the ruling

 We are conditioned from childhood to think it is normal for work to take up the lion's share of
each day and each week Leisure pursuits, family life, rest and relaxation, on the other hand,
are merely squeezed into the corners of our lives.

 There's nothing natural or normal about it. It is a pattem designed by the capitalists to
maximise private Profits and keep their coffers full. And in the modem world it ensures that
the advances of new technology give further benefit to this wealthy minority rather than
improving the quality of life for everyone.

 Under capitalism we are obliged to fight not only for decent wages but for a decent quality of
life and time in which to enjoy it.

 This constant struggle will not go away while capitalism holds sway. Only when the parasites
have their grip on state power wrested away from them and the creators of all the wealth --
the wotlng class -- are victorious, will it be possible to build a society in which everyone can
grow, freed at last from the exploitation of the many by the few.

 In that socialist society the means of production and modem technology would be used to
benefit all. Automation and computerisation would no longer be a threat to people's
livelihoods but a means to allow everyone to live life more fully, and with time on their side.

3) Feature

Mass actions against food imperialism

The National Democratic Front of the Philipines (NDFP) issued the following statement on
the eve of a series of conferences and actions against imperialism.

These began on  the 10th of November and will end toward the end of the month and include
major conferences, demonstrations and protest throughout the Philippines.

 The NDFP is the underground revolutionary umbrella thatincludesthe Communist Party of
the Philippines, the New People s Army, mass organisations of peasants, workers, artists and
cultural workers, medical doctors, health professionals and Indigenous peoples.

 This statement is issued in connection with the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC)
meeting currently going on in the Philippines. Scores of Africans from progressive grassroots
organisations have already been deported in connection with their invitation to attend parallel
anti-APEC people's campaigns. [Edited.]

COMING ahead of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) leaders' summit, the Anti-
Imperialist World Peasant Summit stresses that the Philippines is still a semi-colonial and
semi-feudal country, and the majority of the people of the world are still peasants suffering
the ravages of mocolonialism under foreign monopoly capitalism.

 The Philippines has become more deeply agrarian and semifeudal under the dictates of the
imperialists through bilateral relations with them, as well as through the dictates of the
multilateral agencies like the Intemational Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bankand theWorld
Trade Organisation (WTO).

 There is no land reform. Land rnonopolisation by a few is accelerated. So many devices are
used to deprive the people of land, like for export, pasture lease, land reclassification and
conversion as industrial and commercial, property development forest management and
mining concessions.

 Food security is being destroyed. The prices of imported agricultural inputs are rising, the
agricultural surpluses of the imperialist countries are being dumped on the Philippines, the
production of food for domestic consumption is cut down and food imports are rising, while
the country is pushed to produce certain special crops for export, like cutflowers and
asparagus, which are in the process of global overproduction.

 We condemn the devastation and disorder wrought in the world by the rapid concentration
and centralisation of capital in a few imperialist countries by the multinational firms and
banks and the imposition of extremely exploitative capital and the dumping of surplus
manufactured and agricultural goods on the semi feudal and dependent countries under the
neo-liberal slogans of "free trade" and "investment liberalisation".

 APEC is a framework of "free trade" which is dominated by the US and Japanese
monopolies at the expense of the other member countries and the proletariat and people. At
the same time, it is the framework which the US is using to keep Japan in subordination to
US monopoly interests and prevent the initiative of Japan in any other regional formation,
like the Asean Free Trade Agreement (AFTA) and East Asian Economic Caucus (EAEC).

 Amidst the worsening crisis of overproduction in the world capitalist system, there is the
tendency of national productivity and profit rates to fall in industrial capitalist countries and
the sharpening competition among the imperialist countries, especially the US, Japan and
the European Union.

 The US is thus Pushing further its economic hegemony in the Asia-Pacific region. It is trying
to overcome its accumulated foreign debt and trade deficits, expand its manufacturing
capacity for export and consolidate its national market and its regional market like the North
American Free Trade Area (Nafta).

 The APEC summit is held at a time when global overproduction in garments, consumer
electronics and similar types of goods produced by the sweatshops of East Asia is becoming
more and more conspicuous. All the "tigers" of East Asia and all the ASEAN countries,
dependent on low value-added and low-wage fringe processing of manufactures for export,
are conspicuously afflicted with rising foreign trade deficits and foreign debt.

 It is absolutely foolish for the Ramos regime to think that the way to realise the status of a
"newly industrialised country" (NIE) is to avoid national industrialisation and land reform and
to join the ranks of countries overproducing consumer goods for the recessive economies of
the imperialist world.

 While the Ramos regime, at great cost, hosts the chieftains of monopoly capitalism, the
Philippines is still among the most exploited and neocolonial countries. It has come late to
the game of low-value added manufacturing of certain consumer goods for the imperialist
countries and is compelled, as ever, to export human beings as the actual main source of
foreign exchange from abroad, more than any kind of commodity export.

 We condemn the unjust and terrorist measures being undertaken by the US-Ramos regime
to present a false face to foreign visitors, to secure the 18 chiefs of state and to discourage
and sup Press the mass protest movement against the APEC summit.

 We condemn the violation of human rights already committed by the Ramos regime against
the workers, peasants, urban poor and other people in preparing for the APEC summit. If the
Ramos regime acts against the people who are carrying out Protest mass actions against the
negotiations between the government of the Republic of the Philippines and the NDFP.

 The claim of the Ramos regime that armed actions will be carried outby the revolutionaries
against some chiefs of state is false and absurd. It is a psychelogical warfare trick to
rationalise military, police and paramilitary suppression ofthe legal mass actions.

 It is ridiculous for the US-Ramos regime to over concentrate more than 40,000 troops and
police in areas where the mass actions are expected. In fact the regime is unwittingly giving
the armed revolutionary movement ample opportunity to undertake offensives where enemy
forces have been thinned out far away from Manila, Subic and the highway linking these two

 The forces of the armed revolutionary movement will not carry out tactical offensives
wherever the forces of the legal democratic mass movement carry out protest actions. But
the revolutionary armed forces can take advantage of the thinning of the reactionary armed
forces in so many other areas of the country.

 We also condemn the special agents of "low-intensity conflict", including covert agents of
US imperialism and Trotskyites, who pretend to be critical of APEC but whose main objective
is to offer themselves as an alternative to the revolutionary movement, lead the People
astray and submit reformist recommendations to the imperialists and local reactionaries.

 We look forward to the success of...the nationwide mass protest the forces of
the national democratic movement, the most resolute and most militant in the legal struggle
for basic rights and interests of the Filipino people.


4) International

Israeli army calls for evacuation of Jews in Hebron

A CONFIDENTIAL security report calls on the Israeli government to pull out the 400 Jewish
settlers from the West Bank city of Hebron, an Israeli television report said last week.

 The report, called "Operation Transfer of the Peace", says that it is impossible to find a
viable solution to Hebron, where about 400 Jews live among 120,000 Palestinian Arabs.

 Reportedly compiled by senior officers of the Israeli Defence Forces, General Security
Service and Police, the report recommends evacuating the settlers, adding that otherwise, it
will not be a question of whether, but when, clashes will erupt between Jews and Palestinians
in the city.

 The report claims that two settier women are prepared to burn themselves to death in
protest and of the possibility of armed settlers entering the Palestinian part of Hebron to
spark off a major clash.

 Government sources have denied the report's findings. The Prime Minister's Office totally
rejected any idea of evacuating the Jewish settlement in Hebron, saying on the contrary, that
they were committed to preserving their well-being.

 President Ezer Weizman urged the government to carry out the redeployment from Hebron
as soon as possible. He appealed to Jews, both right-wing and left not to raise their hands
against each other.

 The security forces have recently arrested an activist from a Jewish terrorist organisation,
and more right-wing extremists are expected to be held under administrative detention ahead
of the Israeli troop withdrawal. Xinhua


5) British news

Unemployed outrage at false agreement

from Merton Unemployed  Workers' Centre

THE STAFF and management committee of Merton Unemployed Workers' Centre last week
distributed leaflets outside theJob Centre in Wimbledon and spoke to claimants as part of a
nationwide campaign against the Job Seekers' Allowance (JSA).

 Claimants were also offered protest cards, to be signed and handed to the claimant adviser
for forwarding to Social Security Secretary Peter Lilley.

 People responded appreciatively to the leaflet and many took the protest cards to sign and
hand in.

 One young man told us that his benefit had been cut to 22 a week and nearly everyone
was apprehensive about their continued benefits.

 It was interesting that most of the members of the Job Centre staff who spoke to us
indicated their disagreement with the JSA.

 The protest seized on the aspect of the JSA called the Job Seekers' Agreement. As from
last month, the newly unemployed will have to sign this "agreement", which sets out the
specific steps the claimant will take to find employment.

 This "agreement" will be backed by the Job Seekers' Direction, which will enable
Employment Service officers to direct claimants to take specific action to find employment or
make kimlherself more employable.

 Failure to sign the "agreement" or comply with the direction will result in an immediate
suspension of benefit.

 "What sort of an agreement is this?" said Ian Mead, co-ordinator of the Merton Unemployed
Workers' Centre.

 'The word "agreement" implies some sort of mutual consent. This "agreement", with its one-
sided threat of benefit withdrawal, makes a farce of the English language and is an afiiont to
any concept of civil liberties."

 Bill Hynes, a welfare rights worker at the Merton Unemployed Centre, commented:
"Unemployed workers are continually being told that they have responsibilities of the
government.It wasn' t the unemployed who devastated the economy of the area. Instead of
unemployed workers being quizzed on their job-seeking activities, it should be Peter Lilley
who is asked the questions every fortnight:

 "'What measures have you and your government done to actively create quality jobs?
 "What positive steps have you made to achieve full employment?'
 "If he can't prove he's done enough, he should join the millions in the dole queue."

 As well as the protest card, unemployed workers were supplied with a model letter to carry
the campaign to the local Member of Parliament.

 The wording on one of the protest cards is:
 "I am presenting this card to you as the representative of the Secretary of State for Social
security. I am capable, available and actively seeking work.
 "I have signed my Job Seekers' Agreement because, if I don't I understand that my benefit
will be stopped. Furthermore, If I want to challenge my agreement I would also have my
benefit stopped whilst my appeal is processed.
 "I believe this power to be an infringement of my civil liberties and against the concept of
natural justice.
 "Please pass this card to the Secretary of state. I will be contacting my MP to follow this up. I
would like a reply by my next interview date."

And there is a space for the claimant's name and benefit office.

The wording on the other card is:
 "I am presenting this card to you as the representative of the Secretary of State for Social
security. I am capable, available and actively seeking work.
 "I have agreed to undertake the Job Seekers' Direction because I understand a refusal
would result in my benefit being stopped. I do not feel that this direction is appropriate to me.
 "I believe this power to issue Job Seekers' Direction is an infringement of my civil liberties
and against the conceptof natural justice.
 "Please pass this card to the Secretary of state. I will be contacting my MP to follow this up. I
would like a reply by my next interview date."

 And again there is a space for the claimant's name and benefit office.

 The model letter to MPs goes as follows:
 "As my MP I want to complain about the new Job Seekers' Allowance. I am capable,
available and actively seeking work I have been told by my Claimant Advisor that I have to
sign a Job Seekers' Agreement.
 "This sets out what labour market steps I must take each week to find work. If I don't agree
with my agreement or my Claimant Adviser doesn' t think I am doing enough, I could lose up
to 100 per cent of my benefit entitlements.
"If I want to appeal against the steps I have been ordered to take, I will also lose benefit
entitlement while my case is being considered by adjudication.
"Similarly, if I fail to carry out an agreemenf my benefitwill be stopped for two weeks without
any right of appeal.
 "Also, if I don't undertake a Job Seekers' Direction, my benefit will be stopped until I do as I
am told.
 "I consider these powers to be an abuse of civil Bberties and against the concept of natural
justice. Therefore could you ask the Secretary of State for Social Security on my behalf:
 "Why is the concept of innocent until proven guilty denied to unemployed people?
 "While the concept of actively seeking work is a precondition of benefit, why is there no
reciprocal responsibility on the government to actively create work?
 "What training is given to Employment Service Staff to qualify them in careers guidance
when issuing Job Seekers' Directions?"

A branch officer of the Civil and Public Services' Association -- whose members are on the
front line of trying to administer the JSA -- last week told the New Worker that in his area at
leasf many of the provisions of the JSA are not yet being implemented simply because of a
shortage of trained staff.

 "Most of our staff now are on short-term contracts," he said, "and they just don't have the
training for all the complex provisions of the JSA."

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