The New Worker

The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain

Week commencing 16th June 2000

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Editorial - Rotten ideas.
Lead Story - "White-knuckle rides" for commuters.
Feature - Millions of children in poverty.
International - Athens manhunt for envoy's killers.
British News - Union recognision laws: Battle lines are drawn.

Editorial

Rotten ideas

GOVERNMENT figures in May show a drop in the number of unemployed -- a fall of 8,600 according to the Office for National Statistics.

 But all is not as it seems. Official figures have for years been distorted by the practice of only counting the number of people actually signing on for the Jobseekers' Allowance. This ignores many people who, for various reasons, cannot, or do not, sign on but who want to work.

 The apparently good figures also ignore two other important factors -- the low quality ofjobs currently on offer and the desperate jobs shortage to be found in some areas.

 The Government's figures should be read alongside another report published recently by Labour Research which shows that manufacturing industry is continuing to decline and that the worst hit areas -- the former heartlands of engineering and heavy industry -- are suffering very severe hardship as the old industries close down. Not only are there no comparable jobs available in these areas -- there are simply not enough jobs of any sort.

 Even in areas where the unemployment figures are not so high there is still a shortage of high quality jobs with decent pay and conditions. All too often the unemployed are pressed into lower paid jobs by the tough conditions of the Jobseekers Allowance.

 To some extent this is reflected in other Government figures showing that the rate of growth of average eamings fell in April from 5.7 per cent to 5.1 per cent.

 The Labour Research report says the International Labour Organisation has found the unemployment rate in the North East of England to be almost three times the rate in the South East. Labour Research also reveals that Scotland has been the hardest hit of all.

 That Scotland, the West Midlands and the North of England are so disadvantaged is no great surprise. As traditional manufacturing centres these places have suffered for years from the steady erosion of Britain's manufacturing base.

 The introduction of new technology and automation has played a part. But above all, the crisis of overproduction afflicting the entire capitalist world has forced many companies to the wall in the scramble for a share of the available markets. Since the markets are glutted with goods people want but cannot afford to buy, the capitalist solution of putting people on the dole can only make the problem worse.

 The major capitalist centres have been thrown into intensifying competition and rivally. Minor trade scuffles have already broken out. These include the US trade threats against European products in order to win access to European markets for US-owned but South American grown bananas; the rows between Britain and France over beef sales; the recurring disputes over fishing quotas; Disputes between Japan and the US over tariffs and trade arrangements; and most notably, the efforts of bodies like the World Trade Organisation and G8 to regulate trade in favour of the major capitalist stales.

 The intensifying rivalries have spurred the European Union into speeding up its agenda for Monetary Union and the full implementation of a single European state. This is mainly aimed at strengthening European capital in its struggle with US capital. It also strengthens European capital in its struggle with labour -- both in Europe and throughout the world!

 One of the effects of this programme will be the tendency to concentrate wealth, jobs and capital in the favoured inner core of Europe at the expense of the rest of Europe and the developing world.

 Germany, France, northern Italy, the Benelux countries and southern England will form the core, while Scotland, the north of England, along with the former socialist countries, the Iberian peninsular, Greece, southern Italy and any new members will get the short straw.

 The working class of Europe, both in the better-off core and the poorer outer circle, will suffer from the advancing European capitalist state. The level of exploitation will increase, democracy (even the poor bourgeois democracy we now have) will be destroyed and the interests of imperialism will be paramount.

 As a solution, the EU is a rotten idea for the majority of Europe's people. Part of the fight against unemployment is to say NO to the Euro, NO to the single European state and NO to the founding document -- the Treaty of Rome itself!

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Lead Story

"White-knuckle rides" for commuters

by Daphne Liddle

"FOR MANY passengers in and out of Paddington, it was a white knuckle ride". a train driver last week told the inquiry into the Paddington rail disaster.

 He told the inquiry that trains had to travel at up to 90 miles an hour to keep to the schedules and allow the required number of services in and out of the terminus, travelling through a very complex system of rails, points and signals where every second counts.

 "The system is programmed for efficiency rather than safety," he reported, and added: "The higher the speed of the train, the more chance there is of an accident."

 He described how sometimes, in poor light he would see a train approaching his own at speed and "hope to God" it was on a different track.

 Some tracks operate trains running in either direction at different times.

 Earlier, an engineer had told the inquiry into the disaster that killed 31 and injured many more in October last year, that plans had been submitted that would have made the area safer but were rejected for financial reasons.

 Colin Bray, Railtrack's signalling engineer described how he had come up with two "flank protection" schemes since 1995, following a serious accident at nearby Royal Oak.

 One scheme allowed, in cases where trains were set to collide after one had gone through a signal at danger, for one train to be directed on to a parallel track so tha t they passed each other rather than colliding.

 Railtrack management had decided not to adopt this scheme, nor another that would have linked signals so that if one was passed at red, the next would also turn red -- nor a suggestion that speeds should be reduced generally.

 As the inquiry proceeded last week, Railtrack managing director Richard Middleton announced that this year he would not be taking his annual bonus of around £100,000.

 This would have been seen as obscene in the light of the evidence emerging at the inquiry and is seen by many as a public relations gesture.

 Richard Middleton was the man who, shortly after the Paddington crash, declared "It's time all the hysteria about rail safely calmed down" -- and was quickly forced to apologise to the bereaved and to survivors.

 Other members of the Railtrack board will be accepting their bonuses ranging between £25,000 and £37,000.

 Railtrack also tried to deflect criticism last week by announcing new plans for a total change of the signalling system outside Paddington station.

 Meanwhile SouthWest Trains last week registered an all time railway record profit of over £39 million -- in spite of fines of £4 million for cancellations and poor service.

 At this level of profit why should they care what kind of service they give?

 Labour's much vaunted Strategic Rail Authority does not seem to have discouraged the rail fat cats from their feast.

 Rail unions are still campaigning hard for the universal introduction of the Automatic Train Protection System that will stop all trains going through a red light, whatever their speed.

 This system should have been introduced when it was recommended after the Clapham rail disaster before the railways were fragmented and privalised.

 The Government cannot impose a coherent public transport policy while rail and bus services are fragmented and operate chiefly for profit.

 They must be brought back into public ownership.

 The rail companies and Railtrack have railed to honour the commitments they made to the travelling public at the time of privatisation. They are in breach of contract. Their franchises should be forfeit immediately.

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Feature

Millions of children in poverty

by Caroline Colebrook

MILLIONS of children in Britain are living in poverty according to a United Nations report released last week.

 The report from Unicef, the children's arm of the UN, says that 20 per cent of this country's young people live in poverty -- giving Britain one of the worst records in the developed world.

 Relative poverty is defined as living in a household with below half of median earnings.

 This makes Britain worse than countries like Hungary, Turkey and Poland where there is less relative poverty. Countries in Scandinavia have fewer than five percent of children living in poverty.

 When surveyed in terms of the number of children in absolute poverty, Britain came l4th out of 19 industrialised countries surveyed, just above Italy. The United States and Mexico were worse.

 Last year the Government announced plans to lift one million children out of poverty through family income tax credits.

 But Britain has between three and four million children living in poverty. The tax credits are paid only to parents who are in work while Britain has one of the highest rates of workless households in the industrialised world.

 It also has a very high race of single parent families and the worst provision of childcare facilities, making it difficult for those single parents to seek work.

 Many are struggling to bring up families for less than £l00 a week to cover all household bills.

 The report showed that many children in poor households are eating a very poor diet some existing on very little more than toast, beans or rice.

 Many living in homes with built-in central heating cannot afford to use it. These homes become very cold and damp with condensation running down the walls. Parents often cannot afford to buy new clothes as their children grow.

 The Unicef report says that poor nutrition leads to bad performance at school and frequent illness -- adding costs to the National Health Service.

 The Government claims it is doing a lot to resolve the problem. But Jonathan Bradshaw of York University pointed out: "Gordon Brown cut the rate of income tax by one penny. That money could have been used to help the most vulnerable people. That would have shown a real commitment."

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International

Athens manhunt for envoy's killers

THE GREEK police have launched a massive manhunt for the killers of Brigadier Stephen Saunders, the British military attache gunned down in an Athens street last week. But with no leads or clues Brigadier Saunders death looks likely to be chalked up as yet another unsolved murder by the shadowy 17 November group.

 17 November has carried out a number of assassinations and attacks, 23 in total over the past 25 years, with a professionalism that suggests a movement deeply rooted in the police or army. Named after the date in 1973 when the Greek fascist junta crushed a student uprising, the movement first hit the headlines in 1975, following the overthrow of the colonel's regime, when they killed the CIA station chief in Athens.

 Since then the group has claimed responsibility for the killing of other US military personnel, two Turkish diplomats, supporters of the colonel's regime and prominent Greek politicians and businessmen. During the Balkan War last year the group was held responsible for a number of rocket attacks on Nato property in Greece. But though the attacks have spanned 25 years the Greek police have been unable to arrest anyone or even name suspects.

 Though generally described as a leftist terrorist organisation in the West, no-one really knows what 17 November's aims or programme is.

 Last week former CIA chief, James Woolsey, claimed in a Greek weekly that members of the ruling social-democratic party, PASOK, knew members of the movement. This provoked a furious response from the government which challenged Woolsey to come up with evidence for his allegations. And the Greek communists have openly accused the Americans themselves of being behind the killings.

 Greek Communist Party (KKE) General Secretary Anneka Paparigha said "Mr Berns, the American ambassador in Greece, could probably answer on that subject, but we are sure that he will not do so,".

 "We consider what happened was 'made in the USA' and we assume full responsibility for what we say," she added. "It is not accidental that a few days ago we had American allegations that terrorism existed in Greece. It is even clearly stated that the terrorism is related to popular reactions. The instigators and the perpetuators of today's crime, which we surely condemn, are not among the Greek people.

 Therefore no law 'against terrorism' could help eleminate the cause of the evil," the KKE leader ' stated.

 "On the contrary, we believe the Greek people, through their democratic resistance to what is today called terrorism, can shape the best framework to prevent the development of such acts and most of all to prevent such acts becoming an opportunity and a pretext to justify the unjustifiable," she concluded referring to calls on Greece to introduce draconian laws to curb "terrorism".

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British News

Union recognision laws: Battle lines are drawn

by Daphne Liddle

THE NEW laws governing compulsory recognition of trade unions are now in place but the battle for recognition in many places is only just beginning.

 The laws are very complex and the bosses are already taking legal advice. Workers, even where they have very strong support have no guarantee of a victory unless they fight hard and carefully.

 The National Union of Journalists is one that has a lot to gain. Many chapels have been de-recognised in the last decade or so under the Tory anti-union laws and feelings are running high.

 But the latest edition of the union'sjournal warns: "Lawyers and commentators agree on one thing about the new law: it is extremely complex. So applications mustbe carefully prepared. Mistakes will mean you cannot apply again for three years."

 All applications must come from the relevant union's head office. The NUJ advises that where union support is strong, workers should seek to persuade their management to enter a voluntary recognition deal and turn to the law only as a last resort if the boss refuses.

 And the bosses have already been drawing up their own battle lines to undermine the new law.

 A British law firm Eversheds has called in American union-busting legal experts to tour the country with a "Trade Union Roadshow".

 At these gatherings, American lawyers tell bosses: "British employers should view a union organisational effort as an economic heart attack".

 Alan Lips, a partner in the Labour and Employment group at the giant American legal firm Taft Stettinius advises: "Organised labour unions are philosophically dedicated to coercing employers into economic partnership with them."

 He warns: "I would expect unions to exercise the economic power that the legislation has given them, and that is nothing but an adversarial activity.

 "That can lead to a strike. And if you have a strike it is about as serious an economic event as can happen to a company."

 He advises bosses that the key is to gain the initiative before a union decides to ballot for recognition, triggering the legal process.

campaigning office

 After a ballot is called, an employer has to open premises to unions for campaigning.

 The bosses are told to counteract with the following messages: "strikes are futile and fatal" and "unions cost more than they are worth".

 In America some companies dish out badges and base-ball caps with anti-union slogans.

 One crucial area of battle is to define the "bargaining unit" on which the ballot is based. This could be a single factory, a division or the whole workforce of the company.

 Bosses are advised to try to gerrymander this to their maximum advantage.

 TUC general secretary John Monks has described this approach as "blatant anti-union scaremongering, completely out of step with the current climate in British industrial relations".

 It seems that climate is about to get a lot hotter. While Tony Blair and his cronies have been variously trying to claim the class war is over or that they are waging it against elitism at Oxford, the real thing is breaking out where it has always been hottest -- in the workplace.

 Britain still has some of the most repressive anti-union laws in the world. The new law is just a tiny advance but the bosses' reaction betrays their fear of the real strength of the working class.

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