1. Lead - Privatisations and company mergers lead to new wave of job losses. 2. Editorial - No to Sanctions! & Workers Victory. 3. International - Czech miners vote for protest stoppage. 4. British news - Major rejects Irish peace moves. 5. Feature - Nato's expansion into Eastern Europe. 1. Lead Story. Privatisations and company mergers lead to new wave of job losses THE merger of Lucas Industries with the American firm Varity has led to the prospect of 3,000 job losses worldwide. A further 5,000 jobs could go as subsidiary businesses are sold. A spokesperson for the company has told the press that 1,500 of the job losses would be in Britain. Engineering union (AEEU) officials are hoping that most of the losses can be absorbed through natural wastage, but they are concerned to be involved in discussions with the company over their members' interests. It is an all too familiar story -- giant firms merge or buy out smaller ones and before you can turn around jobs are being axed all over the place as the new management gets rid of the "overlap" and sets about making savings. The savings, which boost or sustain the level of profits for the shareholders, come from wages that would otherwise have been paid to the newly sacked workers. It is a similar situation with the newly-privatised industries. Every utility and service that has been privatised has shed huge numbers of jobs. Sacking people and then pressing the remaining staff to work harder is one of the ways these companies have been able to make such fat profits. Another way of course is to increase prices to the customer. The latest firms to swing the axe are; the privatised Stationery Office, announcing 940 job losses (one third of its workforce); and Scottish Power which is set to get rid of 700 jobs at Southern Water by March 1999 with a further 1,340 jobs going as a result of its business restructuring programme. (Scottish Power bought Southem Water earlier in the year). While Scottish Power plans to sack 2,000 people over the next few years its shareholders are laughing all the way to the bank. The company has made pre-tax profits of £167 millior over a six month petiod compared with £l27.7 million over the same period last year. Talking of banks -- the Nat West bank claims a "banking revolution" will cost 10,000 jobs over the next five years. This "revolution" seems te consist of plans to centralise it's retail banking services to cut costs. It has already announced plans to close 350 of its High Street branches. axing jobs All of this comes on top of the recently announced plan from National Grid -- another privatised utility -- to axe 750 jobs over a four year period. And, though little further detail has been publicised, there was the threat issued some weeks ago of 5,000 job cuts awaited at Heathrow airport. The govemment meanwhile claims the economy is doing well and points with smug satisfaction to its falling unemployment figures. But since these figures are calculated from the number of unemployed by simply counting the number of people claiming the Job Seekers' Allowance, everything is not as it appears. First of all these figures have been misleading for years a they exclude many unemployed people who would like to work -- people pressed into early retirement, 16 and 17year- olds who are not eligible to sign on, some married women who have given up the hassle of signing on and so on. But secondly the figures are misleading because they disguise the fact that many of the "new" jobs are low paid, part time or temporary. According to Labour Research the number of part time workers has risen over the last six yeats and now makes up 25 per cent of the workforce. John Monks, TUC general secretary, responding to the job losses said: "The tragedy of today's Labour market is that many of the jobs disappearing are full time and permanent and are often replaced by temporary, insecure ones. "We must get away from the blinkered view that workers pay the price for short term gains". ************************************** 2) Editorial No to Sanctions Workers Victory THE recent decision of the United Nations Security Council to allow Iraq to sell some of its oil to buy food and medicines is very welcome news. Hopefully it will bring some relief to the people of Iraq who have suffered the misery of sanctions for six years. This imperialist-led blockade has brought poverty and hunger on such a scale that over half a million Iraqi children have died over the course of those years. The United States, backed by Britain, is the chief architect of all this agony -- the self same US which struts around the world leading "peace-keeping" and "humanitarian" missions to rescue the oppressed from "local" wars and alleged breaches of "human rights". This big power passes judgement and metes out punishment -- which can be anything from varying degrees of blockade to full-blown all out war. Since 1990 Ing has suffered the lot. To mollify US public opinion and that of its allies it monsterises the leaders, political parties and governments of those countries it has targeted. A pretext for its acts of hostility will somehow be found. In Washington's eyes the real "crime" these countries and governments have committed is to cause a feeling of unease among the circles of wealthy bankers and major stockholders of US-based transnational corporations. After all, the foreign policies of the imperialist powers are designed to serve these interests. There are many reasons why a country could run foul of imperialism but the fundamental causes are; that in some way it upsets the smooth flow of wealth from the producing country to the imperialist power, or that it disturbs the cosy political and strategic stability the imperialists have built up to enable whole regions to be managed and exploited. The demise of the Soviet Union has afforded imperialism an opportunity to flex its muscle around the world without the restraint of a strong socialist bloc. The "New World Order", which, since it describes imperialism can hardly be considered "new", is nonetheless a stepping up of imperialism's determination to maintain "order" -- its own order to secure a cheap and uninterrupted supply of raw materials, to capture markets and maintain the political stability necessary for exploitation over the long term. The imposition of US-inspired sanctions is a major imperialist weapon in the modem world. It is not a new idea -Cuba has suffered US sanctions for over 30 year;. Applying sanctions to other countries has a number of advantages for US imperialism. The target country can be severely damaged without the aggressor having to bear the financial and logistical burden of itself going to war. For the US this is a very important feature because it is fearful of heavy troop losses on its own side. Since the losses it incurred in the Vietnam War, the US govemment has been aware that US service personnel coming home from war in body bags is unacceptable to the US public. Another advantage is that while war grabs the headlines and gets constantly reported, long drawn-out sanction campaigns are rarely portrayed as the murderous acts they really are and can be quickly dropped out of the news bulletins. Half a million children killed by an air strike would provoke demonstrations and protests. Half a million children killed by a slow war of attrition slips by almost unnoticed. This is why sanctions have to be highlighted. It's why sanctions have to be unmasked as the brutal weapon they are and why it is vital to call for an end to all sanctions now. Workers' victory SOLID and determined trade union action brought victory last week to the French lorry drivers. Their two-week strike, well-supported by the public, gained the drivers almost all the demands they had raised. We salute their struggle and welcome their success. They have given heart to other workers in struggle both in France and in other countries. Earlier in the year there were huge demonstrations in France against public spending cuts. In Germany there have also been large scale protests at their government's efforts to reduce social spending. The problem is acute across the European Union as the govemments rush to meet the convergence requirements for the Single Currency due to begin next year. The French lorry drivers have added another dimension to this struggle -- they are saying that if the social wage is attacked then they will fight for higher wages and better hours and conditions. And this will not stop them opposing the cuts either. Britain is not just a low wage economy, it is famous for it. We too need to learn the lessons from our collegues in Europe and step up protests against social spending cuts, as is already happening in many localities, fight to win more workers for trade union membership and fight back against low pay and long hours. ******************************** 3) International News Czech miners vote for protest stoppage from Postmark Praha SIX THOUSAND Czech miners are expected to go on a one hour protest strike as we go to press. The action is a warning to managers at the Paskov group of pits in northern Moravia- Silesia. The strike is in protest against pit closures and the evasive attitude of management and the Ministry of Trade and Industry towards the future of the group. The Paskov group is one of four in the Karvina coalfield, which is still the largest in the Czech Republic -- despite the massive rundown since the so called "velvet revolution" of 1989. Since 1989 the number of miners in the Ostrava and Karvina coalfields has dropped from 104,436 to 31,000. Such is the mood of the miners that most had signed up for strike action by 4am last Thursday morning, a full 10 hours before the deadline of the ballot was reached. Some miners told the communist daily Halo Noviny that they favoured a 24-hour walkout or a stay-down strike rather than the one hour stoppage that will take place. "We are too soft" miner Jiri Svetr told Halo Noviny. "In the West when pits are closed they burn the ships carrying imported coal, they block the main roads and lay siege to Parliament. We've seen it on television." Politically 40 percent of OKD's miners are estimated to have voted Social Democrat in the May general election and another 12 per cent Communist. At last month's Senate election Karvina returned a Communist who polled nearly 8,700 votes (52 per cent) in the second round -- some 600 rnore than his Social Democrat opponent. The right wing contenders were despatched in the first round. The far-right Republicans got about 10 per cent in May. Imports of Polish coal arouse particular anger among local miners, whose pits lie close to the Polish border. At present 2.6 million tonnes of Polish coal are being imported. The Czech government has agreed to part repayment of Polish debts in coal -- which some miners regard as conclusive evidence that it is prepared to sacrifice the coal industry, even though the Czech Republic's coal is its only indigenous energy source. To add insult to inj ury the Polish coal is valued at below the cost of production, so it is in fact being dumped with the full consent of the Czech government! The specific demand of the miners is that the government commits itself to a policy for the coal industry which is part of a broader integrated national energy policy aimed at maximum use of the Czech Republic's coal reserves. This alone can go some way to restoring at least some of the prestige of the miners, which under the communist-led National Front government was second to none. Whether the government is prepared to modify its ideological commitment to the free play of market forces remains to be seen. It will largely depend, given the present fragility of Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus's ruling right- wing coalition government, on how hard the miners and the wider trade union movement fight for an end to the present form of "economic transformation". The determination of the Paskov miners may well be reinforced by the knowledge that with every new pit closure their chances of redeployment within the industry or of finding altemative work in the area become more and more remote. ****************************** 4) British News Major rejects Irish peace moves PRIME MINISTER John Major has rejected proposals from Sinn Fein and the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) to restart the peace process in northern Ireland. A statement from Downing Street last week, following a meeting with Unionist leader David Trimble, simply reiterated the British position which continues to effectively exclude Sinn Fein from future talks. Major told the House of Commons that his government was not prepared to change its policy on northern Ireland and that he would not bargain for a fresh IRA cease-fire. Major insisted that Sinn Fein would only join peace talks if the IRA "gave up violence once and for all". "When Sinn Fein can join the talks depends on their own actions. We need to see an unequivocal restoration of the ceasefire". The Sinn Fein-SDLP proposals, tabled by their leaders Gerry Adams and John Hume were sent to Major six weeks ago, call for the immediate entry of Sinn Fein into talks without preconditions after an IRA cease-fire; a definite time frame within which negotiations should take place, and confidence-building measures from the British government, measures which could be proceeded with regardless of the progress of the negotiations. Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams said that he had expressed his concern "at the leaks from the British government and the Unionists about John Major's response to proposals put to him by John Hume and myself. As I said at the time, if these leaks represented the British government position then Mr Major's response would be a rejection of our proposals." "No matter how positively or softly Mr Major's statement is interpreted there is no doubt it is a rejection of our initiative, which had the support of the Irish government." "Downing Street was aware that John Hume and myself were meeting last night. Today's statement was aimed at sabotaging our effort to rebuild a real peace proccss. Once again narrow party political interests are being put before the question of peace in Ireland." "John Major has yet to embrace the concept of an inclusive, negotiated peace settlement. It is his refusal to do so which is the main blockage at this time." ****************************** 5) Feature Nato's expansion into Eastern Europe by Daphne Liddle "NATO expansion is no longer a question of whether, but when and how. And that expansion will not deepened on the appearance of a new threat in Europe. " That alarming statement from US president Bill Clinton summed up the concerns that prompted Labour CND to call a public meeting last Monday at the House of Commons. Speakers included Bruce Kent Labour MPs Tony Benn and Alice Mahon, MEP Stan Newens, Labour CND spokesperson Carol Turner and Helen John from the Menwith Hill peace camp. The meeting was chaired by Walthamstow MP Neil Gerrard. Alice Mahon explained that the new governments of Poland, the Cezch Republic, Slovakia and Hungary, are anxious to join Nato and Nato is determined to expand into these areas. If this happens, the people of Eastern Europe will find US troops on their soil and nuclear weapons sited there. This has the people of Russia very worried indeed and there is a complete consensus of opposition to it throughout the current Russian political spectrum. "The Russians are very worried about this expansion" she said, "and when you look at the history of Russia and especially the Second World War it is clear they have legitimate concerns." Peace campaigners have called, in the light of the end of the Cold War, for no nuclear weapons to be sited in eastern Europe. But no assurances have been given. "Where the US goes, nuclear weapons go with them," said Ms Mahon, "and the Russians are getting the message loud and clear. They are very upset. The hostility they seem to be getting from the West is worse than ever." Carol Turner reminded the meeting of a vote at the CND conference the previous week, opposing Nato expansion into Eastern Europe. This was passed with no votes against and only one abstention. She cited Clinton's remark, quoted above and warned that the US is sowing the seeds of a future East/West crisis. And she reported that in two recent western defence studies, four out of five of the options considered involved a war with Russia. In one of these options the "Joint Force projection" would build a military infrastructure in Eastern Europe that would not site nuclear weapons there pertnanently but would enable them to be deployed there from the West within hours in time of crisis. "So the Russians are talking about upgrading their weapons," she said. Then she reminded the meeting that it is the countries of Eastern Europe, already economically devastated, that will have to bear the cost of Nato's expansion -- and this is causing some of them to pause for thought. The estimated cost is $125 billion (£76.2 billion) over six years. This would raise the defence budgets of the four countries involved by 60 per cent. If the Balkan states also wanted to join, the effects on their budgets would be even worse. And Carol Turner pointed out that the only winner from all this would be the US government. Helen John reported that the Menwith Peace camp volunteers have witnessed a steady expansion of the base's spying activity -- in connection with the Star Wars project, never now mentioned but never dropped -- since the end of the Cold War. "It is clear the US never had any intention of allowing the world a moment's peace," she said. And she told the meeting that although the US represents only six percent of the world's population, it's defence policy is to categorise all the other 94 per cent as the enemy. The Nato allies of the US are never allowed any control of the weapons sited on their soil. Tony Benn said the importance of the meeting was educational and that the British public must be alerted to what is going on. And Bruce Kent called on peace activists to build contacts with those non-governmental organisations in Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia who are actively opposing their countries joining Nato.