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Year 2000 No. 143, September 4, 2000 Archive Search Home Page

Dudley Hospital Workers Step up Struggle against PFI

Workers' Daily Internet Edition : Article Index :

Dudley Hospital Workers Step up Struggle against PFI

Fidel Castro to Lead Cuba’s Delegation to the UN Assembly and Summit in New York

Fidel Castro Warns of the Health Disaster Threatening the World

Unconverted Long-Term Prisoners Repatriated to North Korea

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Dudley Hospital Workers Step up Struggle against PFI

The strike against the privatisation of support and ancillary work at the Dudley Group of hospitals is escalating. The successful strike actions so far have been a two-day strike and a four-day strike. Now the workers are stepping up their action to seven days leading up to midnight next Saturday. Pickets are going to be set up at all hospital sites of Russells Hall, Wordsley, Corbetts and Guests. Delegations of workers from local firms are going to attend in support on Friday.

Mark New, UNISON organiser and local senior steward, talking to a WDIE correspondent, said that the support for the strike had come from near and far and was "unbelievable". He said that financial support and solidarity messages had come from local firms as well as internationally. Cheques had come from Finland, Bulgaria, Russia, South Africa and the USA. The Health Workers Union of the Russian Federation and the Californian Nurses Association were amongst the donors.

The strike is over keeping 600 jobs within the NHS and out of the hands of the disastrous Private Finance Initiative (PFI). The PFI project is to go out to "Summit Health", a consortium consisting of the big business corporations Siemens (electronics) and McAlpine (building and property).

The PFI arrangements are to consist of building a "super hospital" and closing down many local hospitals, irrespective of whether they produce a quality service. The hospital is planned to go to Russells Hall with the closure of Wordsley, and the demolition of Corbetts and Guests. Wordsley have built a new maternity block only in the last 10 years. A further part of the plan is to build an ambulatory care unit for outpatients, in effect a new hospital with no in-patients. There will be an estimated loss of 70 beds, coming at a time when the government has misleadingly promised 7,000 more beds into the NHS.

While the strike is against the transfer of staff, the Hospital Trust say that they cannot re-negotiate because the instructions are coming from the government. The Trust says that if they pull out of part of the plan, then the whole project will collapse. Workers have demanded that Health Secretary Alan Milburn intervene to re-open negotiations. So far, local Labour MPs have refused to support except the MP Shipley, who has supported the strike by writing to the Health Secretary at the start saying that the project "should be suspended". It appears he has said nothing since the strike started.

Other major activities are going to take place this coming week. On Wednesday, September 6, there is going to be a mass meeting at Dudley Leisure Centre at 12 noon of all those affected. On Saturday, September 9, there is going to be Rally at Holly Hall School in Dudley at 12 noon with invited speakers.

The stand of the workers reflects the growing opposition to the policy of PFI which is seriously undermining the NHS. The government is trying to portray this programme as the salvation of the health service but this programme is being seen as what it is – support for private capital and profit instead of the right of the people to health care.

Discussion is now developing amongst health workers and the local community. The workers at a local firm that produces hospital beds have expressed their interest in the dispute offering solidarity. The workers themselves are going to strike over poor pay but recognise the needs of all workers for health care. The kind of discussion taking place these days is increasingly centred around the question "what kind of health service do we want?" and moving towards "what kind of society should ensure it?".

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Fidel Castro to Lead Cuba’s Delegation to the UN Assembly and Summit in New York

The Cuban government has recently announced that Fidel Castro will preside over that country’s delegation to the Millennium Assembly and Summit of the United Nations, which will be held from September 6 - 8 in New York. Over 150 world leaders are to attend the Summit, expected to be the largest single gathering of heads of state and government ever held.

As the host country, the United States has an obligation to grant visas to all foreign officials attending UN meetings, except in cases where there are "overriding national security concerns". Nevertheless, there have already been demands from reactionary circles in the US to deny Fidel Castro entry to the US, while some have sought to exclude the entire Cuban delegation or issued threats against it. The protests against Cuba’s delegation to the UN come only a week after Ricardo Alarcon, the president of Cuba’s National Assembly, was denied a visa to attend a meeting of the Inter-Parliamentary Union in New York. But in a statement to the press, the president of the General Assembly and co-chairman of the Millennium Summit, the Namibian Foreign Minister Theo-Ben Gurirab, welcomed Castro’s participation and spoke of him as "a strong voice for the Third World".

Commenting on the opposition to the his country’s delegation to the UN, Cuban Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque told a news conference in Havana, "There is no human or natural force that could prevent us from fulfilling a decision we have taken." It has already been announced that Fidel Castro will speak at the summit, which the Cuban government has spoken of as "a positive forum for a wide-ranging discussion on the world’s most pressing problems in a profoundly democratic spirit". It is also seen as an important opportunity for the G77 group of poor and developing countries, in which Cuba has played a leading role, to oppose globalisation and the domination of the UN and other international institutions by the big powers. Felipe Roque stressed that the UN must be preserved while at the same time it must be reformed and democratised. In this context he spoke of the need to expand the Security Council, to include more representatives of developing countries, and to limit or abolish the power of veto wielded by the big powers. He also spoke of the need to restore the General Assembly’s power and its role in UN leadership and to oppose action of a small number of big powers that, under the guise of "humanitarian intervention", totally disregard the principles enshrined in the UN Charter and ignore the UN itself.

Speaking of the UN Summit, Perez Roque said that it must address such issues as the "persistence of an unjust and unsustainable international economic order", which he said was the cause of poverty and hunger throughout the world. Above all he stressed that the decisive issue for the Summit was to focus on the "promotion of development", a right recognised in the UN Charter but still far from being realised.

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Fidel Castro Warns of the Health Disaster Threatening the World

The Cuban President Fidel Castro has warned of the health disaster threatening the world and highlighted the importance of institutions such as the Pedro Kourí Institute of Tropical Medicine (IPK), dedicated to the study of transmissible diseases.

President Castro was speaking during the commemorative event celebrating the 100th anniversary of the birth of Cuban scientist Pedro Kourí Esmeja, on August 21, founder of the Institute of Tropical Medicine. The Cuban leader pointed out that the centre is currently needed more in the developing countries than in Cuba.

Fidel described the terrible health panorama facing the developing countries, whose inhabitants are besieged by numerous transmissible diseases, including the new scourge of AIDS, capable of exterminating entire populations in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Congratulating the Institute for its research successes, President Castro observed that wealthy countries invest millions of dollars in medical research while only one percent is designated for the study of tropical diseases. In this respect, he explained, millions of people are desperately in need of the IPK’s research and medical aid work.

At the event, President Castro alluded to the complex situation of health in the world, exacerbated by resistance to antibiotics, the appearance of new diseases and widespread poverty. He spoke of his conviction that Cuban doctors, working on the integral health programme in several African and Latin American states, will make history with their efforts, which are "creating a doctrine, a new concept of medical aid". Referring to the way in which doctors are undertaking their labours in those underdeveloped nations, he suggested that Cuba is the only country in the world that can organise an infrastructure in just a few months.

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Unconverted Long-Term Prisoners Repatriated to North Korea

Unconverted long-term prisoners in south Korea were repatriated to north Korea on September 2 in accordance with the North-South Joint Declaration agreed upon at the historic inter-Korean summit from June 13 to15.

The 63 unconverted long-term prisoners returned to the north through the newly inaugurated direct air route between Pyongyang and Seoul. Prior to the historic homecoming, both Pyongyang and Seoul released on August 25 the list of the names of the unconverted long-term prisoners.

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