Year 2000 No. 160, September 27, 2000
Workers' Daily Internet Edition : Article Index :
Britain Must End its Interference in Yugoslavia
Staff Strike at Newcastle College
More Cuts in Fire Service under PFI
Dudley Health Workers March Against PFI
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The Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook, has continued to blatantly interfere in the internal affairs of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in the midst of that countrys presidential elections.
On Monday, before the results of the election were known, Robin Cook had already taken the unprecedented step of congratulating the Serbian people for voting President Milosevic out of power, while his message to the President of the FDY was Get out of the way and let Serbia out of the prison into which you have turned it.' On Tuesday, when the official election results had still not been released, the Foreign Secretary made similar remarks at the Labour Party conference, accused Milosevic and the Government of Yugolsavia of tampering with the election results and threatened the use of military force should President Milosevic not relinquish power.
The Federal Election Commission in Yugoslavia has now announced that there will be a second round to the presidential elections and has stated that neither President Slobodan Milosevic, nor the opposition candidate, Vojislav Kostunica, has won outright. The Commission said that Vjislav Kostunica polled 48% of votes to Slobodan Milosevic's 40%, but neither candidate got the necessary 50%, so a second round run-off will now be held on October 8.
The results of the elections in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia are, as Robin Cook has on occasions been forced to admit, solely a matter for the people of that country to decide. Yet Britain and the other big powers in a blatant display of sabre rattling have massed their armed forces on Yugoslavias borders, applied sanctions to that country and have carried out a major campaign to destabilise its government and oust its president. It is now estimated that the US has this year spent $25m in attempts to develop an opposition movement to president Milosevic, within Serbia and Montenegro, while the countries of the EU are thought to have spent an equal amount. All this following the criminal bombing campaign waged by NATO and the military occupation of Kosova.
The big powers, including Britain are continuing to support Kostunicas Democratic Opposition of Serbia, which has declared that he has won the election and has called for street protests to force President Milosevic from power. Britain and the other big powers are not just attempting to remove President Milosevic from office, but are also carrying out the most blatant provocations, in order that they might create the conditions for further military intervention in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia itself.
A dangerous situation is again being created in the Balkans. Britain and the other big powers are still vying to completely dominate this part of Europe in the wake of the collapse of the bi-polar division of the world and the old spheres of influence. At the same time it is clear that the rivalry between the EU, the US and Russia is intensifying as they struggle to control Europe which is a precondition for their contention for global hegemony.
The working class and all democratic people must take their stand against the warmongering of all the big powers and demand an immediate end to Britains interference in Yugoslavia.
On Monday, hundreds of striking lecturers and support staff from Newcastle College gathered at a rally, to protest against recent imposition of redundancies and cut backs. The one day strike action was a result of a plan by the college management to wipe out £160,000 deficit, and save £3.3m.
So far there has been 83 voluntary redundancies, 38 people have been re-deployed, and 21 face compulsory redundancy. These redundancies have had a direct effect on the work load of lectures left at the college, who are also protesting over proposed new contracts that will increases their work load by 20pc. As well as an increase in work load, staff face severe pay cuts, of up to £ 5,000 a year. The rally was also supported by students who are already suffering from these cut backs. A lecturer was reported to say that: "A lot of experience and culture and talent is going out of the college and for students the provision available is going to give them a worse deal." Students will have to wait longer for work to be returned, and will suffer from less individual attention.
This confirms that under the tutelage of New Labour, education is continuing to be made a privilege. The struggle of lecturers and support staff is just and should be supported by everyone, and is bound to give rise to the question of how to defeat the cuts in education, and will lead people to the conclusion that they must fight for a society that recognises education as a right and not a privilege.
Fire fighters on Wearside were outraged this week when they discovered that Tyne and Wear Fire Authority has received planning permission from Sunderland City Council to turn two working fire stations, Tunstall and Grindon into residential use. They discovered that the planning permission was part of the Fire Authority's move to sell off the stations for residential use when they close them and replace them with one new station at North Moor Lane under the Private Finance Initiative (PFI). At the same time, the fleet of three fire appliances will be reduced to two. As reported in WDIE earlier in the month a similar plan for Newcastle will result in the closure of Pilgrim Street and West End Stations with a new PFI facility at East Elswick and the reduction of fire appliances from four to three.
Fire Brigades' Union Tyne and Wear secretary Steve Hedley was reported as saying thay: "No-one thought of informing us of the council's decision. We are going to see the same scenario as in Newcastle - the closure of two stations and the loss of one of the appliances. Tunstall has one appliance and Grindon two, but the new station will only have two, hugely reducing cover. As in Newcastle, it could seriously compromise our ability to provide the level of service that people deserve. It seems the fire authority is trying to push all this through without much public consultation."
It is reported that the PFI plan is being heralded by brigade chiefs as a solution to an annual cash crisis. They have pointed out that they have to present a business plan to the government and what they have done is "standard procedure any organisation must go through as part of the PFI process." They can only get the funding from the private sector and get government approval if they show that they can "dispose of existing sites efficiently."
However, the reality is that under the PFI far from relieving the cash crisis of the Fire Authority the problem will intensify as revenue will be diverted away from funding the fire service to finance the schemes for the new premises which will only benefit the big business partners. At the same time, every new PFI project is being accompanied by cuts in the number of fire appliances.
The issue facing fire fighters is that these cuts have been driven by the huge deficits of the Fire Authority which is caused by the government reductions in Local Authority revenue support. Not only must fire fighters oppose the PFI and demand that public investments are made to meet the needs of the fire service in full but they must take up the independent programme of the working class Stop Paying the Rich! Increase Investments in Social Programmes!
WDIE has received the following report.
A successful demonstration took place on Saturday September 23 and saw hundreds march through Stourbridge, West Midlands from Corbett Hospital. There were messages of support from Liberal and Labour councillors and Trade Unions. Speakers addressed the demonstrators opposing the PFI from the Fire Brigades Union and RMT. Also, representatives of Hillingdon, and Selly Oak Hospitals spoke in solidarity. A contingent from CAEF took part and the President of Dudley NUT spoke. A contingent from RCPBML was also present and Workers' Weekly was sold on the march. The Demonstrators displayed banners from various UNISON branches as well as a banner from MSF.
Mass meeting votes to escalate!
600 NHS workers on strike
Monday 2 October - Wednesday 11 October (inclusive)
Strikers Rally Monday 2 October 11am
Stourbridge Town Hall
Speakers include Yunus Bahksh (Newcastle City health UNISON and service Group Executive)
Assemble from 10.30am. Details to follow
CONFERENCE ON FIGHTING PFI AND PRIVATISATION
Venue to be arranged
Please contact Mark New 07970 788873
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