Year 2000 No. 175-6, October 18-19, 2000
Workers' Daily Internet Edition : Article Index :
Michelin Announcement Underlines that Workers Must Fight for their Interests
Speculation over Marks & Spencer Closures
Dudley Demonstration Update
From Our West Midlands
Land Rover Hit by Lightning Strike
Business Car Forum in Birmingham
News In Brief
BG International Suspends Gaza Drilling Plans
Ford Prepares for Big Losses on European Operations
CWU to Oppose E-Mail Spies
Pan Africanist Congress of Azania Issues Appeal
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Michelin, the French tyre monopoly, announced on October 17 that 950 manufacturing jobs are to be lost with the end of Michelins car and van tyre operation in Stoke. A company spokesman said the decision was part of Michelins strategy of focusing production of car tyres on fewer and bigger plants.
Michelin moved to try to reassure workers that maintaining the plants re-tread, cabling and customer service facilities at the site showed that the monopoly was not walking away from the Stoke-on-Trent area. The site manager said that Michelin will still be employing over 5,000 workers in Britain, including 1,400 at the site, though it was a sad day because it signalled the end of nearly 74 years of Michelin tyre-making at Stoke.
The reaction of the workers was summed up by one 53-year-old worker who said, "Its bad news all round. There is no guarantee for anybody still working here. In a couple of years the whole lot could be gone. We didnt know anything about this until this morning."
The TGWU is seeking talks with Michelin executives and government ministers to discuss the implications for the potential loss to the tyre manufacturing industry in Britain as well as to the impact on the Stoke area and the West Midlands as a whole. Transport and General Workers Union national organiser for manufacturing, Peter Booth, intends the talks focus on the workers skills and knowledge as well as the tyre-manufacturing infrastructure on the site itself.
Reviewing the situation at Michelin and in tyre manufacturing generally, Peter Booth stated that the "announcement comes as a devastating blow as we were in the process of dealing with an earlier announcement from Michelin of redundancies. It is a double blow to a workforce which has done all that is asked of it and more to secure their future in a restructured business at Stoke even though there has been no significant investment since the 1970s. Michelin did announce last year that they would be looking for 7,500 job cuts across Europe. We had thought that Stoke had taken its fair share. Clearly the company is looking for more. There are a further 1,300 jobs at Stoke and another 2,500 at other Michelin plants in the UK. The T&G will want to know from the company just what their long-term plans are for these jobs at Stoke and the other UK plants."
Commenting on the wider implications for the British manufacturing industry, Peter Booth contended that Michelin had adopted an apparently "British" solution by sacking workers, in contrast to the situation which prevails in other European countries. Stating that "UK labour laws make it cheaper, quicker and easier for European companies like Michelin to sack their UK workers than German or French workers," the T & G national organiser suggested that "UK labour laws mean we have no rights to influence decisions before they are made by such companies". Nevertheless, he stated that the T&G believes in "working hard with companies which show a socially responsible attitude towards their workforces and local communities."
Michelin workers, as with all workers, will have to decide if the pursuit of such a relationship is compatible with their own interests. They will have to draw the conclusion that they cannot relinquish the fight for their interests.
It has been reported that Marks & Spencer is about to announce the closure of up to 20 of its retail stores around the country with a loss of 1,500 jobs. The reports say they understand that the majority of stores under threat are those bought from Littlewoods three years ago in a £192m deal. Sales of M&S's underwear and profits from M&S's financial services and food divisions are falling according to the reports.
An M&S spokeswoman denied that any decisions had been made. She was reported as saying: "We regularly review our property and stores portfolio as any responsible business would. We are in the middle of a review, but no decisions have been made. If there were any redundancies, where possible we would re-deploy them."
The latest financial review for Marks & Spencer shows that they declared an operating profit of £543 million for this year and £600 million for the previous year with a turnover of £8.195 billion and £8.224 billion excluding VAT, respectively for the same years.
A demonstration of the Dudley hospital workers campaign against PFI in the NHS will take place on November 4 (postponed from October 28). It will assemble at Stourbridge Town Hall from 12.30 pm. This has been arranged to fit in with the end of the conference on PFI called by UNISON West Midlands Region. There will be a rally at the Town Hall following the march at approximately 2.00 pm.
Details of the next round of strike action will be available after the UNISON Industrial Action Committee meeting on Friday, October 20.
From our West Midlands Correspondent
Around 350 workers at Land Rover have downed -tools in a dispute over holiday arrangements. The stoppage is at the Solihull plant and has halted production of the "Freelander" range. Talks are being held with unions over how worker "bank" holiday hours.
One thousand business chiefs are meeting on the eve of the British International Motor Show to discuss new arrangements to meet the globalisation of the car market.
The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) set up the "Showcase 2000" conference. The forum, set up six years ago, aims to keep British car makers competitive on the global stage.
The aim of the car multinationals has been to continuously improve profitability by exploiting the workforce. Productivity and competition has been the perpetual demand by the capitalists in the face of a market, which has been squeezed and dogged by anarchy of production.
The new arrangements by the employers will be aimed at formulating strategies that will be against the interests of the working class. Car workers must oppose the arrangements of big business and come out of the margins to plan production on a new basis themselves.
BG International, the exploration and production unit of Britains BG Group, said on October 17 that its plans to drill a second test well off the Gaza coast had been set back by the Middle Eastern violence.
Ford is likely to make a significant loss on its European operations this year, according to the head of these operations. It is undergoing a large amount of "restructuring", while the demand for its cars has been volatile.
The Communication Workers Union has said that the idea of new regulations giving employers carte blanche to access workers e-mails, due to be introduced from October 24, is indefensible, and probably a breach of human rights. The regulations are said to allow firms "routine access" to business e-mails and phone calls, whether or not they are related to work. A spokesperson for the CWU said that "the notion of management having a free hand to spy indiscriminately on workers e-mail is unreasonable, intrusive and unacceptable".
WDIE has received the following appeal to the people of the world to join PACs Campaign to release all political prisoners in Azania (South Africa)
In 1960, on the 21st March, the Pan-Africanist Congress (PAC) of Azania led an Anti-Pass Law Campaign which was met by the brutal force of the Apartheid regime and resulted in the Sharpeville and Langa massacres. No less than eighty people were killed in one day. The Pan-Africanist Congress (PAC) of Azania and the African National Congress (ANC) were banned.
The liberation movements had no option but to defend their people, who were daily incarcerated, banished and killed. The PAC formed POQO (1960) which was renamed the Azanian People Liberation Army (APLA) and the ANC formed Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK). The Azanian (South African) struggle had taken a new shape, that of an armed insurrection. This form of struggle was legitimate because the UN Security Council had also declared apartheid a crime against humanity.
This conflict led to a number of our people and cadres (freedom fighters) being convicted. The 1994 first democratic election ushered in a new government with a new constitution that was adopted in 1996. The government gazetted the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). The PAC objected to the principle of its foundation because it equated perpetrators of apartheid violence with the freedom fighters. The state spent a lot of money in legal costs for apartheid "activists". Most freedom fighters were left out of this process. A substantial number of APLA, MK and AZANLA cadres are still languishing in jail. The TRC was by and large a "window-dressing" exercise.
Today, we have more than two hundred (200) APLA, MK and AZANLA cadres still incarcerated. We have thousands of political prisoners and prisoners of conscience in South African jails. They have even lost their political prisoner's status and are mixed with hardened criminals. Yesterdays heroes and heroines are quietly rotting in jail under a "democratic government".
The PAC has initiated a campaign to release all political prisoners in whatever category. On October 24, 2000, the PAC will hold a prayer meeting in Johannesburg Methodist Church to mark the beginning of a series of activities. Two days later, the PAC will march to the Johannesburg prison to demand the release of freedom fighters.
We call upon leaders and organisations all over the world to, together with us, to campaign for the release of these illustrious Sons and Daughters of Afrika who paid and continue to pay a supreme sacrifice for the liberation of this country.
THE PAC APPEALS FOR YOUR ENDORSEMENT OF THIS CAMPAIGN, AND FOR ANY FORM OF ASSISTANCE TO FIGHT FOR THEIR FREEDOM.
For further information, feel free to interact with our web-site, which is currently under reconstruction: http://www.paca.org.za
All endorsements and enquiries should be directed to this address: Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) of Azania PO Box 13412 The Tramshed PRETORIA RSA 0126 E-mail address: email@example.com
The appeal is signed by Wonder Masombuka, Deputy Secretary General
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