Year 2000 No. 186, November 2, 2000
Workers' Daily Internet Edition : Article Index :
NHS Concordats Broadening Scope
Fuel Protestors Plan Mass Convoy from Jarrow to London
Propaganda against the "Jarrow Crusade"
News of Job Losses
Rolls Royce to make 180 workers redundant in Derby
Alliance & Leicester to axe 1,500 jobs
News In Brief : Aer Lingus Strike Suspended
Arab League Condemns Continuing British-US Attacks on Iraq
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The Concordat with the private sector, signed by Health Secretary Alan Milburn on Tuesday, also commits the Independent Healthcare Association and the government to work together to "broaden the aims of the concordat".
When asked if that meant the private sector could be brought in to manage NHS hospitals or provide a complete hospital service for the NHS, the Health Secretary said: "For now, we have a clear focus on the three areas I have described [waiting list operations, intensive care, and rehabilitative care for the elderly]. But the concordat also says that we will seek to build on this."
Alan Milburn went on to say that the government was already bringing more private finance into NHS hospitals through the PFI, and it would be looking at other forms of partnership with the private sector, refusing to rule out any ideas.
In other words, the trend is becoming very clear. More private finance is going to be tied up in the NHS, which means that the trend is intensifying whereby the health service becomes a channel by which the government pays the rich. Furthermore, it becomes ever more exposed that the government is simply paying lip service to the policy of closing the "health gap" between the better off and the worse off. The policy objective of "the delivery of high quality healthcare free at the point of delivery to those who need it, when they need it," is a cover for removing every obstacle to the health service becoming a pool of money-making for the financiers. At the same time, the government is further enticing private sector companies by pointing out that low productivity caused by illness can be reversed. Meanwhile the stress on health staff and the deterioration in health care provided to the majority of the people are spiralling out of all proportion.
At the heart of the incoherence of the NHS Plan is the move by the government to consolidate new arrangements with the financial oligarchy in the health service. Under these arrangements, the financial oligarchy not only get the opportunity of making the maximum profit, but will increasingly be the actual ones who plan directly how the health service will be run.
For example, at the same time as the Concordat is being signed and immediately projected to be broadened in scope, the Institute of Public Policy Research, the think-tank that is said to be close to the Downing Street policy unit, is running a study on the future of public/private partnerships. One of its working groups has suggested a pilot in which the private sector would provide an entire hospital doctors and nurses as well as the buildings under PFI.
The NHS spends at present around £1.25 billion on purchasing health care and specialist services from the private sector, £130 million of it buying 40,000 waiting list operations from private hospitals. Any expansion in that would benefit such big private groups as Bupa, Nuffield, General Healthcare and the Community Hospitals Group, which is quoted on the Stock Exchange. The NHS Plan also envisages that £7 billion of capital investment will be provided under PFI by 2010.
The government is making clear that the Concordat is merely the start of its stepped up partnership with the private sector. This "Third Way" of public-private partnerships represents an intensification of the neo-liberal agenda of the financiers, and is a stepping up of the anti-social offensive under present conditions. The Concordat is a further example of this trend, which is demanding of the people that the opposition to the governments programme be centred around safeguarding the future of the NHS by developing a pro-social agenda and programme, connected with the political renewal of the whole society.
Fuel price protesters are planning a slow moving 4-day convoy from Jarrow to London according to an announcement by the Peoples Fuel Lobby. The convoy protest will start on November 10 passing through Middlesborough, Thirsk, York, Leeds, Manchester, Stafford, Wolverhampton, Birmingham, Coventry, Northampton, and Milton Keynes before arriving in London. The convoy will arrive in the capital to coincide with a mass protest rally and lobby of parliament on November 14, the day after the 60-day deadline set by the protestors after they called off the blockade of oil terminals on September 15.
At a recent national meeting held by fuel price protestors in Gateshead, Tyne & Wear, a delegation of a local hospital trade union took part. One of the representatives addressed the meeting from the platform and pointed out that these actions are striking a chord with the sentiment of the majority of people because they hit at the marginalisation of the people from decision making. She said that what we have seen is the ruling circles and media using the situation as a popularity contest between the parliamentary parties. They have tried to use the situation to rehabilitate the Conservative Party and try and present it as a credible alternative to a discredited Labour government and are trying to manipulate the situation to make sure everything remains the same. She said that it is the people who should be empowered to discuss and take all the decisions in society whether it be wages, taxation, social spending and so on.
As the November 13 deadline for the reintroduction of the fuel blockades draws closer, the government is developing its arsenal of propaganda against the protesters. Jack Straw, for example, has declared that there had been 180 separate incidents of thuggery during the picketing in September.
In line with this offensive to capture public opinion, the Association of Chief Police Officers has said that it is "ready for anything" when the Peoples Fuel Lobby organises its protest convoy from November 10-14. They are being warned to expect "firm" policing along the route.
In line with this, the government is also preparing to take the advice of those who have been advocating equality of repression for both the organised workers and the fuel protesters. A "more robust system to avoid disruption of fuel supplies" is on the agenda, and the army is on call to drive the tankers.
Aero-engine maker Rolls Royce is going to close one of its factories with the loss of 180 jobs. The closure is estimated to save the company £3 million a year for the next five years.
The composites manufacturing plant in Derby, which makes glass fibre and carbon jet engine parts, will close by the middle of next year.
Rolls Royce said that the work will be contracted out to Austrian company, Fisher Advanced Composite Components.
Manual staff convenor Steve Joy said that workers had known there were problems at the plant and had tried to improve performance. "My members had tried to improve things and this is the reward," he said.
The Alliance & Leicester Bank is to axe up to 1,500 staff over the next three years in an effort to cut costs. This is nearly one-fifth of the total number of workers. The majority of the job cuts will come through "natural staff turnover and redeployment and re-training" according to a statement published by the company.
The Alliance & Leicester is one of the British banking industrys weakest performers and vulnerable to take-over by a larger competitor since a failed merger with Bank of Ireland last year.
The company is one of Britain's smaller mortgage lenders and has struggled in an increasingly competitive market. In September, the Bank announced plans to enter the small business banking market, currently dominated by Barclays, Nat West, HSBC and Lloyds. The growth of online banking services has reputedly intensified competition in the British savings and mortgage markets over the past year.
Through the redundancies, the Alliance & Leicester aim to boost profits by £100 million by the end of 2003.
Aer Lingus clerical and catering staff have agreed to suspend their planned strike for Thursday and Friday and have accepted an invitation to enter talks at the Labour Court. The union SIPTU said it has separately advised Aer Lingus that if there is no progress on these talks, then strike action will be taken on the following Friday November 10.
From Cairo, Arab League chief Esmat Abdel Meguid on Monday condemned continuing British-US air attacks on Iraq and urged the UN to pressure the two countries to stop their military aggression.
"The number of innocent civilians killed in these attacks has reached the hundreds, and thousands of others have been wounded since they began on December 16, 1998," Abdel Meguid said in a statement. He called on the United Nations Security Council to "move swiftly and effectively to urge Britain and the United States to bring an end to their military aggression".
An Iraqi military spokesman said two civilians were killed and another injured on Sunday in a raid by British and US warplanes that patrol the southern part of the country. It brought to 318 the tally of deaths from British and US air raids since December 1998, since the end of Operation Desert Storm.
The patrols enforce the so-called "no-fly zones" over both northern and southern Iraq that were imposed after the 1991 Gulf War. Iraq does not recognise the zones, which are not authorised by any UN resolution, and Britain and the US are unilaterally keeping up their bombing raids in conjunction with the genocidal sanctions.
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