Year 2000 No.77, April 27, 2000

The Future of Rover:

What Choices Are the Workers Being Offered?

Workers' Daily Internet Edition : Article Index : Discuss

The Future of Rover:
What Choices Are the Workers Being Offered?

News In Brief
Worker Dies in Gas Explosion
Second Postal Strike to Be Held

The Food Crisis in Ethiopia

International News:
Chinese President in South Africa Signs "Pretoria Declaration"

International News In Brief
Slovakia Plans NATO Candidates’ Summit
German Business Leaders Call for Delay to EU Enlargement
EU Should Review Relations with Russia, French Ministers Say

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The Future of Rover:

What Choices Are the Workers Being Offered?

On the basis that the aim of the campaign is to "Keep Rover Running", the workers are being offered a choice between being employed by the venture capital company Alchemy or by the Phoenix Consortium which is led by John Towers, a former chief executive of Rover.

Neither enterprise is planning to run Rover as a long-term concern. The short-term aim of Alchemy is to focus on the sports car market, a "niche" market as opposed to being a "mass" car producer. It aims to then sell Rover in as little as three years if a buyer can be found. It has been estimated that it may keep only 1,500 of the 9,000 workers at Longbridge.

Phoenix wishes to sell to another mass car producer, such as Volkswagen, after it has revived the business, as it hopes. The consortium hopes that only 2,000 of the Longbridge workers will lose their jobs.

Both Alchemy and Phoenix will have to take account of the fact that in what is termed the global economy, it is the monopolies that rule the roost. Nothing is being put forward to suggest that the future of the Rover workers is dependent on anything other than the success of the new company in the global market. If the same rules of monopoly capitalist competition apply, what guarantee of the future will the workers have, how more secure will their futures be than under BMW, or before that British Aerospace or British Leyland?

This crisis has also brought home that the political leaders have no credibility as a government which is able or willing to do anything for the working people. Neither can they ensure any future for the economy. As long as they are championing the cause of the bourgeoisie they have their place. But they have no solution when it comes to the demands of workers and masses of the people.

The extent of this anti-social onslaught on the workers is putting pressure on the trade union leaders to take some action. But where are they leading the workers? At the same time that some are trying to put pressure on the government to lean on BMW, the TUC itself is seeking an arrangement with government under the signboard of partnership for progress.

This whole scenario is putting pressure on the workers to lose their bearings. They began the campaign against the Rover sell-off determined to fight their class battles against the monopoly capitalists. To take their struggle forward, it is necessary for them to base themselves on their own independent programme. An independent programme has the starting point that the workers affirm and fight for the recognition of the rights as workers and as human beings. An independent programme means that it is the workers themselves who must set the agenda and keep the initiative.

One important demand in these circumstances is that the right to a livelihood be given a guarantee in law. This is a demand which is really what the workers are up in arms about, since the monopolies have refused to recognise this right, and this is what has led to the workers’ present plight. It is a forward-looking demand, the granting of which would be a feature of a modern socialist society. That much cannot be admitted of a call for the nationalisation of Rover or that the workers should simply occupy the factory. The deepening of the monopoly capitalist crisis has seen to that, together with the government’s Third Way programme of public/private partnership, which is geared to paying these same monopoly capitalists in these times when a nationalised infrastructure no longer satisfies their appetite for the maximum capitalist profit. The workers should recognise that the old way of doing things, the old way of approaching problems, no longer works, no longer will take their struggles forward. Rather it should be a strategic aim that it is the workers themselves who must constitute the nation, take hold of what is theirs by right, nationalise the assets of the nation in that sense.

There should be no let up in the class struggle they have embarked on. The opposite is the case; it should be stepped up on the basis of the rights of the workers. Class conscious workers in these circumstances can consciously take up the task of organising to advance along the line of march to a socialist Britain.

Article Index


News In Brief

Worker Dies in Gas Explosion

A man died and two others were injured in an explosion at a liquid petroleum gas plant in Gateshead.

The explosion took place in a gas bottle storage building at Flogas in Birtley on Tuesday while a gas tanker was being unloaded. The blast blew out the walls of the plant storage building. The man was pronounced dead on arrival at the Queen Elizabeth hospital in Gateshead. A spokesman for the Tyne and Wear Fire Brigade said that somewhere along the line there was a large leak. The Health and Safety Executive are to investigate the incident.

Second Postal Strike to Be Held

Postal workers are to hold a second one-day strike on Tuesday after action on April 25 closed a number of post offices in London. A spokesman for the Communication Workers’ Union (CWU) said that the action was against the Post Office’s refusal to give a written guarantee about annual leave arrangements.

Article Index


The Food Crisis in Ethiopia

Below we are printing a Joint Statement by NGOs, dated April 14, 2000. The context of the statement is the situation where international donor organisations, particularly the countries of the European Union, including Britain, have been slow in reacting to the emerging famine crisis in Ethiopia in order to avert it. According to one writer, the standard EU procedure for sending food aid means that it can take around 20 days to ship. For other aid it takes around five months at best, and sometimes longer. The same writer pointed out that the EU sometimes includes in the figures that it has pledged, but not yet delivered, the 80,000 tonnes that it promised last year, but failed to deliver. In 1999, it sent little more than half of what it promised, which is one reason why the food security reserve set up by the Ethiopian government is at an all-time low. Agencies borrowed from it against written guarantees from donors that were not honoured. Other writers have condemned western governments for cutting back on development aid because of the unrelated issue of the armed conflict between Eritrea and Ethiopia.

"As non-governmental agencies working with the people of Ethiopia, we wish to state that the present food crisis is not yet a repeat of 1984/85. We affirm that there is a critical situation in the South and East that could have been averted – and a widespread crisis can still be averted, with prompt and appropriate action.

"Ethiopia remains highly vulnerable to catastrophic food shortages. However, the government, with the support of the international community, has developed effective and transparent early-warning and response mechanisms. These systems have not elicited adequate and timely responses. NGOs and others warned of the developing emergency and lobbied donors for responses well before the situation deteriorated. Early-warning systems are only effective if they are responded to in a timely fashion.

"The government, with donor support, had put in place an Emergency Food Security Reserve (EFSR) with a capacity of more than 300,000 metric tonnes. The EFSR was depleted last year. Some donors borrowed from the reserve, and food would have been in place to overcome the crisis.

"As NGOs deeply concerned with the rapidly deteriorating situation in Ethiopia, we wish to assert that:

"The crisis is not restricted to a few areas, but that much of the country, and indeed most neighbouring countries, are affected or at serious risk. All concerned must be more proactive in preventing the spread of the emergency to other vulnerable areas,

"There is a pressing responsibility falling on the shoulders of the international community to respond quickly, and to deliver on their pledges. Food must be pre-positioned by June in remote areas so that access to beneficiaries is not at risk of being cut off by the expected onset of heavy rains in July.

"This is not a quick-fix solution that commitment must be sustained. It must be ensured that food is in the pipeline and getting to the people for at least the next six months, without interruption.

"The need now is not just food, important as it is. Donors must also support other essential activities: water supply, health, livestock survival.

"The failure of the rains may have triggered the crisis but is not the fundamental cause. The coping mechanisms of vulnerable communities are so fragile that minor climatic variations can result in crisis conditions. Alongside the emergency response, long-term investment is required to consolidate coping mechanisms and address food insecurity. This crisis should serve to augment, not diminish, long-term development efforts.

"Most importantly, the cycle of crisis must be broken. The people of Ethiopia need peace, more development assistance and relief."

Signatories:

Action Aid, CARE, Catholic Relief Services, Community Aid Abroad, Concern Agro-Actin, GOAL, Intermon, Lutheran World Federation, Oxfam-GB, save the Children-UK, save the Children-USA, SOS- Sahel.

Article Index


International News:

Chinese President in South Africa Signs "Pretoria Declaration"

President Jiang Zemin of China and South African President Thabo Mbeki signed a "Pretoria Declaration" on Tuesday to initiate greater co-operation between China and South Africa.

Jing Zemin is on a four-day state visit to South Africa, which established diplomatic links with China in 1998. South Africa is the last leg of Jiang’s visit to Israel, Palestine, Turkey and Greece. He also met with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Nelson Mandela visited China last year before standing down as president. Last week, the South African government said in a statement: "There are great expectations in Africa that China will become a partner in the rebirth of Africa and that Africa, with her abundance of mineral and agricultural resources, could become a major supplier of beneficiated and even manufactured products to China."

Speaking on Tuesday evening, President Jiang Zemin called for the establishment of a new international political and economic order for the benefit of the people in the world.

"It is the shared aspiration of all peoples in the world to promote the lofty cause of world peace and development and to establish an equitable and just new international political and economic order," he said. Jiang listed two major issues to be settled in the world, one being to narrow the gap between the North and the South, and the other to ensure respect for the fundamental right of the people of any country to determine their own fate. "There would be no peace and tranquility on the planet where we live if rich countries become richer and poor ones poorer, with accumulation of wealth on the one side and greater poverty on the other; and if some big powers indulge in interfering in other countries' internal affairs and pursuing hegemonism and power politics by relying on their economic, scientific and technological and military strength while the vast number of developing countries have been deprived of the right to participate in international affairs on an equal footing and are subject to unfair treatment or even unwarranted bullying," Jiang said.

The Chinese president stressed that the world affairs should be decided through consultation by all governments and peoples in the world, because "only by adhering to this principle, can world peace and development be truly guaranteed". At the same time, he asserted that a multi-polar world is conducive to the implementation of that principle.

Certain countries have acted arbitrarily and dictatorially, Jiang said, adding that their acts have constituted an out-and-out violation of the principle. "To fight against hegemonism and power politics is a worldwide struggle between pro-democracy and anti-democracy forces," he said. "As long as peoples in different countries work together, they will definitely be able to have their own fate in their hands and bring about a lasting peace and universal prosperity of the world."

Article Index


International News In Brief

Slovakia Plans NATO Candidates’ Summit

Slovak Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda has proposed holding a summit in June of nine countries which hope to join NATO, a spokesman said on Tuesday. Invitations are being sent to the leaders of Albania, Bulgaria, Estonia, Macedonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania and Slovenia. The spokesman said that Slovakia wants to "re-energise discussion on NATO enlargement". He added that "Slovakia wants to be a driving force behind a new enlargement of the Alliance."

NATO expanded last year to take in Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic – Slovakia’s partners in the Visegrad Group. This eastward expansion is opposed by Russia, which it threatens.

German Business Leaders Call for Delay to EU Enlargement

The German Chambers of Industry and Commerce (DIHT) on Tuesday called on the EU to delay enlargement, saying in a report that Poland and the Czech Republic would not be ready by their target date of 2003. None of the five eastern European countries selected for a first phase of EU expansion would be in a position to join before 2004, the report, "Europe 2000 Plus", said.

The report said that the Czech Republic, which the EU has criticised for delaying economic and legal reforms, would not meet entry criteria until 2006, while it set 2005 as a more realistic target date for Poland.

The EU began entry talks with these two countries, as well as with Hungary, Estonia, Slovenia and Cyprus, in 1998.

EU Should Review Relations with Russia, French Ministers Say

Laurent Fabius and Hubert Vedrine, the Finance Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister of France, write in a letter to the Financial Times that the EU should review its relations with Russia. They write, "There cannot be real security and stability on the European continent without a positive contribution by a co-operative Russia." The letter to the Financial Times also says that the French government has written to the members of the G7 countries calling on them to update their relations with Russia after the election of Vladimir Putin as President, setting out a set of guidelines.

The letter says, "An efficient market economy requires an authority to enforce the rule of law. Russia has lacked such an authority for a decade: one that could collect taxes, enforce bankruptcy laws, and provide social security. Corruption and cronyism have become entrenched, and foreign investors have been scared off. As a result, many in Europe and elsewhere doubt whether it is worth helping Russia. In fact, the EU has good reasons to pursue a policy of long-term, active co-operation."

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