Year 2000 No. 93, June 2, 2000

Summit News:

US President Clinton at EU-US Summit, then Flies to Berlin

Workers' Daily Internet Edition : Article Index : Discuss

Summit News:
US President Clinton at EU-US Summit, then Flies to Berlin

Low Paid Youth in Birmingham

Rover to be Sentenced in Asbestos Court Case

International News:
Kim Jong Il’s Unofficial Visit to China

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Summit News:

US President Clinton at EU-US Summit, then Flies to Berlin

US President Bill Clinton is on a week-long trip to Europe and Russia. He began his visit in Portugal on Tuesday, May 30, and is also visiting Germany, Russia and the Ukraine.

On Wednesday, May 31, President Clinton met European Commission President Romano Prodi and Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Guterres for an EU-US Summit.

On the agenda was the issue of "the new economy". This is a term which has been coined to refer to the conception of the "knowledge-based economy" as opposed to an economy which is based on the industrial production of commodities, and is being linked to the whole process of globalisation. The Lisbon summit was said by the Portuguese Presidency of the EU to be a preparation for an eEurope Action Plan, which is supposedly designed to accelerate the transition of Europe to the "new economy". A high priority for the EU in this context is said to be the objective of "social inclusion", and particularly for every person to be "equipped with the skills needed to live and work in the Information Society". Globally, the European Council points to the "digital divide", and the need to bring the "South" developing countries into the "new economy" so as to provide markets for the private sector.

Another topic under discussion was the "New Transatlantic Agenda". This is said to be based on "shared values and responsible partnership in promoting peace, stability, democracy and development throughout the world". The summit pointed to the Balkans as an example of the cooperation inherent in the "New Transatlantic Agenda". Southeast Europe, particularly the Balkans, is the main focus for the "Stability Pact" between the EU and the US, through which the EU and the US promote "common goals" of "stability and economic renewal" to the region. The Summit underlined that creating "stability throughout Southeast Europe is an essential element of a Europe whole, free and at peace". The Serbian regime in this scenario is made the "principal impediment to stability in Southeast Europe". In this connection, the Summit statement on Southeast Europe spoke of the steps "to support private domestic and foreign investment in the region, including the activities of the Stability Pact investment compact and missions of the business Advisory Council".

At the conclusion of the summit, Portuguese Prime Minister Guterres emphasised the "strategic" nature of the summit, in particular the "new common security and defence policy of the European Union" and "its relationship with NATO", as well as relations with Russia and the Ukraine, and a multilateral approach to dealing with trade issues. President Clinton, for his part, emphasised the way that "Europe’s new democracies are joining the transatlantic mainstream", that "Russia, for all its problems, has completed the first democratic power transfer in its entire history". He also stressed that NATO has been "preserved and strengthened" and the the EU "has brought monetary union into being and made a fast start at a common foreign and security policy, a development the United States strongly supports".

The summit also drew attention to the contradiction between the US and the EU over the plan of the US for its National Missile Defence programme, sometimes referred to as "son of Star Wars". Russian President Vladimir Putin is also vehemently opposed to making the changes in the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty that would allow such a system. Antonio Guterres and Romano Prodi are reported to have pointed out to Bill Clinton that if the US creates a network of missiles that could shoot down incoming warheads, Europe would itself become a vulnerable target, as well as prompting Russia and China to increase their deployment of nuclear weapons. On the other hand, President Clinton is said to have voiced the concerns of the US over the EU’s plans for a European security force operating independently of the NATO alliance. The position of Tony Blair, according to government sources, is that he has already spoken to President Clinton about the anti-missile defence shield and given it his support. US radar and communications installations in Britain at Fylingdales and Menwith Hill are involved in the system, which is supposedly directed against the so-called "rogue states".

The other contradiction that was in evidence was over trade issues. On May 29, the US had threatened to retaliate against EU export programmes after the EU rejected US revisions to the so-called Foreign Sales Corporation programme aimed at bringing it into line with WTO rules. Another cause of complaint is that the EU has made it known that it would launch an action within the WTO against the US if it went ahead with a plan to rotate sanctions on EU goods in the disputes over the European banana imports and the European ban on imports of hormone-treated US beef. These are in addition to US objections to European government aid for the Airbus consortium and over a new EU aircraft noise law which the US says discriminates against their equipment makers. The resolution that the summit came to was that they would pick up the phone rather than go public over the development of these disputes, and negotiate resolutions through the WTO. Antonio Prodi said, "We decided that megaphone diplomacy would be replaced by telephone diplomacy. This is more constructive, even if less sexy." However, no concrete resolution of the contradictions was reached. If anything, they have deepened, since the EU is now accusing the Clinton administration of refusing to drop the 15 percent tax break that benefits some 6,000 US exporters – including such vast multinationals as Boeing, General Motors and Microsoft – and is worth some $3.5 billion a year. Altogether, Europe and the US together represent more than 40% of world trade, each with about a quarter of the world economic output. They are also the biggest investors in each other, with trade and investment flows worth hundreds of billions of dollars or euros each year. However, it is being pointed out that the expansion of "free trade" itself is coming under threat with the escalation of these disputes, with the WTO being used as an instrument in the battle.

On Thursday, June 1, President Clinton met in Berlin with German President Johannes Rau and with Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder. The German Chancellor lost no time in warning Clinton against the missile defence programme, saying, "Neither economically nor politically can we afford a new round of the arms race." He said that the world, and especially Europe, needed a solid relationship with Russia and other major states, and was therefore opposed to undoing the achievements in nuclear disarmament. He made no mention of President Clinton’s offer the previous day of sharing the technology "among civilised nations".

It was suggested on the same day by Vladimir Putin that the US and Russia jointly develop a missile shield, and that he would put the idea to President Clinton when they meet in Moscow this weekend. A White House spokesman said that it was premature to say whether the technology could be shared with Russia.

On Friday, June 2, Bill Clinton is due to receive the annual Charlemagne Prize for what are referred to as "his contributions to peace and integration in Europe and for having furthered the close partnership that has existed between the United States and Europe over the last five decades". The Charlemagne Prize was established in 1949 to recognise "the most meritorious contribution serving European unification and the European community, serving humanity and world peace". Previous recipients have included Winston Churchill, Francois Mitterrand, Helmut Kohl, Vaclav Havel, King Juan Carlos of Spain, Henry Kissinger and Tony Blair. Although the Prize celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2000, President Clinton will be the 40th recipient since in ten instances the Prize committee could not find a suitable honouree.

On Saturday, June 3, President Clinton will attend a conference of 14 heads of state and government on "Progressive Governance in the 21st Century", otherwise known as the "Third Way" or the "New Centre", which is said to be on how to reconcile centre-left values with the global competition of the "New Economy". It is reported that Tony Blair will be conspicuous by his absence. Previous gatherings on this issue were in New York in September 1998, in Washington in April 1999 and in Florence in November 1999.

On Sunday President Clinton moves on to Moscow and then on Monday to the Ukraine.

Article Index


Low Paid Youth in Birmingham

It is estimated that around 5,000 young workers have to put up with low pay in Birmingham. Some are earning less than £2 an hour. The research has been carried out by the West Midlands Low Pay Unit and it has found that many 16 and 17 year olds were only receiving earnings as little as £1 an hour. This kind of pay packet shows that there is super-exploitation by employers who hope to maximise profits by keeping wages low. The survey included young workers from Birmingham and the Black Country.

The unit's director, Robert Bullard, revealed that an estimated 25 per cent of the city's 20,000 young workers were in jobs affected by this kind of low pay. The research found that those in hairdressing had the lowest average wages of just £1.53 for 16 year olds and £1.60 for those aged 17. Driving and delivery jobs paid only £1.60 and £1.80, care work £1.75 and £1.79 with those in the motor trade averaging £1.91 and £2.08 respectively.

Mr Bullard said many of those under 18, who cannot claim the minimum wage of £3.20 an hour for young workers, were working in a "climate of fear". He continued, "They are often afraid to speak out because they fear they might lose their jobs. In effect the most vulnerable people in the workforce are being most exploited". He went to say this was often combined with long hours. Also he added that previously under the former Wages Councils' guidelines many would have expected to receive £2.04 an hour when inflation was accounted for. These days, with the abolishing of Wages Councils, workers are effectively worse off even with Labour’s minimum wage. The fact is that under 18's are deliberately not covered by the present low pay legislation.

Wages Councils were phased out in 1993 and there is currently no protection by law for 16 and 17 year olds. Youth aged between 18 and 21 have just had a paltry 20p an hour "rise" from £3 to £3.20 and the Government Department for Trade and Industry are going to spend £1m making a song and dance about it in an advertising campaign.

Trade and Industry minister Alan Johnson has said that the higher minimum rate was "good news" for low paid workers and added that it was also good for employers. He said, "Since we brought in the national minimum wage last year, more employers have discovered that decent pay means happy staff and that means happy customers".

Obviously the minister thinks that youngsters are going to be elated by the peanuts that the Labour government is throwing about, but workers consider the minimum wage to be totally insufficient and condemn the insignificant pennies added to the hourly rates.

The Low Pay Unit has analysed that the many young people who took home the £2 an hour have earned so little they even fell below the taxable allowance of £83 per week.

West Midlands Correspondent

Article Index


Rover to be Sentenced in Asbestos Court Case

We are reproducing below a report by the Construction Safety Campaign, published on May 25.

Rover Group Ltd, International Headquarters, Warwick Technology Park, Warwick, appearing before Warwick Crown Court for sentencing following an incident when three men were exposed to asbestos over three days during the demolition of a pavilion at the Gaydon test centre, Warwick, in April 1999.

The maximum sentence allowable on these charges is an unlimited fine. Had the Directors of Rover been charged themselves they might have been given a prison sentence (which is allowable under the Asbestos Licensing Regulations).

The Construction Safety Campaign says that these men who have been exposed to one of the deadliest workplace killers known face the threat and worry of a premature death for many years to come. A fine is not enough of a deterrent when the senior Directors and managers should have known or ensured a check that asbestos was present before the demolition began. This case is so serious that the Directors should have faced charges in this case.

Charges against Rover Group Ltd:

Regulation 3 (1) of the Asbestos (Licensing) Regulations 1983, as amended, for allegedly undertaking work with asbestos insulation, namely cutting and removing asbestos insulation from pipework and a vessel during the demolition of a pavilion, without holding a licence granted under Regulation 4 of the said Regulations.

Regulation 12 of the Control of Asbestos at Work Regulations 1987, as amended, for allegedly failing to prevent the spread of asbestos from a place, namely the pavilion demolition site, where work under its control was carried out.

Regulation 10 of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 1994 for allegedly failing to ensure that the construction phase of the project to demolish the pavilion did not start until a health and safety plan complying with regulation 15 (4) of the said Regulations had been prepared. Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 Section 2 (1) for allegedly failing to ensure the safety of its employees while demolishing the pavilion and removing its contents.

Article Index


International News:

Kim Jong Il’s Unofficial Visit to China

The leader of the Korean people and the General Secretary of the Workers’ Party of Korea, Kim Jong Il, paid an unofficial visit to the People’s Republic of China from May 29 to 31 at the invitation of Jiang Zemin, General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China and President of the People’s Republic of China.

The Korean Central News Agency reports that at the talks and meetings, achievements and experience in socialist construction of the two parties and two countries were introduced. Support was also given to the five-point proposal put forth by Jiang Zemin to further the friendship between the DPRK and the PRC.

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