Socialist Worker

Did bosses down plane?

Issue No. 1672

'TERRORIST LINK as 217 Killed In Jet Disaster' was the headline in the Sun the day after EgyptAir's plane plunged into the sea. Much of the press immediately assumed shadowy bombers were to blame for the tragedy. You had to search much further to find out some interesting facts.

The Boeing 767 that crashed had chilling links with another 767 that crashed in Thailand eight years ago. The aircraft were built alongside each other ten years ago. The first plane went to EgyptAir and the second to Austrian airline company Lauda Air. The EgyptAir and Lauda planes were built when the company was struggling to meet record orders. They both came off Boeing's Seattle production line days before workers went on strike.

A major complaint in the 48 day machinists' strike was that heavy overtime demands left them too tired to do their jobs properly. They were pushed to work punishing hours for seven days a week. Such factors seem much more relevant than any bomb theory. Radar analysis shows that the plane plunged 17,000 feet before climbing, diving again and then finally breaking apart. That sounds much more like a mechanical problem than a terrorist explosion.


Aitken's free lunch

JONATHAN Aitken, once a Tory cabinet minister, was sentenced to 18 months in jail for perjury. But two weeks ago, four months into his sentence, he was allowed out for Sunday lunch. Aitken was welcomed at the home of Colonel Ted Sharp. Other guests included Lord Pearson of Rannoch, Tory MPs Alan Duncan and Richard Shepherd, Jonathan's mother, and his daughter Alexandra.

As one would expect with the ruling class, Aitken's hosts could not actually be bothered to cook for their chum. Instead they brought in a private caterer. Aitken lapped up second helpings. Apparently he is not finding prison too hard. However, he 'badly misses the Grecian 2000 which, before his imprisonment, had camouflaged his greying hair'. Aitken hopes to be allowed out for Christmas and freed in January.


WASTE handler Shanks Group announced pre-tax profits of £19.8 million, up 10 percent on the last six months. Shanks is a beneficiary of the BSE crisis. It has a contract with the government to burn infected cows and bonemeal. It is nice to see someone benefiting out of the crisis.


Why papers don't expose the police

THE POLICE Federation faces a massive bill estimated at £400,000 for a libel action by a police constable against Mirror Group Newspapers. Under the confidential settlement reached at the high court in Sheffield, each side will pay its own costs. The case cost the Mirror over a quarter of a million pounds to defend itself.

The sums involved in these cases show just how difficult it is for all but the biggest newspapers to challenge police behaviour. The Police Federation has clocked up 100 straight libel victories. Many papers settle because court cases are massively expensive. The result is that local newspapers and socialist newspapers are often held back from saying what they know to be true.


SKIPFULS OF CASH FOR SOME

BOSSES IN the construction industry are complaining that they are the poor relations in the pay league, earning on average £200,000 a year less than their counterparts in other industries. A quick look at the salaries of the construction bosses shows that they will hardly need to queue for extra casual shifts on the sites to make their money up to a living wage. The 'underpaid' include:

  • Peter Mason (AMEC), on £561,000 a year.

  • Oliver Whitehead (Alfred McAlpine), who grabs £394,000 a year.

  • John Gains (Mowlem), salary £374,146 a year.


    Nurses on the cheap

    LONDON teaching hospitals are forcing student nurses to work over the millennium period for as little as £2.75 an hour. The Royal Free and Whittington hospitals in London are making student nurses work over Christmas and the millennium. This will save thousands of pounds as nursing agencies are charging £80 an hour for staff to work during the holiday period.


    Real rip off

    COCA-COLA is testing what could well turn out to be the first vending machine to reconcile the forces of supply and demand by raising prices when demand increases. The new machines will automatically raise the price of soft drinks when the temperature rises.

    Doug Ivester, head of the US company, defended the scheme saying, 'Coca-Cola is a product whose utility varies from moment to moment. In the summer the utility of a chilled Coca-Cola is very high. So it is fair it should be more expensive. The machine will simply make the process automatic.'


    ONE OF Scotland Yard's most senior black officers has become the target of a race hate campaign. Detective Inspector David Michael received the anonymous hate mail only eight days after being elected chairman of the Black Police Association. Who is the abuser? Information contained in the letter suggests it was another police officer.


    Things they say

    THE GLC's campaign over abolition has shown that the techniques of the marketing industry can be turned against the capitalist society that spawned them.'

    ROBIN COOK, now foreign secretary, writing admiringly of Ken Livingstone's tactics in 1985

    'THE new Pakistani general, he's just been elected - not elected, the guy took over office. It appears this guy is going to bring stability to the country and that's good news for the subcontinent. General...I can't name the general. General.'

    US presidential candidate GEORGE W BUSH shows his deep knowledge of Pakistan

    'I FELT that we were forced into a verdict of 'guilty of murder'. A more appropriate verdict would have been 'guilty as frightened and largely unaware children who made a terrible mistake and now need psychiatric and social help'.'

    Letter to the Guardian last week from a JUROR at the trial of the boys who killed James Bulger

    'WE REALLY are witnessing once again the triumph of Tory policies in the hands of a Labour government.'

    DAVID CURRY MP, Conservative housing minister 1993-7

    'IT WOULD show that we had the bottle, that we would do what the Tories failed to do, reform the welfare state.'

    LABOUR INSIDER on why they did not mind some Labour MPs voting against benefit cuts for the disabled

    'IT IS not uncommon for debt collectors, even at big firms, to tell defaulters to kill themselves. And many do it because they want to avoid trouble for their friends and families.'

    KENJI UTSUNOMIYA, bankruptcy lawyer, after a Japanese debt firm told a defaulter he should sell a kidney, an eyeball and part of his liver to meet a debt


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    Article information

    Inside the System
    Sat 13 Nov 1999, 00:00 GMT
    Issue No. 1672
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