Socialist Worker

In lethal company

Issue No. 1766

SOME PRIVATE companies working most closely with New Labour to privatise public services have found themselves in the dock recently. Carillion (formerly called Tarmac) is a leading business backer of New Labour. It gives money to the New Local Government Network. Carillion's staff have been seconded to government departments to 'advise' on privatisation.

  • Carillion has won PFI contracts for hospitals in Swindon, South Cleveland and elsewhere. The firm was in court in Birmingham last week, being prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). The HSE accused the firm of unsafe working practices on train lines.

  • Costain is another firm that has found favour with New Labour. It won a £75 million PFI contract at King's College Hospital in London. Recently Costain was fined £200,000 for its involvement in the death of Paul Davies. Paul was crushed to death by a 13-tonne excavator.

  • Devonport Management Limited is set to run the navy's nuclear submarines in Plymouth. Tony Blair awarded a CBE to its chairman, Tony Pryor. New Labour has awarded six MBEs to managers at Devonport Management Limited. In August the firm pleaded guilty to exposing 24 subcontractors to deadly asbestos dust. Workers could have been exposed to up to 90 times the legal exposure limit. The company had told the workers the building was free of asbestos.


    Raw deal

    A CHEF won an employment tribunal last week after her boss sacked her because she refused to work an 84-hour week for just £1.96 an hour. Anne Fleming worked for the Lomond Country Inn and Restaurant in Perthshire. Anne says, 'I had just come top of a chefs' class at a local college. I was enjoying working there but then Mr McQueen told me I had to work seven days a week, 12 hours a day for no extra money. If I had agreed, I would never have seen my kids.' She was awarded £2,000 in compensation at the tribunal.


    DELEGATES at the recent UN conference on racism got a harsh lesson in what privatisation means. First there was the general strike which swept the country. Then delegates got hit in their pockets.

    The government contracted out the accommodation of delegates to a private company, Turners.

    Turners block booked hotels in the city-and charged 200 percent above the normal price. The world ministers and their hangers-on complained about extortionate prices.


    DHL wants to get its hands on the Post Office. The company has sponsored a meeting at the Labour Party conference, where government ministers Stephen Byers and Wendy Alexander will speak.

    She is the sister of Douglas Alexander, the minister in charge of postal services.


    Labour pains

    IT WAS nice to see Margaret Hodge speaking out in favour of public services last week. She wrote in the Guardian telling New Labour ministers to stop slating public sector workers.

    'Any ideas of wholesale privatisation of schools and hospitals are inimical to Labour's core value system,' she wrote. This would be rather more convincing had Margaret Hodge not pioneered the 'enabling council'.

    'Enabling councils' withdrew from directly providing services and instead became managers of competing private contractors. Hodge was also at the centre of one of the biggest scandals which turned housing associations into little more than profit-hungry businesses.

    She was chair of one of Britain's biggest housing associations, Circle 33, when it ran up huge debts and dabbled in the financial markets. Circle 33 ruthlessly drove rents up to pay for this crisis, and abandoned all democracy.

    It shut down elected tenants' committees. When tenants complained it cancelled tenants' meetings and suppressed criticism in its newsletters. Margaret Hodge called the protesting tenants 'nobodies'.


    Loss of trust

    SWINDON AND Marlborough NHS Trust is inviting companies to pay for its staff to jump waiting lists. The trust hopes to raise £400,000 a year with this queue-jumping scheme. The trust is also offering companies a range of services, including blood screening and check-ups.

    The trust's private practice manager, Sue Harvey, said, 'We are responding to the government's NHS Plan. 'The government is very keen for the NHS to market the health service through the Public-Private Partnership service.'


    War on water

    GIANT MULTINATIONAL Coca-Cola isn't content with being one of the biggest firms in the world. It has launched a new campaign called 'H2No', aimed at people in restaurants who choose to drink plain tap water. Coca-Cola moans that many American restaurants face 'a high water incidence rate'.

    It wants restaurant workers to 'reduce tap water incidence'. Coca-Cola advises restaurant workers to suggest 'a profitable beverage in place of water to the customer during the ordering process'. It explains that using the kit should result in 'higher profits for the restaurant'.

    Incidentally, Coca-Cola markets bottled water in countries like Mexico.

    AN ANTI-GLOBALISATION activist shook up a conference of businessmen from the textile industry in Finland recently. He had posed as a World Trade Organisation official to give a lecture on the future of textiles.

    He told the audience that the abolition of slavery had interfered with the global free market, that sweatshops were good, and that Gandhi's Indian self sufficiency movement was 'stupid'. The audience gave him a standing ovation before he revealed his true identity.


    Things they say

    'AS A ballpark figure, we have more than 100 millionaires in Logica.'
    MARTIN READ, chief executive of computer software firm Logica, justifying his £27 million pay package

    'CHRISTIANITY has now almost been vanquished.'
    CARDINAL CORMAC MURPHY-O'CONNOR, Archbishop of Westminster

    'IT IS important that parents have more choice of religious schools.'
    Education secretary ESTELLE MORRIS

    'THE CITY does not deal in rational views. It deals in greed and fear. Its greed created Lord Simpson's Marconi. Its fear now threatens to destroy the company.'
    SUNDAY TELEGRAPH

    'THIS bubble closely resembles the tulip mania.'
    FINANCIAL TIMES editorial, 7 September, comparing the high-tech boom with one of the maddest speculative crazes in the history of capitalism

    'THIS WAS no tulip mania.'
    FINANCIAL TIMES editorial, 8 September

    'I WOULDN'T call this a severe crisis. I would call it a challenging set of circumstances.'
    STEVE HARE, finance director of...Marconi

    'MY TIME working in counter-subversion spanned a period of very considerable upheaval-the miners' strike, the height of CND...and a Socialist Workers Party that was very active in the universities.'
    Former head of MI5 STELLA RIMINGTON

    'ANTI-globalisation is a formidable movement. It is well coordinated, well informed, it has mass appeal. It is not strictly speaking 'anti-globalisation'. Instead this is counter-capitalism, the simple idea that capitalism has gone too far.'
    FINANCIAL TIMES


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    Article information

    Inside the System
    Sat 15 Sep 2001, 00:00 BST
    Issue No. 1766
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