Socialist Worker

Gateway is shut

Issue No. 1762

Gateway is shut

GATEWAY computers last week joined the list of companies axing jobs because of the global economic slowdown.

The firm looks set to close its entire UK and Ireland operations. Gateway's 1,000 workers are still waiting to find out their future. Gateway is worth $20 billion worldwide and employs 20,000 people.

  • THE POST Office, or Consignia, is to cut 350 jobs across Britain as 59 of its 70 call centres are closed.
  • THE BRITISH Oxygen Company (BOC) plans to axe 200 workers in Britain as part of a global scheme to cut 1,500 jobs. Most of the cuts in Britain will be at BOC's sites in Crawley, Burgess Hill and Shoreham-by-Sea in Sussex. In the first nine months of the financial year BOC's profits were �363 million.
  • GLOBAL JOB cuts for August include Iomega Corp (1,250), SPX Corp (2,000), Cookson (1,960), Timken Co (1,800), BASF (4,000), Bayer (4,000) and Sabena (1,600).

Debt forces fees rethink

AS A-level results were announced this week, the government was under huge pressure over tuition fees and student debt.

New Labour may now give students longer to pay back their student loans in order to ward off a rebellion by MPs and party members. Blair was forced to pledge at the recent Labour Party Policy Forum that he would monitor the policy closely.

A new survey by Sheffield University of 15,000 students found:

  • One third of final year students are �10,000 in debt.
  • One in six students owe up to �15,000.
  • Some owe over �20,000.
  • Increasing numbers of students are turning down postgraduate studies because of debt.

Upfront tuition fees have been abolished in Scotland, and a separate report recommended their abolition in Wales.


Blair's top appointments

  • NEW LABOUR has now brought a Tory in to clear up its mess over foot and mouth disease. Mark Addison was a top aide to Margaret Thatcher. The post of director general at the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has been specially created for him.
  • CHRIS HASKINS, the boss of multi-million pound firm Northern Foods, has been appointed minister of rural affairs.
  • A KEY privatiser and BBC hatchet man has landed himself a top job as Tony Blair's adviser. Lord Birt, the former chief of the BBC, has been appointed to Blair's new Forward Strategy Unit. While at the BBC Birt made massive cuts in staff and increased the number of managers and consultants.

Money slick

GIANT OIL company BP is making �1.3 million profits an hour. BP last week announced record profits for the first half of 2001 of �5.58 billion-a rise of 5.2 percent.


LABOUR'S NEW NHS SCANDAL 

Nurses' jobs sold to highest bidder

NURSES AND doctors at a Herefordshire NHS hospital are to be forced to work for a profit-making private company.

The shocking revelation came in a Channel 4 News report on Monday. The small NHS Kington Cottage Hospital is to be rebuilt by Blanchworth Care, a private company.

That is the kind of deal typical of the Private Finance Initiative schemes New Labour is pushing across public services.

The Department of Health states that "nurses will continue to be employed by the NHS" under the government's plan to involve private companies in providing health services.

All 17 NHS nurses at Kington have been told that they must leave the NHS and become employees of Blanchworth.

They will then lose their NHS pension entitlement. "If our members wanted to work in the private sector they would have applied for jobs in the private sector," says Edna Hall of the UNISON union.

Channel 4 was inundated with e-mails after it broadcast the story on Monday. Only one defended the plan, and that was from a manager at private health firm Clinovia.

The rest, almost all from people who had voted Labour in June, were utterly shocked.

"I voted Labour at the last election to give them another chance. "I expected investment to come from the public purse, and not private companies whose only interest is to make a profit," wrote Leighton McKibbin.


Blair's Britain

  • THE NUMBER of patients waiting more than three months to see a consultant doctor has jumped by more than 25 percent.

Figures from the Department of Health last week revealed that the number rose by 75,700 in the three months up until June this year.

  • THE NATIONAL Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE), the body which advises the government on medical drugs, has ruled that the multiple sclerosis (MS) drug beta interferon should not be prescribed to new patients.

The reason is that the drug is too expensive. Beta interferon could help about 10 percent of people with MS. Only about 2 percent actually receive it.

  • NEW LABOUR is planning to cut benefit payments for 40,000 people who are too ill to leave their homes.

The government asked the social security advisory committee to consider axing �14.65 mobility payments for people who suffer from agrophobia and get anxiety attacks when outdoors.

  • THERE ARE still 4,600 vacancies for teachers-just weeks before the new school term begins.
  • A TOTAL of 516 homes were bought for over �1 million each in the three months up to June.

This is almost double the figure for the same period last year. In London the price of the average home has just reached �200,000. All 31 apartments in a building in Knightsbridge, London, were sold in 90 minutes at a cost of �40 million.


Free Mumia

MUMIA ABU-JAMAL was to appear in a Philadelphia court on Friday of this week. A demonstration was planned outside Mumia's first court appearance since 1996.

These are part of desperate attempts to save Mumia from the death penalty. The radical black journalist and former Black Panther was jailed after being fitted up for the 1981 murder of a police officer.

He has been on death row almost ever since.

Now campaigners have a sworn affidavit from Arnold Beverly stating that he shot the police officer, and that Mumia had nothing to do with it. His evidence has been available since 1999 but has never been heard in court.


Private hospital failure

THE GOVERNMENT spent �27.7 million buying a private heart hospital last week. The hospital buildings, equipment and all the staff will be transferred to the NHS.

It shows how easily the government could bring privatised utilities back into public hands.

Geoff Martin, regional convenor of London UNISON, says, "This nails the lie that the private sector is better at running public services."

The Heart Hospital was part of the NHS from 1947 to 1989, and was then sold off and reopened as a private hospital.

The owners, Parkway Healthcare, made losses of �5 million last year. Despite this, 25 percent of the beds at the Heart Hospital will remain private. It will become a specialist heart centre as part of London's UCLH, which is facing a PFI scheme.


Blair hasn't got business party yet

THE LABOUR Party is still heavily dependent on the trade unions for its funds. This is despite Blair's efforts to turn New Labour into a party reliant on donations from corporations and wealthy individuals.

According to figures from the Electoral Commission, of the �5.3 million Labour raised in the three months before June's general election, some �3.8 million came from the trade unions.

New Labour leaders had wanted to reduce the amount they received from trade unions to just 30 percent of donations.

Yet, at the same time as taking the cash, New Labour is treating trade unionists who provide this huge chunk of its funding with contempt by privatising our public services.


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Sat 18 Aug 2001, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1762
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