Socialist Worker

Nothing to lose but your stress

Issue No. 1719

Inside the system

Nothing to lose but your stress

GLOBALISATION AND free market economic policies are uniting the workers of the world-with stress. A new report by the International Labour Organisation says that across the world "employees suffer from low morale, burnout, anxiety, stress, lost income and even unemployment".

  • In the US one in ten employees suffers from clinical depression brought on by work.
  • In Finland over 50 percent of the workforce experience stress-related symptoms, and 7 percent are "severely burnt out".
  • In Germany stress accounts for 7 percent of premature retirements.
  • In Britain 30 percent of workers experience mental health problems. Some 14 percent of NHS inpatient costs and 25 percent of its drugs bill go towards treating stressed-out office workers.
  • In Poland rising stress disorders are "related to the country's socio-economic transformation and resulting increases in unemployment, job insecurity and declining living standards".

The ILO report concluded that "a number of common threads appear to link the high prevalence of stress to changes taking place in the labour market, due partly to the effects of economic globalisation. "Workers worldwide, as never before, face an array of new organisational structures and processes which can affect their mental health." The World Federation of Mental Health reckons that by 2020 stress and mental disorders will overtake road accidents, AIDS and violence as the main cause of lost working time.


PC PLOD of the Month award goes to an officer from Dorchester police. He took out a van with a cage in the back. He glanced in his rear-view mirror and to his horror saw a mysterious man sitting in the cage. Taking fright, plod headed back to his police station for help. It was only when he got there that he realised the man in the back was his own reflection in the perspex sheet separating the cage from the cab.


A lot of bottle?

THE EDITORIAL of this month's Police Federation magazine, "The Bottle Of Britain", heaped praise on the recent protests by farmers and hauliers. Comparing the protests to the 1940 Battle of Britain, the federation wrote of how in this "finest hour...the sense of national unity was very much alive". It continued, "A comparative handful of pickets, farmers and truckers, facing desperate economic problems, managed within a couple of days to create a virtual state of emergency. All this was achieved without any of the ugly scenes that were once a feature of industrial strife in Britain, in sharp contrast with those politically motivated activists for whom violence and intimidation are a first resort."

But there was a word of warning: "The danger of direct action...is that a stage can soon be reached in which the genie cannot be put back in the bottle."


Turning rebellion into money

THE ABILITY of capitalism to turn everything, even anti- capitalist protest, into a commodity is reaching new heights. Anti-Corp is Britain's first advertising agency dedicated to "viral marketing". Its aim is to sidestep commercial advertising avenues such as TV. Instead it spreads brand names by word of mouth or over the internet-"word of mouse".

Products so far promoted by Anti-Corp include shirts with magnetic strips designed to set off store alarms, "slacker" PC screensavers that count the time office workers waste at their desks, and a "pollution jacket" that warns cyclists when pollution exceeds safe levels.

But the creators of Anti-Corp are not anarchists turned capitalists. "There's nothing wrong with money," says Anti-Corp founder Mark Simmons. "Rebel" Simmons was formerly the global advertising manager for Coca-Cola's Sprite drink brand.


PFI = PROFIT

THE government's PFI privatisation schemes are giving huge boosts to major privately-owned regional contractors. Last week's Construction News reported that Worcestershire-based Tho-mas Vale has seen an 82 percent rise in pre-tax profits to �1.47 million and a 36 percent rise in turnover due to PFI contracts.

Scottish based Melville Dundas has seen a 22 percent profit boost due to "rapid growth around the Edinburgh area" of PFI schemes. Another Scottish firm, the Robertson Group, is popping the champagne corks after winning a �30 million contract for a hospital in Inverness.


FANCY a treat? Inside the System can recommend a visit to the Saint Olga Health Club in west London. Why not book in for the "Black Caviar Soak". This consists of a bath filled with "black caviar, avocado, fruit, individual oils and herbal infusions...followed by a rose infusion." Just set aside two hours-and �4,000.


THE papers were full of praise for Microsoft's Bill Gates after he gave �150 million to Cambridge University last week. The money is part of a �14 billion charitable foundation set up by the world's richest man.

But don't worry about Gates being out of pocket. On the very same day it was reported Microsoft had managed to avoid paying $5.5 billion in tax last year.


Things they say

"WHEN WE go to work in the morning we think we are fighting poverty. We do not think that we are responsible for three billion people living under $2 a day."

  • World Bank president JAMES WOLFENSOHN

"I HAVE an awesome responsibility-life and death. I get the facts, weigh them thoughtfully and carefully, and decide."

  • GEORGE W BUSH, US Republican Party candidate for president, on the death penalty

"WHAT HE did not say is that he normally does this in 15 minutes."

  • NEW YORK TIMES on George W Bush

"I REACH high speeds. I especially love driving down a hill directly at a tree and swerving to one side at the last moment. That's my way to relax."

  • BORIS YELTSIN, former Russian president, on driving his golf buggy

"I DID not go to him with the intention of asking him to loan me some money."

  • PETER MANDELSON, Northern Ireland secretary, in May 1999 on his meeting with Geoffrey Robinson

"HE WAS looking for a loan. He initiated the discussion of his finances and his flat. The very next day he phoned me and asked if I would really help him buy a house."

  • GEOFFREY ROBINSON, former Paymaster General, in his new book

"AS A wealthy businessman I could afford it, and I was happy to support the political offices of Gordon and Tony as well, just as I had for Neil Kinnock and John Smith."

  • GEOFFREY ROBINSON

"FOR THE record, the NATO campaign is nowadays regarded in Washington as Mrs Albright's miscalculation."

  • JOHN SIMPSON, BBC world affairs editor, on how the US now views last year's Balkan War

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Article information

News
Sat 21 Oct 2000, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1719
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