Tony Blair has allied with the most right wing leaders in Europe to attack workers’ rights. The European Union summit in Spain last week saw him set up an axis with the right wing prime ministers of Italy and Spain, Silvio Berlusconi and JosŽ Maria Aznar.
They all want to butcher workers’ rights at work and force privatisation into even more of our services. Italy’s Berlusconi heads a government that includes people who openly sympathise with the Italian fascist dictator Mussolini.
Spain’s Aznar heads a party that absorbed people who used to be in General Franco’s fascist party. Franco’s fascist government in the 1930s murdered tens of thousands of workers. Blair’s axis shocked TUC leader John Monks, who described it last week as ‘bloody stupid’. Blair attacked Monks for having the gall to believe workers are entitled to basic rights in the workplace.
His chancellor, Gordon Brown, also waded in, saying, ‘We are not going to be diverted from our pro-competition, pro-enterprise agenda.’ Spain already has the worst record in Europe for workers on fixed term contracts. Temporary jobs mean employers can sack workers before they are entitled to any rights. Blair’s programme is about generalising such ‘flexible labour markets’ throughout Europe.
He wants to see governments across Europe selling off public services. In particular he targeted the French government, demanding it opens its electricity industry up for privatisation. That policy has the giant power companies in Britain cheering.
Powergen, the British power generating company, argued for the British model of privatisation in the sector to be extended across Europe. ‘We have greater liberalisation in the UK than anywhere else in the world. There is no reason why the same shouldn’t apply in France,’ said Powergen.
The European employers’ federation UNICE has also urged Spain’s prime minister to open electricity services for privatisation by next year, and gas services within two years.
‘WE ARE fed up with the role of long-suffering stooges.’ That comment from TUC leader John Monks shows how deep trade unions’ anger with New Labour runs. Monks has described himself as a ‘negotiator and conciliator’. But in an interview last week he boiled over at the threat of New Labour reneging on its promises over workers’ rights.
There were similar comments at the TUC women’s conference in Eastbourne last week. Mary Turner, president of the GMB union, said, ‘In 1980 Margaret Thatcher decided public service workers should be sold off to the private sector. I saw women lose their jobs on a Friday and be re-employed on a Monday on lower pay and no sick pay. I understood we had a ‘partnership with Labour’. Well, now there is privatisation under PPP. I wouldn’t PPP on them if they were on fire. When we speak out because nobody in government is listening to us then we are called wreckers. If battling makes me a wrecker then I’m proud to be that wrecker.’
Ruth Winters, Fire Brigades Union (FBU) vice-president, said, ‘The FBU is sick and tired of the government talking in a derogatory fashion about us. We are smarmed over and praised when an emergency pops up. Then they are slaughtering our trade union leaders when the unions fight for the members. Before the 1997 election they said they would defend public services. You’ve either failed or you’re lying to us-one or the other.’
She finished her speech to loud applause, saying, ‘If they can find the money for a bloody war then they can find the money for us.’ Further criticisms of New Labour came from GMB leader John Edmonds and TGWU leader Bill Morris last week.
Edmonds said, ‘Tony Blair has to realise the days of taking trade unions for a ride are over. Our members did not spend years working to elect Labour just so the prime minister could fly around Europe selling out their interests.’ Morris added, ‘The Department of Trade and Industry is now the provisional wing of the Confederation of British Industry. What the CBI wants, the DTI delivers.’
INCREDIBLY, BLAIR is more extreme than his hard right European allies in drumming up support for George Bush’s war. He was alone at the European summit in baying for more blood.
He also posed as the leading champion of increased military force in Europe. He backs a European ‘rapid reaction force’ that would see 60,000 troops ready for war at any time.
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