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Year 2001 No. 101, June 13, 2001 ARCHIVE

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John Monks Calls on Trade Unions to Help New Labour

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John Monks Calls on Trade Unions to Help New Labour

Refuse Collectors Strike

DU Combinations Dangerous to Life

Manoeuvres with NATO in Georgia

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John Monks Calls on Trade Unions to Help New Labour

As the New Labour government prepares to intensify the anti-social offensive, John Monks on Tuesday gave a speech to the AEEU conference in Blackpool calling on the trade unions to work with the Labour government, upholding that social partnership must become the norm.

After opening with the assertion that the Labour victory with less than a quarter of the electorate voting for Labour was the British people speaking "for the values which run through the heart and soul of the best of British trade unionism", he said that trade unionism "can now advance with a spring in its step". With these words, John Monks is trying to foster the illusion that a Labour victory is an advance for the workers, and that the values of New Labour are the values of the workers organised in opposition to their exploitation. He speaks in this way because he knows of the growing opposition to New Labour’s neo-liberal agenda.

So his message is that workers must work "with" and not in confrontation with the government. He says: "It’s not just a matter of what we want. It’s not an annual pay claim. Instead it’s a matter of what we can do, how we can help, where we can make a difference." He goes on: "So the next four years will be a challenge to us. We need to rise to the occasion, to prove our worth to the nation and to demonstrate our crucial importance to achieving the results that the British people are demanding."

John Monks is coming to the rescue of New Labour which claims that its values and programme are synonymous with those of the nation. He is doing his bit by urging workers to contribute to this "nation". So when the difficult choices and challenges that Tony Blair refers to present themselves, the workers are not supposed to take a stand, but to go along with and contribute to the Blairite programme.

Although the TUC General Secretary also posed his speech as if warning Millbank not to seek confrontation with "a major public sector trade union", his target was not the "Third Way" programme but the organised workers. He warned them "not to be ideological about privatisation". Taking up the worst aspect of British empiricism, he supported the Prime Minister’s watchwords in redefining Clause 4 – "it is what works that matters", which John Monks claims are "dead right". There is no aim in life, no theory guiding our action, so let’s go with what works.

And what is it that works? "What will work will be the partnership approach that many of you aim to pursue with your employers but which is all too rare in the public services. What will work will be a restoration of the public service ethos – that strong sense of serving the community." So in a couple of sentences, Monks makes very clear the link between the social partnership agenda between workers and their employers, and the civic partnership and communitarianism agenda that are a hallmark of the "Third Way" programme of individuals and communities fending for themselves. This, according to Monks, is what will deliver, this is what will work to make Britain competitive. The workers have to be "hardworking" and "dedicated" to serving the community. Meanwhile the gap between rich and poor widens and private capital enriches itself. Because opposition is escalating and is set to escalate in Labour’s second term, John Monks seeks ideologically to damp down the fire.

He contrasts what "will work" with what "won’t work". First he makes a feint in the direction of Labour, that what won’t work is wholesale privatisation. But then he aims for the workers, saying, "Of course what also won't work is obstructionist trade unionism intent on protecting the status quo when the need is for a great step forward together." The "change" and reforms that Tony Blair is threatening are in reality to protect the status quo, to prevent the workers challenging the system. The "great step forward together" is in fact a great step backward, a block to progress, an attack both on society and on the working class.

John Monks claims to want to place trade unionism at the heart of the nation’s affairs, "responsible, constructive, skilled and held in high esteem not just by workers, but by employers, the Government and the community". What John Monks is proposing is to further trample the esteem of the workers in the mud, and contribute to the violation of the rights of the workers and all human beings. He is so lost in trying to please the present government that he does not see that what will raise the prestige not only of the trade unions but of the working class as the leader of society, is for the workers’ leaders to espouse the cause of a society which is built on the recognition of the rights of all.

The TUC General Secretary is full of ambitions for the trade union movement. But these ambitions amount to no more than to bow down before the anti-social offensive of the rich in the name of contributing to the nation’s well-being. These are ambitions the workers and the trade unions cannot accept. They must and will continue to fight for the interests of the workers against the "Third Way" programme, against society being comprehensively given over to paying the rich, and through their struggles contribute to the forward march of society.

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Refuse Collectors Strike

Refuse collectors in Brighton and Hove have taken action after a number of workers were suspended by the waste firm Sita. The suspended workers had complained that new shift rotas were unworkable, the latest in a number of disputes between the company and the workers. Colleagues of the suspended workers occupied the main depot in Hollingdean in protest.

The workers’ union, the GMB, said that around 140 staff were then sacked by the end of the day for supporting the action before services were suspended altogether.

Gary Smith, regional organiser of the GMB, said of Sita: "They don’t want the contract, that is clear. At the moment the depot remains occupied. We do not know who has been sacked and who hasn’t."

Ken Bodfish, leader of Brighton and Hove Council, said: "Patience has worn very thin. We are at the make or break point with a contract that is clearly not being met… If Sita officials do not respond to us within the next 48 hours then the council reserves the right to serve notice to terminate their contract any time following the 48-hour period."

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DU Combinations Dangerous to Life

A commission of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has carried out comprehensive research into depleted uranium’s effect on the environment in Yugoslavia. Although it concluded that DU does not pose a threat if considered in isolation, the researches show that in the manner of its use which forms compounds, it is in fact very dangerous.

The environment security chief in the Russian Armed Forces, Lieutenant-General Boris Alexeyev, speaking to reporters, explained that combinations of DU and other substances and compounds can be dangerous for human life and health. Since the NATO bombings caused destruction and fires at many installations of the chemical and pharmaceutical industries, for example, the products are by no means harmless. Laboratories had extracted many dangerous substances and 36 of them were lethal for animals and 11 for humans, for instance causing leukemia.

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Manoeuvres with NATO in Georgia

Over 4,000 ground and naval troops from 10 countries, five of them NATO members embarked on land and sea military exercises in western Georgia on June 11. The countries involved are the US, Turkey, France, Greece, Italy, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Romania and the Ukraine.

The exercises will end on June 22, and are the first involving NATO to be held in Georgia. Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze told journalists that the manoeuvres testify to Georgia’s aspiration to Euro-Atlantic integration and will help the Georgian armed forces achieve NATO standards of professionalism.

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