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Year 2001 No. 116, July 5, 2001 ARCHIVE HOME SEARCH SUBSCRIBE

Demonstration against Newcastle City Council

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Demonstration against Newcastle City Council

Friction Dynamics Workers to Hold Rally on Saturday

Once Upon a Time.........

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Demonstration against Newcastle City Council

Council workers and disabled people receiving council care staged a protest outside Newcastle Civic Centre on July 2.

As many as 100 demonstrators gathered as the Council met inside the Civic Centre. They were protesting about the private provision of community care and the workers, members of UNISON, warned that council workers are considering industrial action.

Pauline Greenwell, co-chair of Disabled Action North East, said that vulnerable people were facing being cared for by untrained, low-paid workers in place of dedicated carers.

UNISON branch secretary for Newcastle Kenny Bell called for the council to consult those who receive care, as well as with the trade unions, before they make changes. He said that street lighting workers were already moving towards industrial action, and that home care workers had held mass meetings.

Alan Ashbridge, UNISON shop steward for housing benefit workers, said there was discontent in the payroll, council tax and information technology departments, as well as among school meals workers.

Council leader Tony Flynn used the justification of targeting resources on the most needy, which is a standard justification for all-round cutbacks and privatisation. Tony Flynn said, "If there’s money that can’t cover everything, people in less need might have to get support form the private sector." Such a justification denies that the claims of people who benefit from social programmes, the claims of the vulnerable and people with special needs, must be met by society as of right. This justification is consistent with the present direction of the government nationally to introduce the so-called "MoT" tests for benefits for disabled people.

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Friction Dynamics Workers to Hold Rally on Saturday

The workers in the dispute at the Friction Dynamics Factory in Caernarfon are holding a rally on Saturday, July 7.

Two-thirds of the workforce, members of the TGWU, have been locked out for over nine weeks in the dispute over working conditions and have, after eight weeks of the dispute, been given the sack by the company.

The rally will start from the car park at the rear of Safeway’s in Caernarfon at 1pm.

The march will make its way through the town to the cenotaph in Castle Square where there will be speeches. T&G union members from South Wales are expected to arrive in coachloads to join the march, and workers from other unions are also expected to support the rally.

The workers have established a website to publicise the dispute. The address of the site is http://www.frictiondynamex.co.uk

WDIE expresses its full support for the workers at Friction Dynamics and wishes them victory in their struggle.

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Once Upon a Time.........

The following background information is taken from the website of the workers in struggle at Friction Dynamics, Caernarfon.

By 1986, Raymark Corporation had been named as a defendant in more than 88,000 asbestos-related personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits. In addition, the US-based company, whose core business was the manufacture of asbestos products for use in automobile clutch and brake systems, faced environmental damages litigation from the government and other plaintiffs.

In June 1986 Raymark shareholders approved a triangular merger and restructuring plan resulting in the creation of Raytech, a publicly traded holding company of Raymark.

In 1987, Craig R Smith, the current owner of Friction Dynamics Ltd, became president CEO of Raytech, where he oversaw a series of restructuring and disposals which were alleged to be designed to protect Raytech from liabilities due to tort litigation, environmental damage and pension fund responsibilities.

In 1988, an Oregon federal judge held that Smith had engaged in business transactions in an unlawful attempt to escape Raymark's asbestos liabilities. These liabilities, a court later determined, totalled $6.76 billion in addition to the government claim for environmental liabilities of $431.8 million.

At the same time it is alleged that Smith used Raytech as a corporate shield to defraud approximately 700 of Raymark's retirees and other pensioners of their retirement and pension benefits. In 1999, the Bankruptcy Court having jurisdiction over Raytech ruled that the company owed an estimated $18.5 million to Raymark retirees and pensioners.

Smith is alleged to be known for his contention that most asbestos tort lawsuits are frivolous. And to that end he has sued plaintiffs' attorneys, levelling charges that they have conspired to file baseless claims and have suborned false testimony. He has also filed suits attempting to limit contingency fees for lawyers representing workers and other people injured by airborne asbestos exposure.

Raytech's current Board of Directors has alleged that the former president and CEO repeatedly engaged in sophisticated and non-transparent business transactions designed to enrich his family at the expense of shareholders and Chapter 11 creditors.

In one instance cited by the company, in 1990-91, Raytech Powentrain Inc., a subsidiary of the company and owner of all of the capital stock of Allomatic Products Company ("APC"), sold approximately 45% of the capital stock of APC to a group of investors, including Craig Smith. Smith subsequently transferred all his APC stock to relatives and controlled companies. Raytech's Board now contends that Smith used this sale to conceal his taking control of 40% of APC without disclosure. Following the Allomatic revelations, Raytech's Board of Directors instructed the General Counsel to monitor sales of corporate assets to Smith family members.

On January 12, 1998, the Board of Directors fired Smith citing a conflict of interest between his leadership of Raytech and his family's exclusive ownership of Raymark (Smith owned 49% of Raymark, his son, Bradley, 51%). In December 1998 Raytech, the Chapter 11 trustee of Raymark, and the Raytech creditors committee filed a complaint against Craig R Smith, a number of his relatives, as well as certain of this business associates, alleging that the defendants had perpetuated an elaborate and ongoing scheme to strip assets belonging to Raymark. The suit alleges that the Smith family looted the company, enriching themselves by approximately £12 million, depriving Raytech and its Chapter 11 creditors of virtually all the company's assets. Currently a preliminary injunction by the Bankruptcy Court prohibits Mr Smith and his co-defendants from "dissipating, conveying, encumbering or otherwise disposing of any assets".

A lawsuit before the US District Court in Connecticut is pending regarding the alleged wrongful stripping of assets. In 2000, a suit was filed in the US District Court for Connecticut alleging that Smith and his family conspired to unlawfully divert millions of dollars earmarked for asbestos claims for their own benefit.

In a June 4, 2000, New York Times article, Fred Baron, lead partner in Baron & Budd, the country's largest asbestos plaintiff law firm, called Smith "a down in the dirt crook". In December 2000, Smith filed a $400,000 libel suit against Baron. Baron claims that Smith had systematically created negative publicity concerning alleged misconduct by Baron & Budd, and that Smith had met with FBI agents in order to induce them to investigate Baron. Baron is the attorney representing plaintiffs alleging that the Smith family had illegally diverted asbestos liability funds.

A representative of the Paper, Allied-Industrial Chemical and Energy International Union, which represents workers at Raybestos, a Raymark/Raytech subsidiary in Crawfordsville, Indiana, reports that workers hold Smith accountable for jeopardising their jobs through his alleged asset-stripping. While the union has not bargained a contract directly with Smith and reports having little to add regarding his labour relations policies, workers' experience with Smith's alleged looting causes local union leaders to describe his present union-busting at Friction Dynamex as "not surprising".

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