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Year 2001 No. 120, July 11, 2001 ARCHIVE HOME SEARCH SUBSCRIBE

Merseyside Firefighters Vote to Strike

Workers' Daily Internet Edition : Article Index :

Merseyside Firefighters Vote to Strike

International News:
IMF’s Loan Programme for Azerbaijan
World Leaders to Attend NATO Summit
Puerto Rico: Vieques Has Been Launch Pad for US Imperialist Aggression

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Merseyside Firefighters Vote to Strike

Firefighters and control staff in Merseyside have voted, with an 85% turnout from Merseyside’s 1,400 firefighters and an 83% vote in support, to strike for eight consecutive days from 9 am on July 13. The last action by Merseyside firefighters took place in 1995 and lasted nine months. Merseyside FBU Chair Ian Foulkes pointed out that the dispute centres on the Fire Authority’s intention to bypass nationally agreed conditions of employment service and said that "the employers have shown a lack of understanding of industrial relations and the facts of this dispute".

The union points out that it has tried to resolve the dispute through the Fire Service National Disputes Panel which had ruled in its favour, which was followed by the Fire Authority taking the union to the High Court in a futile attempt to prevent the FBU’s legal ballot.

In another development, which could be described as a provocative act designed to intimidate the firefighters and punish them for taking action, the workers are being warned they could be made to cover the cost of their planned strike action. Neil Thompson, Fire Brigade Union regional chairman, described the plan as "outrageous".

The union stresses the importance of defending the firefighters conditions of service and has announced a National Demonstration to take place 12.30 pm at Kings Dock (by Albert Dock) on Friday, July 13.

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International News

IMF’s Loan Programme for Azerbaijan

The IMF approved a three-year loan to Azerbaijan on July 2. The "Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility" loan is worth approximately $100 million to Azerbaijan.

Azerbaijan is one of the countries that has been implementing the neo-liberal agenda demanded by the IMF in recent years. Announcing the decision, IMF Acting Chairman Stanley Fischer, however, stressed the need now for sustained growth other than in the oil sector, structural reforms, improved governance, transparency in transactions concerning the state Oil Fund and the abolition of subsidies to the energy sector, which the IMF regards as inefficient.

This is the quid pro quo of the IMF’s deals.

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World Leaders to Attend NATO Summit

Thirty-one world leaders have been invited to attend the summit of NATO candidate countries to be held in the Bulgarian capital Sofia on October 5.

The candidates from the Vilnius Group, which comprises Slovenia, Slovakia, Romania, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Albania, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, will discuss progress towards their future entry into NATO. The Vilnius Group members are working towards an invitation to join NATO at US-led military alliances 2002 summit in Prague.

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Puerto Rico:

Vieques Has Been Launch Pad for US Imperialist Aggression

Since the Bush administration made its announcement in June that the US Navy would pull out of the Puerto Rican island of Vieques in 2003, the people of Vieques and Puerto Rico have unequivocally demanded US imperialism’s immediate withdrawal. The US wargames which took place from June 18 to 30, after George W Bush's announcement, saw the growing determination of the people to get the Navy out immediately. Navy officials in fact report that over 70 people were arrested for civil disobedience, including many who again put their bodies on the line to act as "human shields" on the range itself.

On June 27, the US House Armed Services Committee held a three-hour hearing in which nearly 20 Congressman criticised the Bush administration’s decision to pull out of Vieques. However, appearing before the committee, Navy Secretary Gordon England explained the decision to leave Vieques as follows: "One, to dampen the emotion and perhaps the demonstration surrounding the training schedule for June. And, two, seize the initiative and refocus our efforts on the real issue. The real issue is effective training for our naval forces and not Vieques."

The US government has long sought to justify its occupation of Vieques and the destruction of the island's social and natural environment on the basis that the training Vieques provides is essential. According to the US Navy, Vieques is the only location in the Atlantic where naval units can conduct the Combined Arms training required to deploying to "areas of potential hostilities in support of US Foreign Policy".

The link between the wargames on Vieques and US aggression world-wide is well-established. In August 2000, warplanes from the USS Harry S. Truman conducted bombing practice on Vieques. Six months later, on February 16, those same warplanes bombed targets south of Baghdad. When US Navy officials announced on April 12 that bombing would resume on Vieques in late April, it was for a deployment of the USS Enterprise to the Persian Gulf immediately afterward.

In November of 1998, the Enterprise battle group conducted wargames in Vieques before departing for the Persian Gulf. Upon arrival the battle group began attacks on Iraq, "expending more than 690,000 pounds of ordnances on Iraqi targets in a 70-hour time period," according to a Navy report. Then in early 1999, the Enterprise battle group launched cruise missile attacks against Yugoslavia.

The Theodore Roosevelt battle group conducted wargames in Vieques in February 1999. From May 12 to June 12, 1999, aircraft from Roosevelt's airwing flew combat sorties in Yugoslavia. Deputy Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Conrad Lautenbacher said the Roosevelt's performance "is noteworthy for its many successes: scores of fixed targets destroyed, more than 400 tactical targets destroyed or damaged, in excess of 3,000 sorties without a single loss. ... It takes a proper level of resources and the most realistic training we can provide prior to deploying – precisely the type of co-ordinated, live fire training conducted at the Atlantic Fleet Weapons Testing Facility at Vieques."

According to a report by the Chief of Naval Operations and the Commandant of the Marine Corps, "The fundamental value of the Vieques facility is proven every day by our forward deployed naval forces. The Aircraft Battle Groups and the Amphibious Ready Group that trained within the last year [1999] ended up flying combat operations over Iraq and Kosovo within days of their arrival overseas. They delivered many of their attacks from high altitude, and their ability to do so successfully was directly related to their training at Vieques."

About 50,000 troops train on Vieques every year, including virtually all naval and Marine troops entering combat in the Gulf War. It has also been the site of naval exercises in which the British navy has itself taken part, including simulated assaults in a scenario of quelling a popular uprising.

The role of Vieques as a launch pad for US imperialist aggression has not been limited to the past ten years. During the Vietnam War, the military practised carpet-bombing and its napalm programme on Vieques. It was also from Vieques that the US prepared for its military intervention in Guatemala in 1954 and the Dominican Republic in 1965, and conducted its final "dress rehearsal" for the invasion of Grenada in 1983.

The US military has numerous other military bases and training ranges around the world. But the people of Okinawa, Korea, Hawaii and elsewhere are also demanding that the US military get out. And the people of the Philippines and Panama are demanding that the US make reparations for the devastating health and environmental effects which are a legacy of such bases.

The demand that the US get out of Vieques immediately is one that is receiving growing attention from democratic forces world-wide. It is also proving a catalyst to the movement against US imperialist intervention throughout the world.

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