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Year 2001 No. 216, December 18, 2001 ARCHIVE HOME SEARCH SUBSCRIBE

Pay Gap Continues to Widen

Workers' Daily Internet Edition : Article Index :

Pay Gap Continues to Widen

Rail Workers in Strike Ballot

Police Opposition to Government Proposals

Gerry Adams of Sinn Féin Visits Cuba

Security Council Fails to Pass Measure on Middle East Violence through US Veto

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Pay Gap Continues to Widen

Pay rises are getting smaller and many firms have frozen pay altogether, though not for executives whose pay is rising fast, according to surveys of the CBI and PIRC.

One in six service sector firms and one in 10 companies in the manufacturing sector have announced pay freezes for their staff since August, a Confederation of British Industry (CBI) survey found.

"Pay awards are clearly starting to decline as firms feel the pinch of the economic slowdown," said Ian McCafferty, the CBI's chief economist. "And the squeeze is now spreading to the service sector."

For workers in the service sector, pay awards since August averaged 2.8%, down from 4.4% in the three months to July and 3.9% in the same period a year ago, the CBI's latest pay review for Britain reported. Manufacturing workers got pay deals averaging 2.6%, down from 2.9% in the three months to July and 3.1% in the final quarter of 2000.

Meanwhile, a separate survey found that pay for the executives of the top 100 companies listed on the London Stock Exchange has risen sharply over the last year. They saw their basic salaries rise by 12.8% this year, according to a study by corporate governance watchdog Pension Investment Research Consultants (PIRC).

The increase in directors' basic pay has far outstripped the average increase in wages in Britain this year, which was 4.4%. Once cash bonuses are included, executives' rose at an even steeper rate. The total average cash payment made to executives of FTSE 100 firms rose 20.2% to £683,000. Cash bonuses paid to directors of top companies, over and above their salaries, have risen by 34% and averaged £297,000, said PIRC. Nor is this everything that is in managers' benefit packages. Many executives of FTSE 100 firms receive annual share options worth up to twice their salary.

With executive salaries rising fast, the result of is "a powerful multiplier effect which has the potential to create a boardroom pay explosion in coming years", Stuart Bell, research director of PIRC, said.

These figures underline how the inequality between the few and the many is deepening, as well as the trend of economic recession. Perhaps the most striking thing they highlight is the way that the economy is geared not to generating wealth for the benefit of society and the producers, but to enriching a stratum of society which is entirely divorced from production.

Under these circumstances, any call that the alternative is for the government to have a budget for industry rather misses the point. This is especially important after September 11 when the crisis has deepened, but the government is still maintaining that the economy is on track. Funds are being channelled away from social programmes into enriching the financiers, a programme to parasitically remove funds from the economy. Even the Chancellor's feint in the direction of putting more funds into the NHS with a hinted possibility of tax rises has incurred the displeasure of the IMF, which is intent on calling the tune here and internationally.

Article Index

Rail Workers in Strike Ballot

Workers on South West Trains (SWT) have been voting in two separate ballots, on pay and discipline, which could lead to strikes over Christmas.

The Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) balloted members at SWT after officials rejected a 3.8% offer, saying train drivers had been offered twice as much.

Acting general secretary Vernon Hince said non-drivers were sick to the hilt of being treated like second-class employees. He said: "These loyal members deserve equal treatment to drivers, who have essentially been offered twice as much as other grades. All we want is a fair deal for all our members – which, despite our best efforts at the negotiating table, has not been forthcoming."

The union is also claiming two employees have been subjected to what it calls "ridiculous disciplinary charges on spurious grounds". Vernon Hince said: "The company appears hell-bent on breaking the established procedures to which this union is signatory, and which were put in place to defend and protect every one of our members." Leaders of the union will meet this week to consider the results of the voting and decide whether to sanction walkouts.

SWT, which runs services into London's Waterloo station, says it hopes the ballot is a no vote for strike action. The company was affected by strikes earlier this year over various disputes, including the changing role of guards.

Article Index

Police Opposition to Government Proposals

Under Home Secretary David Blunkett's proposals for police reform, the police would be expected to work more flexibly, but could receive special bonuses. Another central plank in the White Paper published this month is the introduction of community support officers (CSOs), who would have power of arrest under certain circumstances.

Other plans include the creation of a national centre for policing excellence to train officers and a pilot scheme of a non-emergency contact number called Police Direct, to take the pressure off 999 operators. David Blunkett also wants to set up an independent Police Complaints Commission, in which civilians will play a greater role in investigating complaints against officers.

According to senior officers, police are very opposed to the government plans. Police Federation chairman Fred Broughton said there was "widespread discontent" among the workforce about the proposals. His view was echoed by Glen Smyth, chairman of the Metropolitan Police Federation, who said there was "massive anger" at proposed cuts in overtime pay, sick pay and allowances.

Federation officials representing all 43 forces in England and Wales were holding an emergency meeting on Monday to discuss possible avenues of response to the proposals. It is illegal for the 125,000 rank and file officers to strike, but possible action includes work to rule or protest rallies to gain public support.

Fred Broughton said: "We are in the middle of difficult negotiations and we have a very angry workforce. Officers are disgruntled at the prospect of working longer hours for less money and the proposals to introduce wardens and private security policing."

Glen Smyth accused the government of exaggerating police sickness levels and "vilifying" officers by "branding them lazy". He told the BBC the proposals themselves and the manner in which they had been discussed had aroused resentment among officers. Speaking on Radio 4's Today programme he said: "Despite a plea by the Home Office not to negotiate in public through the newspapers, that's exactly what they've done, indulging in a softening up campaign by vilifying the good name of the vast majority of police officers by branding them as lazy." He added, "Anger is absolutely massive."

He said that in order to achieve the efficiencies demanded by the government, civilian staff would need to be recruited to take on many tasks currently performed by police officers day and night. But many officers oppose extending civilian policing.

A Home Office spokesman said the reforms were aimed at making the police more effective. He said: "To do this the police service needs modern management and personnel practices. In October, the Government asked the police negotiating board to look at reforms to the pay and terms and conditions of police officers, which is what they are looking at. Measures to achieve this are being discussed at the moment."

The police have been given a deadline of December 27 to agree to the plans, a date federation officials have branded as "unrealistic".

The proposals come at a time when the government has been pushing through its "Anti-Terrorism" Act, which increases the scope of law and order legislation and seeks to illegitimatise protest and dissent as public order issues, as well as giving the police greater powers against protesters. So the White Paper is proposing changes to the police force in line with this reactionary direction of consolidating what has been suggested is a "police state". However, it is evident that the police themselves are unhappy about the implications for their working conditions and their rights as a police force. It appears that the government is determined to leave out the human factor even when it comes to the police.

Article Index

Gerry Adams of Sinn Féin Visits Cuba

Radio Havana has reported that Gerry Adams, President of the Sinn Féin, was to arrive in Cuba on Sunday for an official visit at the invitation of the Cuban Communist Party's Central Committee.

During his three-day stay on the island, Gerry Adams and an accompanying delegation – comprised of other high-ranking leaders of Sinn Féin – will have a packed agenda of interviews and meetings with Cuban officials and also visit places of historic, social and cultural interest in Havana.

Gerry Adams said he was "very happy" to be in Cuba and was looking forward to unveiling a plaque in Havana to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the 1981 Irish republican hunger strike.

"When the 10 hunger strikers died, there was strong support from Cuba, and especially from President Fidel Castro," Gerry Adams said on Sunday, according to a Spanish-language translation of his comments made in Gaelic at Havana airport.

Oscar Martinez, deputy head of the Foreign Relations Department of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba, meeting Gerry Adams on Sunday, said Cuba had excellent relations with Sinn Fein.

"It's a very important visit to us because Gerry Adams is a great friend of Cuba. He has always supported the Cuban Revolution," Oscar Martinez said. "We support their struggle for a political, negotiated solution."

Gerry Adams' schedule includes placing a wreath at a monument to Cuban independence hero Jose Martí in Havana's Revolution Square early on Monday, before meeting Vice-president Carlos Lage and parliamentary president Ricardo Alarcon.

On Tuesday, he is scheduled to unveil the plaque to the hunger strikers in a Havana park.

Article Index

Security Council Fails to Pass Measure on Middle East Violence through US Veto

Meeting into the early hours of Saturday morning, December 15, on the situation in the Middle East, the Security Council failed to adopt a draft resolution by which it would have condemned all acts of extrajudiciary executions, excessive use of force and wide destruction of property, and would have encouraged the establishment of a monitoring mechanism to help the parties.

The final vote on the Council was 12 in favour, including France and Ireland, and two abstentions – Britain and Norway. The United States exercised its veto power so the draft was not adopted.

The representative of the United States, Ambassador John Negroponte, said the draft failed to address the dynamic at work in the region. Instead, its purpose was to isolate politically one of the parties to the conflict, through an attempt to throw the weight of the Council behind the other party. A fundamental flaw of the resolution, he stressed, was that it never mentioned the recent acts of terrorism against Israelis or those responsible for them.

By the terms of the draft, the Council would have demanded the immediate cessation of all acts of violence, provocation and destruction, as well as the return to the positions and arrangement which existed prior to September 2000. Also by the draft, the Council would have condemned all acts of terror, in particular those targeting civilians.

Further, the Council would have called on the two sides to start the comprehensive and immediate implementation of the recommendations of the Mitchell report in a speedy manner, and it would have encouraged all concerned to establish a monitoring mechanism to help implement the recommendations of that report and help create better conditions in the occupied Palestinian territories.

The draft was sponsored by Egypt and Tunisia, whose representatives addressed the Council during a three-hour debate that involved over 20 speakers. Ambassador Ahmed Aboul Gheit of Egypt, Chairman of the Arab Group, said that the draft resolution before the Council required both sides to take the necessary measures to put an end to the violence, provocation and destruction, as well as to implement the recommendations of the Mitchell report.

Nasser Al-Kidwa, Permanent Observer of Palestine, said the Israeli decision to end negotiations meant the abandonment of the peace process, instead of resolving the conflict and establishing peace in the region. He said the Palestinians had expressed their readiness to pursue the peace process and the Israeli Government must stop doubting that. The Palestinian Authority had taken a clear stand against terrorism and had joined the coalition against terrorism after 11 September, Mr. Al-Kidwa stressed, and it also condemned the terrorist attacks committed by suicide bombers against Israel.

For his part, Ambassador Aaron Jacob of Israel said the past two weeks had seen an incredible escalation of Palestinian terrorism against his country that was unparalleled in more than 14 months of violence. And Palestinian violence was continuing even as the Council met, despite the insistence by the international community that Chairman Arafat fulfil his responsibilities to fight terrorism. He said the primary obstacle to peace in the Middle East and a negotiated settlement was the continuing murder of civilians, and the attempts to justify those murders by the Palestinian leadership. Calling the draft text unbalanced and counter-productive, he said it would not help the parties to return to the negotiating table, which was the only place where outstanding issues could be resolved.


NASSER AL-KIDWA, Permanent Observer of Palestine, said the Israeli decision to end negotiations meant the abandonment of the peace process, instead of resolving the conflict and establishing peace in the region. It did not come as a total surprise. Mr. Sharon had declared on more than one occasion that he did not want to reach a final settlement. He had frequently declared his animosity towards the Palestinians and the Mitchell report. Once he had succeeded in burying the recommendations, he came up with the need for the Palestinian Authority to combat and stop terrorism while at the same time destroying the Authority’s capacity to curb terrorism. Some had tried to provide cover for the Israelis, thus encouraging the Israelis to continue their actions.

He said the Palestinians had expressed their readiness to pursue the peace process and the Israeli Government must stop doubting that. They must also understand that any retreat from the peace process would bring suffering to all the people in the region. The Palestinian Authority had taken a clear stand against terrorism and had joined the coalition against terrorism after 11 September. It also condemned the terrorist attacks committed by suicide bombers against Israel. But being able to put an end to terrorism was linked both to the capacity of the Palestinian security apparatus and to ending the aggression against the Palestinian people. The Israeli authority had acted to prevent the Palestinian Authority from being able to function. It had persisted in delivering the message that there was no hope for the success of the peace process.

Israeli settlers had come to colonise the land and the people, he said. Over the years they had attacked and terrorised the Palestinian people. They would remain illegal until they left with the end of the occupation of Palestinian land. Israel used warplanes, helicopter ships and other instruments of war against the Palestinian people, causing significant losses and the spread of fear and terror among Palestinians. Israeli forces had killed eight Palestinians today and yesterday they had killed seven, but not much had been heard about it. Israeli occupation forces had killed 800 people and injured many more since September 2000. It used extrajudiciary executions as a State policy. That and other actions represented grave breaches of the Geneva Convention.

His government charged Ariel Sharon with the commission of war crimes against the Palestinian people. He also charged Israel with committing State terrorism against the Palestinian people. The responsibility of the international community and the Security Council was clear. Many were waiting to see how the international community would deal with this disaster. The only solution was the end of the occupation and the establishment of a Palestinian State. The attempt of the Council to take action was late, thus affecting its credibility and perhaps impacting its ability to take action in other areas. Today it appeared that the Council would again be prevented from assuming its responsibility under the Charter due to the negative position of one of the permanent members. Nevertheless, the Palestinians appreciated the attempt.

JEREMY GREENSTOCK (United Kingdom) said violence would only result in more violence. Both communities had seen too many funerals and both sides needed to think about where further violence would lead. The only way was through negotiations and Tenet and Mitchell showed the way. His Government was committed to a settlement that would provide security to Israel through recognised borders and the establishment of the Palestinian State. Chairman Arafat was the elected official and the leader who would represent the Palestinian people. It served no one’s interests to undermine his authority.

He urged the Palestinian Authority to crack down on terrorists who used Palestinian territory to launch attacks. The commitments expressed by the Palestinians to curb terrorism must be turned to reality. Israel had a right to security and the right to protect itself from terrorist attacks, but it should ensure prevention of civilian causalities. It must stop extrajudiciary executions. He urged both sides to pull back from the brink of violence and to work with Envoy Zinni to achieve peace. Both sides must accept the responsibility to end the violations.

However, the draft resolution was incomplete, and he would abstain in the voting.

PAPA LOUIS FALL, Chairman of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, said the Committee was particularly distressed given the extreme and ruthless measures taken by the Israeli authorities. Those measures wiped out the de facto agreements and inflicted new suffering on the Palestinian people. The avenging and vengeful actions that had caused so many deaths could well deteriorate into a catastrophic confrontation of which no one could predict the outcome. The Committee had energetically and roundly condemned acts of violence whoever committed them – the Israeli or Palestinian side.

He said Israel was trying to capitalise on the legitimate indignation over the tragic events that the people of the United States had lived through recently. The situation had become untenable and so explosive that the international community was duty bound to do something to mitigate the consequences of a tragedy that was well known. The Committee energetically called for the immediate withdrawal of Israeli forces from Palestinian territory and the establishment of an observer force. He called for a resumption of the peace negotiations together with the implementation of a supervisory body. The Committee welcomed the recent statements by the representative of Israel regarding his commitment to peace and his commitment to abide by Security Council resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973). Peace could not thrive as long and the Palestinians and Israelis failed to resolve the problem. Both had the right to live in peace with development and security. The Council was duty bound to shoulder its responsibility. It must adopt unanimously the draft resolution before it.

BRUNO RODRIGUEZ PARILLA (Cuba) said the situation in the Middle East was a true war in which the occupying army with its sophisticated weaponry was decimating a heroic and defenceless people. The Israeli actions found support in the policies of the United States. Without the United States weapons, Palestinian civilians could not be killed and neither would this meeting of the Council be taking place. Also, the recent history of the Middle East would be different without vetoes or threats of vetoes, which had been used to paralyse the Council.

He said the attacks against Palestinians and the Israel’s State-sponsored terrorism must cease immediately. The flagrant violation of human rights and international humanitarian law must also be halted. Illegal occupation must end. Innocent Israeli civilians were also suffering due to policies of their Government. Nevertheless, Cuba also condemned any act of terrorism in any place by whomever. Terrorist acts, however, must not be used as a pretext to question the validity of the Palestinian struggle for an independent State.

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