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Year 2001 No. 64, April 12, 2001 Archive Search Home Page

Cammell Laird Calls in the Receivers

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Cammell Laird Calls in the Receivers

Fears for Motorola Jobs in Scotland

Siemens to Cut 2,000 Jobs at Mobile Handset Unit

Further Protests against Nuclear Waste Trains

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Cammell Laird Calls in the Receivers

Cammell Laird shiprepairers and conversion company has called in the receivers threatening the jobs of hundreds of shipyard workers on Merseyside and in the North East. According to reports the decision follows financial difficulty relating to a contract with the US company Luxus to build two cruise liners.

The government’s loan guarantee arrangement operated by the financiers 3I Group plc was not acceptable to Cammell Laird. Cammell Laird would have had to have repaid £104 million – almost twice its assets – if the US company had defaulted on the deal. This followed the collapse last November of a previous contract worth £50 million to fit the middle section for a cruise liner at a time when the ship was travelling to the yard and the company had already constructed the ship’s mid section. Since that time the shares in Cammell Laird have fallen by 90%, in contrast with the late 1990s when the company’s shares were one of the best performing.

This confirms once again that such a vital industry to the national economy, as with every other aspect of the economy, is put in the service of making the biggest returns for the financial monopolies. No consideration is given to the consequences of such vital industries running into difficulties as the direct result of this motive of production. The government may wring its hands and express its greatest concern, but that such devastation continues to occur only underlines that the government is not representing the interests of society as a whole or of the workers themselves, who remain marginalised from dealing with such vital questions.

For shipyard workers fighting for their interests, it is not just about fighting to save their industry but opposing the whole situation that marginalises them from controlling what is produced and how it is funded. Worker politicians must come forward from the ranks of the shipyard workers, as from other sections of society, to fight for the interests of the workers.

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Fears for Motorola Jobs in Scotland

The Motorola company has announced job losses at its mobile phone factory in Bathgate, which employs 3,100.

Wendy Alexander, Scotland's enterprise minister, said she had been in talks with senior Motorola executives in Chicago to aver the closure of Bathgate. "We're using every avenue to fight for jobs in Scotland," she said.

The US company has worldwide plans to make up to 12,000 workers redundant from its personal communications division.

The AEEU engineering union called on the Scottish Executive to set up an emergency taskforce to deal with job losses in "silicon glen", which employs more than 40,000 people, saying it was "gravely concerned" about prospective redundancies at Bathgate and worried about "problems on the horizon" at other electronics plants. The redundancies at Bathgate are the second severe blow to Scotland's electronics sector, its biggest manufacturing and export industry, to result from the US economic downturn. Last week Compaq, the US computer company, announced it was to shed 700 assembly jobs at its Erskine plant.

The cuts are a blow to the West Lothian economy, which during the late 1980s and 1990s recovered from the loss of the mining industry and closure of the BMC truck and tractor plant at Bathgate, chiefly through the means of "inward investment". West Lothian had Scotland's fastest-growing workforce between 1981 and 1997.

Motorola executives, in a conference call with analysts last Friday, maintained that the general economic malaise was the main problem. "It's a confidence issue in the marketplace," claimed Bob Growney, chief operating officer, as he outlined sales and orders weaknesses across Motorola's main business lines. "We are in a recession at this point . . . we need orders."

Conditions in both the wireless phone and semiconductor markets have worsened significantly over the past six months.

Prime Minister Tony Blair has intervened, but the Chicago-based company said it lost $206 million from ongoing operations in the first quarter. "We see a continuing downturn in the US economy beginning to spill over to the rest of the world," Christopher Galvin, chairman and chief executive officer of Motorola Inc, said in a news release.

A Downing Street spokeswoman confirmed that Mr Blair spent 15 minutes in telephone talks with Mr Galvin.

At the Scottish TUC annual conference in Aberdeen, Danny Carrigan, Scottish regional secretary of the AEEU engineering union, said Scots were "fed up" with multinationals behaving in a high-handed fashion and added: "We really do have to adopt social legislation in this country that ensures that workers aren't told through the media that they are getting sacked."

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Siemens to Cut 2,000 Jobs at Mobile Handset Unit

Siemens, the German electronics and engineering group, said on Tuesday it planned to make about 2,000 temporary workers redundant, or 25 per cent of the workforce, at its mobile phone handset production unit in response to falling demand in the sector.

Siemens said it would not extend temporary contracts for 2,000 workers at its three German production sites, which currently employ about 8,000 people in total.

"We plan to not extend these limited contracts to balance out production peaks," said Sabine Metzner, a Siemens spokesperson. "We are taking advantage of the flexibility we have to adjust our manufacturing capacity to the worsened market environment."

The cuts affect workers at plants in Kamp-Lintfort and Bocholt in north-western Germany and Leipzig in eastern Germany, she said.

The move follows similar announcements from rival handset makers, including Ericsson, Alcatel and Motorola, and comes only days after Philips said it was considering disposing of its handset division. Nokia has also announced cut jobs in its networking division and cut its forecast for handset sales growth.

Siemens became Europe's second-largest mobile phone manufacturer behind Nokia earlier this year after Ericsson decided to outsource production of handsets to third parties. But margins at Siemens' handset unit have fallen as competition and marketing expenditure have spiralled.

In February, Heinrich von Pierer, Siemens' chief executive, warned the annual shareholder meeting that continued investment in such high-growth fields, coupled with weaker-than-expected demand for mobile phones, would burden earnings at the group's Information and Communication unit.

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Further Protests against Nuclear Waste Trains

Campaigners are once again protesting against a nuclear waste shipment travelling across Europe. An anti-nuclear group of 200 people gathered at the beginning of the week to protest as a container of spent fuel rods from the Grafenrheinfeld power plant in Bavaria was loaded onto a train at nearby Gochsheim bound for reprocessing in France. It is reported that the German police arrested several of the demonstrators.

Waste containers were also due to leave two other power plants – at Philippsburg and Biblis – on Tuesday. The trains were to be coupled together at Woerth, on Germany's border with France, and will continue to the La Hague reprocessing plant in western France.

At least 40 protesters were taken into custody after clashes with police near the Philippsburg nuclear power station, and police detained 14 activists in Bavaria.

German nuclear energy sources confirmed about 30 tonnes of waste would be shipped from the three power stations to La Hague. Ahead of the shipment, protesters threatened a repeat of massive demonstrations last month at the return of reprocessed waste from France to the Gorleben dump in northern Germany. That transport was severely disrupted by protesters who attached themselves to the track using chains and concrete, with police having to clear many more of the activists from sit-down protests.

On Monday night, 13 demonstrators from environmental group Greenpeace were arrested after they occupied a wagon due to carry the waste near the southern town of Wuerzburg. Greenpeace said another 15 people early on Tuesday occupied a bridge near the town of Schweinfurt, under which the train from Grafenrheinfeld is due to travel.

When, three years ago, high levels of radiation were found to be leaking from the trains, the transport of the nuclear waste between France and Germany was halted. But, although the German government is saying that the political conditions are now right to resume the journeys, the campaigners, backed by evidence from senior scientists, are taking a stand that the material conditions of the shipments are still extremely dangerous. They demand that Germany’s 19 nuclear plants be shut down immediately and not be phased out gradually which will take until 2025.

Greenpeace spokesman Veit Buerger said last month's transport to Gorleben had opened the floodgates for shipments to France. "The government is treating France as the atom toilet of Germany," he said.

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