TUC demands referendum on EU treaty

[Thursday]

But there is no demand for a “No” vote. For shame. If there’s nothing good to be said of the EU Consti-treaty, why sit on the fence? All’s you get is splinters…

Here’s the write-up in the Morning Star:

Europe: let the voters decide

THE TUC Congress demanded that the Labour government honours its manifesto pledge and holds a referendum on the privatising EU reform treaty yesterday

by DANIEL COYSH in Brighton

Delegates, led by general union GMB, overwhelmingly backed calls for the government to give the people a say on the treaty, which is widely regarded as virtually identical to the rejected EU constitution.

Congress also expressed strong concern about the treaty’s “competition protocol,” which “could be a Trojan horse to provide unfettered privatisation throughout the EU.”

GMB general secretary Paul Kenny told new Labour ministers that, “when you make us a promise, you should keep it.”

He warned them that a continuing refusal to hold a referendum “may cost the Labour Party at election time” and complained that “there has never been a proper debate in this country over Europe.”

The GMB leader also told new Labour to keep its “second promise” — that it would champion the “social Europe” model and stand up for workers’ rights.

Prison Officers Association president Colin Moses said that British trade unionists had suffered a “bellyful of broken promises,” of which the Brown government’s refusal to hold a referendum was merely the latest.

Mr Moses rejected accusations that he was a “closet Tory” for demanding a referendum, asking: “What — by defending democracy?

“By defending the right to vote and to fight for union rights?”

RMT general secretary Bob Crow called for the trade union movement to not just campaign for
a referendum but for a resounding No vote as well.

“There’s not enough good in the treaty for us to support it,” he said.

“We’re delusional if we think this treaty will defend workers.

“The agreement on free trade in services is a race to the bottom for jobs and workers’ rights.”

BFAWU delegate Tony Richardson and ASLEF delegate Brian Corbett joined the chorus of criticism for the treaty.

“It’s undemocratic, it’s centralising, it’s a privateers’ paradise — and it’s certainly not a friend of workers,” said Mr Richardson.

Mr Corbett stressed that “very little has changed since the constitution. We oppose privatisation and this is what it’s all about.”

Unite T&G general secretary Tony Woodley said that the government was “still pushing a Europe with British workers as second-class citizens.”

He warned that, “if this treaty becomes law, with every opt-out that Richard Lambert and his CBI cronies could have dreamed of, it would be mission impossible for British workers to ever get the level playing field that we have been campaigning for.”

Mr Woodley added: “If anyone thinks the British people want a free-market Europe with no protection for workers, then I say put it to the vote and fi nd out.”

However, Community delegate Joe Mann said that his union believed that a campaign for a referendum would play into the hands of the Tories and the far right. Mr Mann claimed that Congress’s decision could be picked up and exploited by the right-wing press — and could even give Tory leader David Cameron an electoral boost.

But Mr Kenny replied that an anti-referendum position would instead play into the hands of the CBI, which has been lobbying strongly for the treaty to be passed, complete with “watertight” anti-union protocols.

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NHS mortgaged to the hilt?

[Thursday]

Wow, New Labour are shit at economics aren’t they? You’d think that from the following, but remember, this is just the new welfare state in action. Modernisation means giving more hand-outs to the capitalists…

Hospital PFI costs ‘set to soar’

The cost of private finance schemes to the NHS will spiral in the coming years, becoming an “albatross” around the NHS’s neck, a study says.

The Edinburgh University report found when all 126 schemes are in operation by 2014 the repayments will rise to £2.3bn from the current £470m.

Researchers added the cost of projects had already started causing problems.

PFI projects have proved controversial as they effectively saddle the NHS with a mortgage to pay over 30 years or so.

Under the agreements, the private sector designs, builds and finances, while the NHS repay the costs plus interest over the following decades.

It comes at a time when the government is trying to move care out of hospitals and into the community by encouraging GPs to do work traditionally taken on by hospitals, such as diabetes care.

The report said there were 53 schemes in 2005-6 which cost the NHS £470m, but if all the planned 126 projects are given the go-ahead costs will top £2.3bn in seven years time.

Researchers said the NHS trusts with large schemes of more than £50m were confronted with payments which were more than their budgets earmarked for buildings.

Funds

The average shortfall was 4.4% and the researchers said trusts would end up dipping into their funds for services to cover this, compromising care.

Lead author Mark Hellowell, lead author of the research, said: “The payments to PFI consortia are an albatross for the NHS and are associated with service cuts.

“As the PFI programme expands, the problems will become even more acute.”

The report highlighted the problems in south east London where local heath officials have highlighted PFI costs as the main contributor to debts of £180m last year at Bromley and Queen Elizabeth trusts.

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