There are only a few weeks to go before the European Conference in Berlin. All our correspondents have received the invitation from the German activists, the common appeal countersigned by worker activists from 15 countries, as well as numerous contributions that have been sent to the German organizers of the conference. We feel it is of interest to publish a number of these contributions that have been prepared to start a free debate on the subject. Some of the contributions are:
From Italy, a contribution on the damaging effects of regionalization in the area of health care originated by the Treaty of Maastricht.
From Austria, a report from a delegate to the Berlin Conference.
From Hungary, excerpts from a debate held during a preparatory meeting to the Berlin Conference.
From France, a contribution titled "some elements of the European policy" that establishes the relation between the policies of privatisation of public services, the counter-reforms on pensions and social security as in France and the European directives, and the summits in Barcelona and Lisbon.
There is also a report on the "Social polycentric forum in Bamako."
We are also publishing a message from the International Liaison Committee of Workers and Peoples to the Labor Party in France.
German worker militants have addressed the workers and militants from all European countries inviting them to a European conference on February 25 and 26, 2006 in Berlin. They have asked for contributions from all over Europe to be sent to them in order to address the different points of view.
Elected officials, worker activists from different European countries have decided to respond positively to this invitation by common accord.(See ILC International Newsletter issues 157 and 164)
Jurgen Hirsch, member of the initiative for a socialist policy of the SPO
"Why we will attend the Berlin conference"
Jurgan Hirsch is a member of the Austrian social-democrat party (SPO) and one of the supporters of the current for an "initiative for a socialist policy of the SPO." This current has decided to support the Berlin Conference and to send a representative. We asked Hirsch to respond to the declarations made by the Austrian federal chancellor, Wolfgang Schussel, on the occasion of his installation for six months in the presidency of the European Union. He replied in a letter titled "Why we support the Berlin Conference" which we publish below.
According to Wolfgang Schussel, the Austrian president of the European Council, "the European Constitution is not dead". Schussel and José Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission, publicly announced the starting point for the Austrian president's program: revive the Constitution. The people of the European Community who have rejected it should have to pay the price.
In March 2006, the sinking boat of the Constitution should be rescued, according to them. It is the sense of the appeal to "revitalization", launched on January 9 in Vienna by Schussel, his government coalition included the right wing Jorg Haider, the president of the European Commission and its 24 commissaries. They plan to forcefully obtain approval by waving the proverbial carrot on a stick.
Schussel is also planning to resolve the conflicts surrounding the Bolkenstein directive, according to his wishes and that of Minister Bartenstein. With this objective, the European Commission announced that in February it would offer proposals to improve it after the first reading of the draft before the European parliament. Schussel wants to carry this negotiation on the model of the Austrian social partnership that he himself destroyed from the beginning of his mandate in Austria in the name of his philosophy "speed kills."
A preparatory meeting for the Berlin Conference was held in Hungary on January 21, with trade union activists from different professional sectors in: industry, metallurgy, railroads and education.
Having joined the European Union in May 1, 2004, Hungary has been subjected to the pillage of the multinationals and the most brutal "flexibility."
The government of Prime Minister Gyurcsany (member of the "socialist party" and former secretary of the Communist Youth under the Stalinist regime) has just announced the privatisation of three hundred state companies.
The activists present informed and discussed the proposal for a European labor meeting in Berlin and reported on their experiences. Following, a delegation was organized to go to Berlin.
"It is incomprehensible: the European Union is for "full employment" yet organizes privatisations that would lead to the loss of jobs. The state has enormous responsibilities: it cannot leave its citizens defenceless. This is Schroeder's policy. It is the same in Hungary: there is a "socialist" government but the number of unemployed rose to 9%. The minimum wage in Hungary (recently increased) is 250 euros. An unemployed person lives on 10 to 150 euros a month indemnity."
"I am a delegate from the Ikarus company trade union. This company is 100 years old. At its height it supplied good quality carriages to all Eastern European countries and Russia: they manufactured 11 to 12,000 carriages a year. It was privatised in 1996. At the time our trade union negotiated and obtained a guarantee that there would be no layoffs for the next threes years, that they would invest in production and that our wages would be increased. But with the dissolution of the Soviet Union production went downhill. As of 1999 only over one thousand carriages were produced, maximum two thousand. The workers were transferred to IBM and others in order "to gain time" in relation to the promise of "no layoffs" over three years, but they were laid off little by little. The market was destroyed, and the first privatisation sold our company to Renault-Yveco. But in fact they bought the market and liquidated production. The factory is in ruins, there are only 5o employees left against 10,000 in 1990."
"During the 1990's a million and a half jobs were lost through privatisation. We have not been able to apply collective bargaining especially at the multinationals that have been implanted through relocating their factories in Hungary. All these companies pocketed millions from the state officially for ???"aiding la formation"?????This is the case with Audi, Opel, and Michelin. But most of these companies leave the country after four or five years."
"In the old days we were happy to go to work since there was a sort of collective organization that organized our social life. Nowadays we may work up to 16 hours in certain companies. We are already talking about the European Union. We know that the European Union has demanded increased flexibility That protected the workers under the Labor Code, but we only learn of this when the result is applied. That is how flexibility was installed. Of the labor force (a system that authorizes a company to use the labor force according to their needs that is "loaned" to the company in question.) If you, the French, the Germans, the British write to us in a simple and precise manner: these are the conquests we have, see how the European Union has undermined them, and this is the result, we are in agreement to publish these contributions and to circulate them among trade union activists."
No to regionalization dictated by the European Union
The contribution we publish indicates what are the consequences in the area of health care of the policy of regionalization undertaken in Italy over the past few years.
Next June, there will be a referendum on the subject of "restitution."
Italian activists linked to the ILC, in preparation for the Berlin Conference, have adopted a resolution with this object: ""We know that this reform opens the door to the creation of "20 little Italies" in competition with each other, empowering all the regions in regard to education, health, police and taxes. We know this is a decisive blow to democracy and the republican constitution. Where does this come from?
The Treaty of Maastricht instituted the "committee of regions" charged with, "informing on the regional and local identities and prerogatives" within the European Union. This committee acts in complete independence from governments. On the other hand wasn't the center-left led by Prodi and Alema who adopted the first laws for decentralization, educational autonomy, the regionalization of health care and finally the "reform" of title V of the Constitution (Federalism) that inscribed subsidiarity in the Constitution?
We decided to undertake a campaign for the NO to the referendum on restitution, explaining that it originates in the European Union and by clearly taking the position in defense of the unity of the Italian Republic, against all regionalization, with respect for democracy.
The process started with the transformation of the USL (local health units) into ASL (local health units). Before this transformation, there was a national system organized into numerous USL's, completely public, that were paid by the state. The USL's were local units that above all represented the organizational aspect of national health care. For example, in town like Turin or Rome, there were at least 20 USL's. At that time all the USL's received funds in accordance with the demand and those that exceed to limits of expenses assigned to them, they could request additional sums from the state that would normally be granted.
During this time the directors of the USL's were doctors or at least persons who depended from doctors, according to the needs of patients.
All services were free (hospitalisation, first aid, doctors' visits, tests) and numerous medications were available at low prices or distributed gratis.
Around the middle of the 1980's pressure started indicating the system was in deficit, and that certain services should be paid for. The first measure was to introduce certain tickets moderating certain services (doctors' visits and tests) and to increase the price of state-subsidized medications.
An important strike against the moderator tickets was held but the measure was passed. The first disposition was to make the economic situation of the ASL's independent from health care by naming directors who were exclusively responsible for economic criteria. We are at the end of the 1980's and the beginning of the 1990's, at the time of the Maastricht policy. In the name of this policy, and the reduction in costs, playing on the propaganda of "suppression of waste" the general directors of the ASL's started to follow the criteria of private (enterprises) and especially the reduction of expenses.
The second phase was the real regionalization It was the center-left government (1996-2001) that directly transferred all responsibility for the national budget to the regions, forcing them to directly manage health care, with the absolute obligation to not exceed the ceiling for expenses as foreseen by the stability pact.
The regions had to choose between two solutions:
1. Directly reduce services (which was put into force with the suppression of millions of beds, personnel, use of temporary labor, closure of hundreds of hospitals throughout the country, and services.)
2. Increase the moderator tickets or taxes on the inhabitants. The center-left regionalization, gave the regions the possibility of imposing new taxes in addition to the national taxes. The directors of the ASL have found themselves directly dependent on the regions, that is to say a power which controls them directly. Every cost overrun was severely punished and the director risked losing his job. All hospital budgets, services, no longer depended on medical needs, but on the need to cut costs. The directors that respected the budget and reduced costs received a bonus.
Regionalization was integrated into the first "reform" of the Constitution (Federalism) were implemented at the end of the center-left government (October 2001). With this reform the principle of subsidiarity was inscribed in the Constitution, as well as respect for the European policy. The new Constitution takes over the regionalization of health care and begins that of education.
This process has led certain regions, in order to comply with the stability pact, to sell hospitals, as happened in Sicily. One of the arguments was that to combine public service with private service would have improved the situation.
The first differences between the regions began to appear
There are regions that reduced services, closed hospitals and others who increased the moderator ticket and taxes. Of course, the poorest regions, especially those in the south, were disadvantaged since an increase in taxes was harder to impose on the inhabitants.
Today there are regions where services are still gratis and others where they cost 100 to 200 euros. There are regions where first aid is paid for and others where it is for free. There are regions where the moderator ticket is very high during the first days of hospitalisation and others where hospitalisation is still free.
The state has reduced and continues to reduce the amount of funds it transfers to the regions and imposes a strict adhesion of the stability pact.
For example the inhabitants of Emilie-Romagne who live on the frontier with Venice, prefer to go to Venice for medical care, since they get better care there (Venice is a "wealthier" region). But if you go to Venice for a consultation, you must buy your medication there because one region does not recognize prescriptions written by doctors in another region. If you are on holiday in one region, you have the right to be cared for, but on your return you must have your prescriptions re-written in your region.
At the same time with this process of regionalization, the process of privatisation is under way. This runs along two routes:
1. Public services become more expensive (because of the moderator ticket) and the delays in getting attended to and receiving tests take longer and longer.
2. At the same time under the pretext that public services no longer work, that the waiting time is too long, etc., the regions have started to subsidize the private hospitals through processes of conventions. In practice, the region eliminates public services and entrust them to private ones.
In addition the "reform" of the center-left has introduced the possibility for doctors to make paying consultations with public hospitals. An official inquiry reports that a patient who chooses to pay "simply" the moderator ticket can wait for 40 days for a consultation with a maximum of 113 days for a TAC in Campanie (Naples) and 180 days for a heart test in Monza (Milan). But if the same patient chooses private service in a hospital, he only has to wait four days max! The cost of private visits varies between 40 and 250 euros.
This entire policy comes directly from the European Union Basically it is respect for the stability pact, the policy of the euro, and the criteria of Maastricht. The center-left government initiated regionalization when its head was Prodi who became the president of the European Union. The Eruopean Union has systematically applauded restrictions and the policy of privatisation, although specifying that this was not enough and must still go further.
To go further today, a new "reform" to the Constitution has bee proposed that would give all powers for health, education, taxes to the regions. This would mean that the regions would depend even more closely on the limits imposed by Brussels and all resistance by the workers would become more difficult. Actually the process of regionalization has made enormous expenditures but precisely because of the resistance of doctors, nurses and the people, it has not reached its goal and one cannot say that it was realized.
Doctors and nurses still have a national labor statute and on several occasions they have demonstrated in order to defend it and oppose the new "reform" that would totally privatise health care.
In 2004 the were two important doctors' strikes, against regionalization and the restrictions, in order to defend their work and care.
These strikes were very significant thanks to the unity of all trade unionists and the entire country with 100% participation of the doctors. For the workers and all those who cannot afford private insurance, health care has become a real problem. There is the will to defend what remains of public health care and to fight against its total regionalization.
The doctors who went on strike in the spring asked this question: where has regionalization taken us? They know that a return to the national system would certainly benefit the workers and the population in general. In order to reach this we must break with the policy of the European Union which is at the bottom of all this.
We reprint below as a contribution to the Berlin Conference, a document titled "Some elements on the policy of the European Union" submitted by the Labor Party to the delegates of its XIV congress on
February 27, 28 and 29, 2006
Article 92 of the Maastricht Treaty, which has become article 87 of the Amsterdam Treaty, stipulates:
"Save as otherwise provided in this Treaty, any aid granted by a Member State or through State resources in any form whatsoever which distorts or threatens to distort competition by favouring certain undertakings or the production of certain goods shall, in so far as it affects trade between Member States, be incompatible with the common market." It is in accordance with this article that a great many European directives have been enacted, which break up all public monopolies in the name of free competition. Some of them are mentioned in the chart below:
Directives approved by the Council of the European Union and within this framework by the representatives of the French government who are members
Transposition into French law of the European directive, passed by the national Parliament at the suggestion of the French government
European Directive 90/388/EEC, 28 June1990, approved by the Rocard government
Law of 2 July 1990
under the Rocard government
France Telecom becomes an autonomous public institution subjected to commercial rules, not to administrative rules as provided by the previous status.
- European Directive 95/62/EC, 13 December 1995 approved by the Juppé government
Law of 26 July 1996 under the Juppé government
This law transforms France Telecom into a private company. In October 1997, under the Jospin government, 21% of France Telecom is floated on the Stock Exchange.
- European Directive 96/19/EC, 13 March 1996
From 1 January 1998 private long-distance and international calls are open to competition
- European directive 98/10/EC, 26 February 1998, approved by the Jospin government
Law of December 2003 under the Raffarin government
The basic telephone -service called "universal service" by the EU- is open to competition and has to be put out to tender.
- European directive 2002/77/EC, 16 September 2002, approved by the Raffarin government
European directive 97/67/EC, 15 December 1997 approved by the Jospin government
Law on territorial planning and development, 25 June 1999 (article 19) under the Jospin government
From 1 January 2003 the monopoly of the public postal service is abolished and open to private companies for mail weighing over 100 grams and costing three times the basic rate
European directive 2002/39/EC, 10 June 2002 prepared under the Jospin government Law of 20 May 2005 under the Raffarin government
From 1e January 2006, the monopoly of the public postal service is abolished and open to private companies for mail weighing over 50 grammes and costing two and a half times the basic rate. To prepare this, the Post Office management had launched a plan whereby two sorting offices in three were axed and local distribution centres (used by postmen) were restructured. In addition the law created the Postal Bank, which took over all the buildings and equipment of the Post Office's financial services.
EDF(French Electricity Board)
European directive 96/92/EC, 19 December 1996 approved under the Juppé government
Law of 10 February 2000 under the Jospin government
EDF is split into two EPICs (Commercial and Industrial Public Institutions) : EDF and RTE (the network carrying electricity), the law allows other companies than EDF access to the network: the market is thus beginning to be open to competition, 36% of which will be definitely open on 10 February 2003.
European directive 2003/54/EC, 26 June 2003, approved by the Raffarin government
Law of 9 August 2004 under the Raffarin government
'EDF becomes a private limited company.
GDF(French Gas Board)
European directive 98/30/EC, 22 June 1998, approved by the Jospin government
Law of 3 January 2003 under the Raffarin government
Big French companies are open to competition
European directive 2003/55/EC, 26 June 2003 approved by the Raffarin government
Law of 9 August 2004
GDF is split into FCF and GRT (transport network)
GDF and GRT Gas are turned into private limited companies.
SNCF (French National Railways)
European directive 91/440/EEC, 29 July 1991, approved by the Cresson government
- Law on territorial planning and development (LOADT) 4 February 1995 under the Balladur government
Regionalization is experimented in 7 regions
- Law of 13 February under the Juppé government
SNCF is split into two EPICs : SNCF et RFF (French railway network)
European directives 2001/12-13-14/EC, 26 February 2001 (first railway package), approved by the Jospin-Gayssot government (Gayssot was the CP Transport Minister)
Gayssot Law, also called SRU (Solidarity and Urban renewal),13 décember 2000
The SNCF is entirely regionalized. The same law opens up international freight services to competition as from 15 March 2003*
Second railway package (adopted by the European parliament and the Council of the European Union on 16 March 2004) under the Raffarin government
Third railway package adopted by the European Commission in March 2004 , while Romani Prodi is the President, and adopted by the Council of European Transport Ministers on 5 December 2005.
This third package includes a directive that "liberalizes" international rail passenger services. The AFP press agency has this to say: "It is proposed that as from 1 January 2010, railway undertakings which have a licence and the required safety certificates should be able to operate international services in the Community. For example in France existing services such as Thalys and Eurostar could see the arrival of competitors. In order to create realistic economic conditions to develop the services, it is proposed that operators be permitted to pick up and set down passengers at any station on an international route, (including stations located in the same Member State, in accordance with the principle of successive cabotage)"
In consequence private companies operating at the European level will be allowed to pick up passengers between two French cities.
(*) The first private train (operated by the Connex company) ran in France on 13 June 2005. On 3 October, the second train run by the same company, had to call the SNCF breakdown service.
1. The Amsterdam Treaty institutionalizes the social protocol annexed to the Maastricht treaty.
Article 138 of the Amsterdam treaty stipulates:
"1. The Commission shall have the task of promoting the consultation of management and labour at Community level and shall take any relevant measure to facilitate their dialogue by ensuring balanced support for the parties.
2. To this end, before submitting proposals in the social policy field, the Commission shall consult management and labour on the possible direction of Community action.
3. If, after such consultation, the Commission considers Community action advisable, it shall consult management and labour on the content of the envisaged proposal. Management and labour shall forward to the Commission an opinion or, where appropriate, a recommendation.
4. On the occasion of such consultation, management and labour may inform the Commission of their wish to initiate the process provided for in Article 139. " What does is Article 139 all about?
"1. Should management and labour so desire, the dialogue between them at Community level may lead to contractual relations, including agreements.
2. Agreements concluded at Community level shall be implemented () at the joint request of the signatory parties, by a Council decision on a proposal from the Commission." in other words by a European directive.
In accordance with this clause in the European treaty, several European directives stem from agreements written by the ETUC and the European employers. Lets us mention a few examples.
2 Interprofessional directives on part-time work and fixed-term contracts.
* European directives of 1997 et 1999: In June 1997 the ETUC and the European employers signed a framework agreement on part-time work, which became a directive on 15 December 1997. In March 1999 another framework agreement was signed on fixed-term contracts, which became a European directive on 28 June 1999.
Both those framework agreements, turned European directives, arise from a wider request made by the European Commission in 1995 to the ETUC and the EU employers to the effect that they should "negotiate" about " working hours flexibility and security for atypical workers". Let us quote from the agreement on part-time work. Its aim is "to facilitate the development of part-time work () and to contribute to the flexible organisation of working time (Clause 1-b)
Clause 5a states very clearly: "Member States, following consultations with the Social Partners in accordance with national law or practice should identify and review obstacles of a legal or administrative nature which may limit the opportunities for part-time work and, where appropriate, eliminate them."
As for national trade-union organizations, they are enjoined to comply: "the Social Partners, acting within their sphere of competence and through the procedures set out in collective agreements, should identify and review obstacles which may limit opportunities for part-time work and, where appropriate, eliminate them." (Clause 5b)
The directive on fixed-term contracts is of the same kind
It is therefore obvious that, by encouraging part-time work and fixed term contracts, the European directives written by the ETUC aim to deregulate working conditions and undermine full-time open-ended contracts.
As a result the European directive on fixed-term contracts has been transposed into French Law, which in the public sector has resulted in substituting open-ended contracts for the permanent status of public service workers.
To those general European directives should be added a large number of sector-based agreements written and signed by the ETUC and which, in their specialized field, later became European directives, especially in the field of transport.
3. The sectoral directive on railways.
In the framework of the Committee for the Social Dialogue in the railway sector, an agreement was concluded on 27 January 2004 between the Community of European Railways (CER, a branch of the ETUC)) and the European Transport Workers' Federation (ETF, the employers).This Agreement on working conditions was transformed into a European directive, Directive 2005/47/EC of 18 July 2005. Let us study a few aspects of this European directive.
The European directive
The consequences for rail workers
Clause 3.Daily rest at home: Daily rest at home must be a minimum of 12 consecutive hours per 24-hour period."
This means 12 consecutive hours at work can be imposed on rail workers while their national status specifies that daily rest at home is a minimum of 14 consecutive hours.
Clause 3 adds this rest " may be reduced to a minimum of nine hours"
This means a working day of 15 hours while the rail workers' national status says daily rest cannot be less than 13 consecutive hours...
"Clause 4.Daily rest away from home: The minimum daily rest away from home shall be eight consecutive hours per 24-hour period."
In the rail workers' national status, this period is a minimum of nine hours.
"Clause 6: Weekly rest period. Any mobile worker engaged in interoperable cross-border services is entitled, per seven-day period, to a minimum uninterrupted weekly rest period of 24 hours plus the 12 hours' daily rest period referred to in Clause 3 above."
This is a major difference with the rail workers' national status, which stipulates that in a seven-day period the minimum rest is 2 periods of 24 hours plus the 14- hours' daily rest.
The European directive introduces a notion of 'driving time'. Paragraph 9 in clause 2 explains:that it is: " the duration of the scheduled activity where the driver is in charge of the traction unit, excluding the scheduled time to prepare or shut down that traction unit, but including any scheduled interruptions when the driver remains in charge of the traction unit."
There is no such notion of "driving time" in the rail workers' national status ,only "working time". Consequently in the European directive the time drivers spend preparing and later putting the train in a siding is not counted.
* Article 104 of the Maastricht-Amsterdam treaty stipulates:"
1. Member States shall avoid excessive government deficits.
2. The Commission shall monitor the development of the budgetary situation and of the stock of government debt in the Member States (). In particular it shall examine compliance with budgetary discipline on the basis of the following two criteria.":
* The protocol on the excessive deficit procedure annexed to the treaty gives the details: " Article 1 .The reference values referred to in Article 104(2) of this Treaty are:
- 3% for the ratio of the planned or actual government deficit to gross domestic product at market prices;
- 60% for the ratio of government debt to gross domestic product at market prices."
Article 2 in this protocol specifies:" government means general government, that is central government, regional or local government and social security funds.",
* On 17 June 1997, the Amsterdam European Summit adopts a resolution on the " Stability and Growth Pact". This is the first European summit in which Lionel Jospin represents the French government. This resolution, which is part of the Stability pact , stipulates: "The Member States commit themselves to respect the medium-term budgetary objective of positions close to balance or in surplus set out in their stability or convergence programmes and to take the corrective budgetary action they deem necessary to meet the objectives of their stability or convergence programmes."
* The decisions taken by all governments ensure compliance with the guidelines that were established by the Maastricht Treaty and the Amsterdam Stability Pact.
* For instance in late 2004, the French government sent its " Stability programme: 2006-2008" to Brussels, which says, among other things " The government plans to pursue its objective of stabilising State spending in real terms during the period 2006-2008. Achieving this objective will require extensive cost-cutting measures, () The aim of health insurance reform is to achieve 11 billion in savings on expenditures during the 2004-2007 period."
* The " Stability programme: 2007-2009", which was sent to Brussels by the French government at the end of 2005 also says:" The decrease in public spending will gather momentum in 2006":
* In accordance with the Stability Pact, the government makes massive cuts in all expenditures. For instance 6375 places have been axed in the competitive entry examinations aimed at recruiting new secondary school teachers (- 24 % in science, - 28 % in French, - 38 % in philosophy, - 50 % in Physical Education).
* And it has just been announced in the newspapers that the prime Minister had on Tuesday 24 January issued a decree planning even more drastic cuts in public spending.
" In a decree that was made public yesterday, the Prime Minister demands that all the members of the government should inform him by 10 February of how they plan to redeploy staff or avoid filling the posts left vacant by those who go into retirement.. " (La Tribune, 25 January)
Dominique de Villepin repeats his demand that even this year each Minister should shed a number of jobs that would exceed the 5300 cuts that had been planned in this year's budget." (Le Figaro, 25 January)
"Starting from 2006 the Prime Minister is asking to favour "internal mobility within the public service whenever possible. In particular different grades could be amalgamated and for instance an electrician or a secretary working for the Ministry of Education would then be able to pursue their career in the Ministry of Civil Engineering, so that there would be no need to recruit a new public servant () The number of grades could be already reduced by 10% this year." (Le Figaro du 25 janvier)
An it is in the name of the Stability Pact that that the Minister of Health and Social Security, Mr. Douste-Blazy, is enforcing a law that hits patients and state-run hospitals very severely. .Every week the consequences are reported in the Informations Ouvrieres journal.
Three times a year at least the Heads of State and Government meet within the Council of the European Union, also called European Summit. A few dates are mentioned below:
* The European Summit held in Lisbon on 23 and 24 March 2000 (where France was represented by both Jospin and Chirac) decided in in chapter 17:
"to speed up liberalisation in areas such as gas, electricity, postal services and transport. Similarly, regarding the use and management of airspace, the Council asks the Commission to put forward its proposals as soon as possible."
It is therefore this European Summit that decided to speed up all the European directives that implement privatizations. The most important ones are mentioned above in chapter I.
* The European Summit held in Barcelona on 15 and 16 March 2002 ( which Lionel Jospin attended for the last time as French Prime Minister) took the following decisions: "Chapter 25: In order to address the challenge of the ageing population, the European Council calls for the reform of pension systems to be accelerated"
And Chapter 32 adds this: " Early retirement incentives for individuals and the introduction of early retirement schemes by companies should be reduced (...)A progressive increase of about 5 years in the effective average age at which people stop working in the European Union should be sought by 2010."
The reform of the pension system introduced by Mr.Fillon is the direct implementation of the decision agreed at the Barcelona Summit.
* The European Summit held on 27 october 2005 emphasized the following:
"Age related spending on pensions, health and long-term care will increase by between 4 and 8 % of GDP in coming decades. " ()this suggests unsustainable increases in public debt."
So what conclusion does the European Summit arrive at? "An important debate is also underway on the right policies, for governments and for the Social Partners, to support "active ageing".() We want more people to work, productively for longer."
The decision taken at the The European Summit of 27 october 2005 provides the basis for the fixed-term contract system designed for "senior" workers", as planned by the MEDEF (the employers' association) and taken up by Prime Minister De Villepin.
"They want to put us to sleep by the verb" (a teacher)
Polycentric Social Forum in Bamako
The Polycentric Social Forum in Bamako will draw whoever is interested in Africa. Millions of participants are expected. Hundreds of NGO's will be present. A budget of 700 million francs CFA, half of which is said to come from Venezuela. One million five hundred thousand francs CFA and the infrastructures offered by the Mali government; participation of the French Cooperation.
Many personalities: Daniele Mitterand, José Bové, Ben Bella, Samir Amin, Aminata Traoré, former minister from Mali, Aminata Touré, president of the Coalition NGO, debt and development, Susan Georges and Ignacio Ramonet from ATTACS both representatives of the alter-globalists, the president of the Cuban parliament, some fifty European parliamentarians, all of which has given this occasion good media coverage and begs for more information.
The interested party will therefore go to the source. Two reference documents: "Subjects and programs of the FSMP" and "Detailed program of the polycentric social forum in Bamako." Polycentric because it is about a decentralization of the World Social Forum with two other forums in Venezuela and Pakistan.
When you read the first document you will be impressed. Ten subjects that will deal with 130 problems.
There is a profusion of chock formulas: "A common enemy: savage capitalism." Africa gives the peoples of the world an indication of the outcome of conquering neoliberalism. It is about " programmed structural marginalization". One will demonstrate dignity in the face of neo-colonialism of financial institutions. We will search for alternatives in the global quest for a just world. We lambaste world militarism, the political and economic hegemony of wealthy countries and the military occupation of territories and peoples and military violence and takeover of resources. We propose to suggest alternatives for a common world. In brief, another Africa is possible."
The IMF the World Bank, the oil companies are not mentioned in the initial documents
At the end of this dissertation you may be startled: not even mentioned the IMF, the World Bank, the European Union, the U.S. or French oil companies (Exxon, Texaco, Total), British (Shell=, Malayan (Petronas), Chinese that pillage Nigeria, Chad, Angola and Gabon that are installed in Algeria and Libya. The Canadian companies Robex Resources Inc, Randgold Resources Ltd that pillages Mali, the third oil producer in Africa. Veolia (the former Comapgnie General des Eaux) that benefits throughout Africa through the privatisation of water imposed by the IMF. Bouygues, that profits from the privatisation of electricity and build ports.
Not the 60,000 white farmers that have taken over 80% of the farmable land in South Africa. Neither the French expeditionary forces, nor those of the United States or the UN, the Epervier force in Chad, the US navy in the Gulf of Guinea that swallows oil, the Sahel plan. The wars that rage, by intervened Africans, France and the United States in the Ivory Coast, in Chad, wars that caused 800,000 deaths in Rwanda, 300,000 in Darfur.
Not a word about all those known and identified. Disturbed and perplexed, our man decides to hitch up to the second document. Far more important it has 73 pages, 600 problems and questions. Everything is explained: the date, the time, the place, the subjects of the workshops, the participants. Worse still: information given by El Watan newspaper on January 16 is confirmed: "The South African press service (IPS revealed the there is no mention of AIDS among the subjects announced."
Incredible! Of course, and no one doubts this, we have spoken at the Bamako Forum of the IMF, the World Bank and the multinationals: but it should be noted that for the organizers and all the personalities present, this is not the heart of the problem. That one speaks of it is documented. That one demonstrates and proves the overwhelming responsibility of those that impose the destruction of Africa for the benefit of their profits through privatisation, structural adjustment plans, good government, the obligation to modify mining or oil codes in order to open the doors to pillage, wars that explode countries: no. Demand the expropriation of the pillagers, fight for re-nationalization: a lot less.
We are therefore speaking in a certain manner. For example Susan George reports in ATTAC on her trip to Bamako. She was met by her friend Aminata Traoré, very present on French television and introducing herself as "the voice of the other Africa." She receives in her fabulous home in Bamako, which she has transformed into a guesthouse. Traoré is very courageous, she fights for Africans. She went to get funds from the Luxemburg Cooperative to improve roads. She paves roads that is to say her street, her hotel her neighborhood!
"The neighbors remark they are no longer covered with dust and sewage flowing openly" And the others? The millions of inhabitants in Bamako? To hell with them.
Visibly moved, Susan informs us: "It is simple and superb. I asked for the price to bring two friends from my institution: it is two and a half times cheaper than a hotel! "
During this time millions of Africans survive on less than a dollar a day!
But Georges talks bout the World Bank. Noting that 15 or 20 people are crammed into a private minibus she writes: "The World Bank was here: there is not even a shadow of public service in town (I don't know if there was any before)". You read correctly: The World Bank. With blows for structural adjustment and initiatives "for heavily indebted countries" and others, it is determined to privatize public services even though they didn't know if there was a public service before. Insidious lies.
As Aminata Touré declared: "It is following the movement of alter-globalization that the great western powers have curbed their positions on the debt of countries of the south on the question of cotton." She knows that during the last negotiations with Hong Kong the position of the United States has not varied one iota. She knows that in the official documents, the United States, for their objectives to penetrate Africa, have long pronounced themselves for " a certain lightening of the debt" and that La Tribune of Geneva noted in its issue of June 2005: "The debt of the 18 poor countries was barely reduced 20%. The highly indebted countries have already reimbursed four to eight times the interest that today represent 40% of the GNP of the countries in question." What a victory!
Millions of Africans survive on less than a dollar a day!
That is how our observer, somewhat doubtful, is not far from sharing the opinion of Aliou Touré, a teacher interviewed by IPS: "This story of the forum will not lead us anywhere. There are always the same speeches. They are alter-globalists that want us to go to sleep on the verb." He also asks about trade union organizations. What are they doing? Are they present?
He recalls what the World Bank said in their report of 2000-2001: "In the matter of social divisions, one can attenuate them by putting the adversaries in the framework of formal or informal forums and in channelling their energies rather than leaving them to clash as the only outlet." Avoid clashes, give an outlet because we know that the peoples to not accept it, is perhaps the reason that money, former ministers, parliamentarians, NGO's, and personalities have converged on Bamako.
One cannot help being sympathetic to Mariam Doumbia, street seller that with all the malice of African women, questioned on the forum replies: "It's fantastic. I am selling 10,000 francs CFA (about 20 dollars) a day against 1,000 or 2,000 francs CFA usually." No one is duped.
A greeting from the International Liaison Committee of Workers and Peoples
On the occasion of the XIV Congress of the Workers Party (France)
Good morning and welcome to all the comrades.
My name is Jocelyn Lapitre, Guadeloupian activists and member of the organization Travaye e Peyizan for national independence of Guadeloupe, an organization affiliated with the ILC.
My organization and all the comrades in Guadeloupe have charged me to convey their most fraternal greetings and their best wishes for the work of your congress.
I am also present at this tribune to offer you the welcome of the ILC as well, through the following message:
Comrades, during 2005, the ILC has taken many initiatives. Among them I would especially point out was the World Conference held in Madrid. I would like to quote an excerpt from the final declaration:
"We re-affirm our commitment to the labor movement that in organizing itself was born of the relentless opposition between the interests of the exploiters and that of the exploited. From its beginnings, in the diversity of its methods for action, it has always called for a fight to the end in order to bring an end to the regime of private property of the means of production and exchange, on the basis of capitalist exploitation. It fights to constitute organizations freely. It is opposed to all conception that in the name of new world governance, in the framework of the maintenance of the regime of private property, pretends to reduce the role and function of labor organizations to that of a component of globalization integrated into it."
This is the debate we have followed after the XIII Meeting of the ILC for the defense of ILO conventions.
These two initiatives of the ILC that I have brought up were followed by others: most especially in August, at the continental conference in Bolivia for the nationalization of hydrocarbons, at which the ILC was a participant along with the principal organizations of the country.
Then, as you know, since the ILC International Newsletter informed you, the II Caribbean Conference was held in Guadeloupe on December 16 and 17 last, in which delegates from France participated, member of your party, next to 50 or so other delegates that came from Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Martinique, Saint Lucia, Trinidad and Tobago, Guadeloupe and Mexico representing Caribbean countries as well as the presence of delegates from the United States and the International Committee against repression and the ILC. Six trade union leaders from Haiti who should have been present were held up by harassment of the French embassy that denied them a visa. We said:
"The French state wants to cast doubt on the fight for the sovereignty of the colonized workers and peoples. (Whether they like it or not we are the people.)" It is high time that the countries of the Caribbean stop being the carriers of foreign imperialist powers. It is time that they break the ties of political or economic subordination that makes them the vassals of Europe and the United States, blocking the free disposal of their natural resources."
As I indicated, we are confronted in a joint offensive with Mercosud and the European Union.
One of the next major activities of the ILC is the European Conference in Berlin called on the initiative of the German worker activists and trade unionists to which have responded, as you know, activists from 15 European countries. This conference, being held less than a month after the rejection by the people of France and Holland of the European Constitution and treaties such as Maastricht and all governments subject to the European Union, that pursue an unprecedented offensive against the rights of workers and their countries, and oses at the center of this debate the following question: is there a way out for the working classes and the peoples without a break with the European Union and its institutions? The German activists also ask: is it possible to defend our pensions without asking for a break from the decisions of Barcelona?
As the Slovak delegates said who will also be present: "Our country is a guinea pig of the European Union; the rate of unemployment is 32%; everything has been privatised, the phone companies, electricity, gas; it is shameful that we have let them steal our conquests."
Comrades, I know, since I live it every day in our colonized country, what it means to be the guinea pig of the European Union. We don't want it, the people no longer want to be the guinea pigs of anyone: not of the European Union, not of the ALCA nor the Mercosud. The conquest or re-conquest of sovereignty and democracy has become universal themes. The ILC is today well represented in the heart of these battles, as is the Labor Party, which proves the tenor of your debates at your congress.
Long live international solidarity; long live the International Liaison Committee of Workers and Peoples!
Messages read at the Labor Party Congress:
From "Tribune des Travailleurs, Moroccan newspaper published by ILC partisans From the APTUF (All Pakistan Trade Unions Federation) of Pakistan From Taffazul Hussain, in the name of the Democratic Workers Party of Bangladesh From Travaye e Peyzan of Guadeloupe From UCPO (Union of circles for a labor policy) Switzerland From Stephan Cholewka, editor of Link, Great Britain