Monday, 31 March 2008
Friday, 28 March 2008
Wednesday, 26 March 2008
‘Bear Stearns’ sounds like the name of a survivalist TV presenter: ‘This week, Bear Stearns climbs Everest one-handed, before feasting on caterpillars and patronizing the natives in East Borneo’. In reality, Bear Stearns is the name of an investment back, and is far from being rugged and sturdy right now. Last week, it became the latest ‘victim’ of the sub-prime mortgage crisis. The term ‘victim’ is relative: unlike the thousands of Americans who are suffering foreclosure on their homes, Bear Stearns was bailed out by J P Morgan, with the obliging aid of the Federal Reserve (the US equivalent of the Bank of England).
This was just the latest in a series of blows that have hit the US economy over the last few months. The sub-prime crisis broke last year, followed by: a stock-market crash (sorry, ‘correction’); the major bank Citigroup wobbling before being bailed out by the oil-sheikhdom of Abu Dhabi; oil prices soaring above $100 a barrel; and the dollar continuing to plunge. The Federal Reserve, led by the hapless Ben Bernanke, has been cutting interest rates faster than a carpet warehouse slashes its prices. All this is set against a global picture where US hegemony is threatened by the rising economies of India and China.
Economists often warn us not to read too much into financial ups and downs on Wall Street, and reassure us that these will not affect the ‘real world’. I would say that the 63,000 American workers who lost their jobs in February (the worst month for job losses in five years) are certainly feeling the effects in their ‘real world’. But in other ways, it’s true that the world of the bankers and that of the ordinary citizen don’t seem to connect. Not wishing to sound cynical, but you would think that this would at least be a good time to buy a house, with house prices at rock-bottom and interest rates plummeting. Yet while the banks benefit from low Fed lending rates, the borrowing rate for ordinary lenders is actually INCREASING! Not content with a planned bail-out by central banks, the predatory lenders who got us into this mess to begin with are trying to steady the ship by screwing extra money out of borrowers.
What is really galling about the credit crisis (apart from the obvious - working class people losing their homes) is the sheer hypocrisy. The people who tell us that the free market is the only system that works, and who laud the ‘risk takers’, are now happy to bail out the banks after their ‘risk-taking’ back-fired. Now here’s a novel idea – instead of spending public funds to prop up the banks, why not use them to help the people who are losing their homes to foreclosure? No, wait, we can’t do that – that would be state intervention, that would be dangerously close to (whisper it) socialism!
At least we still have the Bush administration’s ‘stimulus package’, which gives tax rebates in the hope of re-inflating the economy. Now, I have to confess that my wife and I are bad consumers – we put our tax rebate into our savings, instead of doing our patriotic duty by spending it on an American car or gambling it on the stock exchange. At $600 a head, the stimulus cheques are hardly an invitation to workers to spend, spend, spend. And there lies the basic problem with the US economy – American workers simply don’t earn enough. They have not had a pay-rise in real terms for the last 5 years – and in 4 of those 5 years, their salaries actually went down. And what happened to corporate profits in the same period? Why, they went up! [Statistics junkies can see this and other charts and analysis here: http://leninology.blogspot.com/2008/03/obama-price-of-hope.html ]
As Robert Reich – Clinton’s former Labor Secretary – pointed out on NPR*, people took on sub-prime mortgages not because they were foolishly trying to get rich quick, but because they were struggling to survive on less than a living wage. With their homes gone, those families literally have nothing left to give. Reich is hardly a socialist – on his blog, he writes “I’m not suggesting anything so draconian and ideologically objectionable as public ownership. Perish the thought. Let the Brits bail out their big bank and nationalize it …” http://robertreich.blogspot.com/ Rather, he realizes that a mass-consumer capitalist economy cannot function without workers who can afford to buy the goods that they produce.
The question is, how will the working class react? They are being offered no solutions by the Democratic candidates in their increasingly bitter feud for the nomination. The left in the US is weak, and its pro-Democrat section is busy campaigning for the pro-business Barrack Obama. So where does workers’ anger go? Does it go in nationalist and anti-immigrant directions? Or – to paraphrase the poet Langston Hughes – “does it explode”? There may not be an explosion on the horizon, but last year’s strikes in the entertainment industry showed there are sparks of militancy in the most unexpected areas. Something’s got to give.
*National Public Radio: the equivalent of BBC Radio 4, only with less funding but – on the plus side - no John Humphries.
Tuesday, 18 March 2008
A new banner was commisioned for the occasion 'Virgin on theridiculous' featuring Richard Branson - clutching his assets!
Those who attended the Virgin event reported hard cash inducements to take part in the project- one familydoctor commented that it was a full 20 minutes before the word'patients' was mentioned.
The demonstration was backed by health unions, the Trades UnionCouncil, and greetings came from pensioners, NHS activists and postworkers.
For pictures see http://www.keepournhspublic.org.uk/
Monday, 17 March 2008
Oxford Respect branch meetings are on the third Tuesday of every month. Members and supporters welcome.
We will be discussing campaigning work and the May election.
Friday, 14 March 2008
Thursday, 13 March 2008
Why are civil servants striking?
• The Government have insisted that pay rises for public sector workers are below inflation increases. But for many staff in DWP the limit is to be capped at 1% per year over the next 3 years, with no increase at all for many in 2008.
Meanwhile inflation is over 4%.
• DWP management have just imposed a 3 year pay offer despite it being rejected by a 3 to 1 majority of PCS members. Now they are refusing to even talk to the unions about this.
• DWP staff perform vital jobs in getting unemployed people into jobs and paying pensions and benefits to millions. Every citizen uses the DWP during their life.
The staff who work there should be valued for this work.
I thought civil servants were well paid?
Civil servants in DWP are on very low wages. Over half of DWP staff are paid less than £17,700. Some are on as little as £12,500 a year. Thousands have to rely on tax credits to make ends meet. It is a national scandal that the government stands back and lets city workers get £8 billion in bonuses while saying that civil servants must accept paltry pay raises to keep inflation in check.
The pay might be poor but aren’t civil service jobs for life?
There will be picket lines outside the Jobcentre on Worcester St/ George St on both days from 8am until 9.30pm.
Monday, 10 March 2008
Teachers have had imposed upon them a 2.45% increase from September of this year when the Retail Price Index is running at around 4%, and pay increases in the private sector are averaging the same figure. This would be the first year of a three year pay settlement, which sets below inflation pay rises until 2011, and forms part of the government’s attempts to hold down public sector pay. Teachers’ pay was already increased by less than inflation in 2005, 2006 and 2007.
If teachers’ pay increases had simply been equal to inflation since 2005:
· The starting pay for newly qualified teachers would, in September 2008, be almost £1000 a year higher, helping them face the burden of student debt and the ever-rising costs of housing and transport;
· The pay rate for a more experienced teacher on the maximum of the Upper Pay Scale would be over £1600 a year higher;
· The average teacher’s pay will not provide enough for a mortgage for the average house price in Oxfordshire;
· Public sector pay increases do not cause inflation. Not even the Governor of the Bank of England supports the Government’s claims that public sector pay increases will lead to a rise in inflation. Increases in earnings and pay settlements in the private sector are rising on average by over 4 per cent. The pay of chief executives of the top 100 companies went up by 37 per cent last year.
Many NUT members, whilst angry about pay, state that workload is also still a serious concern. The Office of Manpower Economics 2007 survey showed that teachers work on average more than 50 hours a week. Much of this workload burden, which detracts teachers from their core role of teaching, stems from the government and is associated with externally imposed targets, league tables, Ofsted Inspections and performance management
Teachers are now being paid less for doing more!
The ballot is a significant step in the NUT campaign against below inflation pay rises. It is a serious challenge to the Government and could lead to the first national strike by teachers for more than twenty years.
Friday, 7 March 2008
Thursday, 6 March 2008
Communication Workers Union (CWU), Living Wage Campaign, Unison Oxfordshire Health Branch, Fire Brigades Union, Local Government Unions, National Union of Teachers, Anti Academies campaign, Close Campsfield Campaign, Keep Our NHS PublicOxford - Ramallah Group, Colombia Solidarity Campaign, Cuba Solidarity Campaign
Wednesday, 5 March 2008
Tuesday, 4 March 2008
Branson’s plans are a real threat to traditional GP surgeries. Other services ( laser eye surgery, physiotherapy, dentistry, podiatry) which people do have to pay for will be part of the building and this is how much of the profit is made. It seems GPs are promised 10% of these profits.
Oxfordshire Campaigners beat off plans over 2 years ago to privatise control over NHS spending in the area. Local people chose not to use the mobile cataract service provided by NETCARE, a private South African Company and Oxfordshire PCT have been forced into selling off the rest of the contact to other areas. Now VIRGIN are planning to provide a new GP surgery in the ‘M4 corridor’. Dr Ken Williamson retired GP and chairman of Oxfordshire KONP said ‘local people want to see tax payers money to be used to in order that their own local GP surgeries open more hours and provide more NHS services. They don’t want to see it funnelled into Richard Branson’s pockets.
Virgin are holding a meeting on Monday 17th March at St. Hugh’s College Oxford OX2.
Keep our NHS Public and Oxford and District Trades Council have called a demonstration.
Demonstration Monday 17th MarchMeet at 6.30pm St.Hugh’s College Canterbury Road Entrance OX2 6LE
Picket 6.30 -7.30pm
Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with us at the Rose and Crown , North Parade from 7.30pm onwards