AP 3 - 2022 - 200-2

21 August 1997 Edition

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Workers in struggle

Market madness

Throughout the world a relatively small group of people are bringing havoc to the world's financial markets
Market turmoil, share collapses, currency devaluations - for the past month the global financial markets have been on a roller coaster ride. Stock markets have hit record prices for shares only to blow it all with days of huge losses, then climb back again. In Ireland the punt has for months now been devaluing against sterling. The Irish stock exchange has grown in value by over a third this year and though less volatile than many other exchanges has also been buffeted by huge losses and gains.

Now Asian currencies have been targetted by speculators. On Tuesday share prices on the Hong Kong stock exchange plunged in the fifth biggest fall in its history. On the same day the Korean, Indonesian, Philipine and Malayasian currencies came under huge speculative pressure. The previous week saw the largest falls in Wall Street and British stock markets since the 1992 currency crisis.

So why are global financial markets in such turmoil? A range of explanations are being offered including worries about the US federal reserve, the Bundesbank council, inflation rates and changes in interest rates. These are all concerns but are not real explanations of what is happening in world financial markets.

Throughout the world a relatively small group of people are bringing havoc to the world's financial markets by the simple action of buying and selling a currency or a share. The combination of the computerisation of stock exchanges, the introduction of high tech communications and the deregulation of financial markets has brought about these crises.

Deregulation of stock exchanges has allowed almost any institution with the financial clout to enter these markets. For many the only purpose of buying or selling shares or currencies is the pursuit of short-term profit. This in turn has created a range of short term crises as carpetbagger speculators target in on currencies and stocks that don't have the collective financial clout the speculators can muster.

So what effect does this have on the 26-County economy? A broker in Goodbodys, one of the largest stockbrokers, told An Phoblacht that the stock market turmoil would have very little effect on our economy and that the stock market is not linked to the economy.

What is clear though is what happens when a market ideology is taken to its logical collusion: it creates chaos, a chaos that benefits few and shows that markets cannot be controlled and do not produce, as is often claimed, the best possible outcome. Whether anyone has learnt this lesson in recent weeks though is very unlikely.

Department of Finance condemned

The Department of Finance's decision to ignore the Live Register is ideological and flies in the face of common sense
This summer has seen three major economic forecasts for the 26-County economy. All have promised a rosy future with thousands of new jobs. One of the reports was the Economic Review and Outlook for 1997 produced by the Department of Finance. Now part of the study's findings have been criticised by the Irish National Organisation of the Unemployed (INOU). The review forecast a 10,000 fall in unemployment next year.

The fall will come, according to the Finance economists, in the International Labour Organisation (ILO) measure of unemployment. This does not mean there will be less people signing on. Instead, the measure is calculated not by counting the actual numbers of unemployed but by an annual survey of up to 50,000 households. The Live Register figure of who is actually signing on has been left out. The most recent ILO survey for 1996 shows 177,600 people unemployed compared with the June live register unemployment figure of 254,863.

The INOU case is that ``any realistic view of what is happening on unemployment must look at both figures''. INOU national chairperson Paul Billings maintains that ``the Department of Finance's decision to ignore the Live Register is ideological and flies in the face of common sense'' and that ``their present approach suggests they don't care whether any of the 50,000 new jobs goes to someone on the dole''.

``If the Government are serious about cutting the dole queues and the poverty they create, it is going to take a bit more than closing their eyes and leaving the statisitics they don't like out of the Department of Finance Review''.

Broken promises

When is an agreement to recognise unions not an agreement at all? When it's negotiated by New Labour. It was only on 25 July that British General Communications Head Quarters intelligence centre (GCHQ) lifted a 13 year ban on unions imposed by the Conservatives. It was agreed that the Public Services, Tax and Commerce Union (PTC) will have negotiating rights at the centre, which employs 4,400 workers.
Now it seems that all is not well at GCHQ. The British Foreign Office wants to impose a ``no disruptions'' agreement at the listening centre. Tony Blair had promised to restore union rights in full at the centre but according to documents leaked to a British Sunday newspaper the Labour Government has insisted that unions sign a binding agreement forbidding strikes or any form of industrial action.

Management will also have the right to override any agreement with the unions on the basis that they have to preserve the national interest. It seems then another case of New Labour but same old British establishment.

UPS strikers

Taking on your local multinational is not the easiest of tasks these days but a tentative agreement between the US Teamster Union and United Parcel Service shows how it can be done.

For the past two weeks 185,000 UPS workers in the USA have been on strike over pay, job security, pensions, and abuse of part-time workers whose wages are half that paid to full-time employees.

The strike halted the US operations of UPS who in 1996 recorded profits of £630 million. Under the new five year contract that has yet to be voted on by workers, management have conceded that the number of full-time workers will increase by 10,000 over five years. Part-time wages will increase to two-thirds of the full time rate and the uniuon will retain control of their pension fund.

Referees in struggle

No football until further notice is the message from the Irish Soccer Referees Society who withdrew their services this week after the FAI excluded Wicklow referees from their panel. The exclusion is because referees did not attend an FAI refereeing semimar, for which they were given just two days notice.

The Referee's Society claim that the FAI promised to run a second seminar. Now the FAI have not run the promised seminar and from 16 August there has been no games in all grades of football except national league fixtures. As An Phoblacht goes to print an emergency meeting is being held between the referees and the FAI.

An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1