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6 November 1997 Edition

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Workers in struggle

Striking truckers need our support

Lorry strikers an issue for all European workers

What is the point in having a single market for business if there isn't a single market for workers that guarantees their rights?
Striking lorry drivers have brought France to a standstill this week with 140 blockades at refineries, fuel depots, major highways, border crossings and seaports.

The media coverage and political commentary on the dispute has played on the emotive issues of layoffs and financial losses in other EU states as a result of the strike. The European Commission has turned the strike into an issue of freedom of movement making the case that the French government has to ensure free movement of goods and people.

EU commissioners Neil Kinnock and Padraig Flynn have also emphasised the freedom of movement issues saying that it is the ``foundation of a European single market''. They have also warned of the potential ``negative impact on employment''. The Spanish Young Farmers Association have called for a boycott of French goods. In Ireland 3,000 fishery workers could be laid off while exporters and hauliers face losses of nearly £2 million a day.

The culmination of this is to blame the French workers for engaging in what is a just strike. Their pay and working conditions are unacceptable for European workers. For example one of the workers' key demands is an hourly wage rate of £5.88 which has been denied by employers. Drivers also work very long hours. Only 5% work less than 230 hours a month. Part of the reason for such low pay and long hours in France is competition from Portuguese truckers.

It raises the question of what is the point in having a single market for business if there isn't a single market for workers that guarantees their rights.

This is the core issue of the dispute, if French workers rights are being denied because of conditions in other EU states, it makes the EU structures laughable. Yes, there are costs for Irish business and workers because of the strike, but the French workers deserve and need our support because the denial of their rights today could be ours tomorrow.

$37 billion bail out to Suharto's brutal regime

Donor's blind eye to Indonesian human rights abuses

At first the news seemed too good to be true - the International Monetary Fund (IMF) were going to use their financial muscle to impose reforms on Indonesia's corrupt anti-democratic regime. Don't hold your breath. The IMF and fellow partners the World Bank had little or no interest in ending President Suharto's bloody regime.

The only `reforms' that the IMF were interested in were the usual package of privatisation and deregulation of markets - measures that are their stock in trade when lending money to desperate states.

$12 billion dollars was the amount of funding Suharto needed to pay off debts run up by industry and banking groups under his control. Suharto's family and allies control according to the Financial Times ``some of the most lucrative business sectors in the rapidly growing economy''.

Issues such as the ongoing systematic human rights abuses within Indonesia and the brutal occupation of neighbouring states such as East Timor is not a problem to the IMF. Also not a problem is Suharto's constant spending on weapons and military equipment. The IMF only wanted ``stricter rules to ensure transparency of government contracts and curbs on state and private monopolies''

The IMF is not the only one offering financial aid to the Indonesian regime. Singapore and Japan have donated $5 billion dollars each to Suharto. The USA has donated $3 billion and Malaysia offered $1 billion, adding up to a grand total of $37 billion. More funds are expected from Australia, Hong Kong and China. The IMF, World Bank and the Asian Development bank have pledged $23 billion

The opportunity to use Indonesia's economic problems as a lever to secure concessions on human rights issues from Suharto's regime has been spurned. Expectations from the IMF to use their influence for a positive end were never high. However the role that the USA and Japan and others seem to be playing in bailing out Suharto financially is utterly deplorable. Yet again it seems that dollars and human rights just don't mix.

3,900 less farms

Irish farmers are one of the forgotten elements in the Celtic Tiger tales that fill our papers and news bulletins these days. They somehow just don't fit into that high technology image that the IDA and others portray of the Irish economy. Yet they are the corner stone, the basic building block of the economy we live in today.

Figures released by the Central Statistics Office last week show the negative effects of the ongoing transformation of Irish farming life. In 1995 there were 153,400 farms in the 26 Counties but in 1996 3,900 of these farms disappeared and were subsumed into other larger units. There is a slight increase in the number of people working in farming up from 293,300 to 301,000,but still lower than the 1994 figure of 310,200 farm workers.

The net result is that the average farm size is increasing. In 1996 it stood at just over 72 acres. There are currently almost 71,500 farms whose size is less than 50 acres. What hope have they got of surviving the trend towards increasingly large and ranch size farms? Is this the rural Ireland we really want?

Ansbacher 15 to escape trial

It now seems likely that the 15 rich Irish citizens who stashed their money in the same offshore accounts as Charlie Haughey will escape prosecution in the 26 Counties for tax evasion.

In mid October An Phoblacht reported on Charlie McCreevy stating that he would not be asking the Central Bank or the Revenue Commissioners to investigate the other people who had shares in the £38 million Ansbacher offshore accounts.

Now files have been sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions by McCreevy and to the new Moriarty Tribunal on Payments to Haughey and Lowry. Despite his claim earlier this month that the Central Bank was independent of his office McCreevy did actually ask the Central Bank in August to investigate whether or not exchange controls were broken as the money was moved out of sight of the revenue commissioners.

The 15 owners of the £38 million will not be considered in the Moriarty Tribunal and it is unlikley that they will ever be named publicly. Even less likley is that prosecutions will arise as the Revenue Commssioners do not have the legal power to investigate the accounts. Now that really is a miscarriage of justice.

An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1

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