A Neoliberal Attack…

July 13, 2011

Religious people are far more likely to engage in conversation about religion with me, after I mention that I have studied Philosophy and take an interest in Theology. I think they presume I will agree with their thoughts and perhaps provide reasoning to their illogical beliefs. I think they imagine that one can only speak with conviction on matters of religion, if one is religious in an academic sense. The same is true of many walks of life, not least the public sector in England. Because Tory MPs are essentially a part of the public sector, they seem to believe they have the right to talk of all public sector workers, as if they’re the official spokespeople for the public sector.

On Question Time last week, John Redwood, Tory MP for Wokingham appeared delighted as he informed the audience that as a public sector worker, he would be working longer and putting more money into his pension pot as a result of his Government’s reforms, and he was proud of it. The reason John Redwood can seem so pleased with himself that he is accepting the changes to his pension and retirement age, is because on top of the £65,000 a year he earns as an MP, he also claimed a hell of a lot of money, that regular public sector workers could only dream of. Yet, Mr Redwood seems to think his claims were perfectly reasonable, as suggested on his own personal blog:

In 2007-8 I claimed a total of £105,917. This made me the 19th cheapest MP, claiming around £40,000 less than the average. One fifth of that claim was the mortgage interest costs, the Council Tax and service charge and maintenance on a bedsit flat in Pimlico. It is entirely used to enable me to work longer days in London when there is important Parliamentary business. During my ownership it has only been slept in by myself. I do not need it for any other purpose. The deposit and repayments of capital are of course paid for out of my taxed income.

– We should be thanking him, for claiming in one year, more than a teacher is likely to earn in five years. We should be happy that tax payers money is going to fund the “maintenance” on his Pimlico flat. We should be grateful that the money spent on his mortgage interest (tax payers money) will go to buying a flat he can then sell when he retires, making a handsome profit, and giving nothing back to the public, whilst his party continue to force harsh austerity. One does wonder what the purpose of his 2004/5 claim of £13,305 for his luxurious house in Berkshire (a £1,000,000 estate which he fully owns), including £168 and £112 for his lawn to be reseeded, and how that is “entirely used to enable me to work longer days in London when there is important Parliamentary business” was needed for, but nevertheless, i’m sure it’s just as noble as the necessity of “maintenance” claims on the MILLIONAIRE’S flat in London. Thank you John “Jesus Christ” Redwood. You are a hero.

A man in the audience pointed out that the Private Sector has forced through harsh pension reforms, and so the Public Sector should do the same and “modernise”. The audience were alive with cheer! But it got me thinking; why is it always the public sector that is made to look as though it is in the wrong, like a Soviet leftover, trailing behind the private sector. People seem happy to accept the notion that if the private sector is screwing people over, then so should the public sector! Why is no one arguing that the private sector should be actively forced to lift itself up to the level of the public sector? As far as I can discern, over the past twenty five years it has been an out of control short-term wealth obsessed private sector that has been so majestically out of control, that when the bubble finally cracked, the public sector had to take the hit.

Let’s look at examples of the private sector providing a “modernising” model that the public sector ought to apparently follow:

Lloyds TSB is currently 43.4% owned by the taxpayer. Yet, its new Chief Executive, Antonio Horta-Osorio received a signing on fee of £4.1mn in shares, £516,000 in money, and an annual salary of £1.6mn with a yearly bonus of £2.5mn.

A wonderful company named Trafigura, in 2010 leased a ship called the Probo Koala to a company called Compagnie Tommy, with the intent to dump toxic waste at a waste disposal sight in Amsterdam. The site raised their prices by 20 times that quoted, because the toxic waste was deemed to be far more dangerous that Compagnie Tommy and Trafigura first suggested. So, a new company set up on the Ivory Coast agreed to take the waste, for a very cheap sum. Trafigura did not investigate just why this new company was offering to take the waste for such a cheap price. After the waste was dumped, ten people died from poisoning, and over 100,000 became ill. Trafigura said they’d tested the waste, and it wasn’t toxic, and that they had no idea why so many people became ill. The Dutch tested the waste and found it contained two tonnes of Hydrogen Sulfide. A killer gas. Trafigura spent three years publicly denying the waste they dumped in a poverty stricken area of Africa, was not enough to kill people. Suddenly, Trafigura offered to pay a massive amount of compensation of Euro152,000,000 to the Ivory Coast (which didn’t go to the victims) with the instruction that on acceptance of the compensation, they couldn’t be prosecuted or causing death in the courts. The reason they did this, is because The Guardian obtained – through Wikileaks – private company emails from Trafigura in which they quite plainly accept, as early as 2006 before they’d even chosen the Ivory Coast to dump the waste, that the waste was indeed dangerous.

According to the Guardian, Diageo PLC, the company that makes Guiness, in 2009 paid as little as 2% tax on its profits, despite racking in £2bn in profits. Diageo pays its Chief Executive £3.6mn salary. To fill this gap, it takes 20,000 ordinary British households per year.

The term “Modernising” has come to mean subtle privatising of key services in recent years. An economic laissez faire that apparently promised to solve all of our problems. The outsourcing of cleaning from NHS to private companies with £94mn worth of contacts, led to such declining standards between ’83-’00, that an extra emergency £31mn was injected into cleaning in the NHS, with the a Patient Environment Action Team (PEAT), set up to visit hospitals to ensure standards were being met; the Private sector had failed. By 2000, only 20% of NHS Trusts had achieved an acceptable level of cleanliness.

The banks aren’t the only sector that have required government bail outs in recent history. In 2002, British Energy (privatised under the Tories) had to approach the government for a £410mn bail out to finance its debts.

News of the World. I believe this doesn’t need elaborating on.

Private sector bonuses and high CEO pay, is more harmful to you and I, than highly paid private sector bosses. When money accumulates in the hands of very few people within the private sector (we spend more in the private sector, than on taxes), the cost gets passed on to us. The Bush tax cuts, along with the deregulation of the financial sector didn’t go toward greater investment, it went to increasing the pay and bonuses of those at the top, and the cost was passed on to us, through the creation of a very easy credit system. We all know how that turned out.

British Airways, under the incompetent management of Willie Walsh faced massive fines (record breaking fine actually) for price fixing, long drawn out industrial disputes with the cabin crew which the media helped by describing the cabin crew as greedy, despite 2000 of their workmates being laid off, the company making huge losses, and Willie Walsh taking in a 6% inflation busting pay rise, taking it to £743,000 and £1.1mn in deferred share bonuses. Enough to keep at least ten people on at BA, who otherwise lost their job. The media will never paint the boss as the greedy incompetent bastard in this kind of dispute. It will always find a child at Heathrow, crying, because the cabin crew strike means he wont see his mummy this Christmas. The media do not tend to side with the unions, they never will, and so neither will the ill-informed public.

Do we need to even mention the banking system? A particularly ironic take on this whole new “private good public bad” era of austerity we are living in.

Thankfully we have the Government’s new corporate team, who will help him “stand up to business”. On the panel, inevitably, is Philip Green, Topshop mogul who owns Taveta Investments, which he put in his wife’s name, who happens to live in Monaco, thus avoiding £285mn in tax. He also paid his family £1.2bn, taken from a loan in the name of his company, thus cutting Corporation tax because the loan’s interest charges were offset against profit. Oh and he also uses sweatshops in Mauritius, whilst claiming his obscene bonuses are justified because he “takes risks”. Another on the panel, is Justin King, Chairman of Sainsbury’s. In his first year, he received free shares worth over £500,000, whilst axing the £120 christmas bonus for his staff. After his staff didn’t receive their christmas bonus, King awarded his wealthy finance director £357,000 worth of shares. King was also offered 1,000,000 free shares, if he met specific targets the year before. He didn’t meet the targets, the company’s profits fell 2.9% and yet he still took home 86% of the promised shares. He will be given the same year on year, on top of his £500,000+ a year salary.

We all know that the private sector has the potential to deliver fantastic opportunities, despite the fact that its raison d’etre is unjustifiable power and wealth in the hands of people who simply injected the first dose of capital required to kick start the specific business, as if that initial injection of capital somehow creates a universal, unbreakable law, like gravity, that requires the majority of the subsequent profit and the decisions required to move the business forward, be placed in the hands of the person who injected that capital. It’s a bit of a flawed and odd concept that people just tend to accept. But, it does create opportunity (though it doesn’t necessarily have to be the only way of creating opportunity). The downside, is unregulated greed. The public sector is a constant target of abuse from the source of that greed, and the politicians that the greed of the private sector can buy. Corportocracy at its finest and most dangerous.

Isn’t it about time a Politician had the balls to stand up and say the Private Sector over the past thirty years has spiraled disastrously out of control, and perhaps needs to be able to pay people a decent living wage, as opposed to bringing the public sector down to the unacceptable level of the private sector?


Support the strike

March 21, 2010

Teamstar, the US Union said it hadn’t ruled out banning it’s members from handling BA baggage, in a show of solidarity with the strikers. BA said that action by a secondary union was against US law. This amazes me. Why does a law like that exist? Why do companies have more rights than people? Why aren’t workers allowed to show solidarity against a corrupt regime? Afterall, Americans think it’s okay to own guns in the knowledge that they may need to overthrow a corrupt Government, so why are corrupt businesses given such protection? Why is there a bill of rights for the abstract concept of “company“? If that isn’t proof that the protection of the rights of those at the top is more important than the majority, i’m not sure what is.

BA said it was sad to see overseas Unions support:

“unjustified strikes against an iconic British brand”

If all else fails, if incompetent and a bully style of management, and scandal after scandal is starting to make management look like the wolves in sheep’s clothing……….. appeal to Nationalism. It never fails in the realm of the idiots.

The Tories, reminiscent of 1979 today announced they would fight the power of the Unions. Members of the Unite Union working for British Airways voted in favour of strike action, and are today on strike.

Let’s get one thing straight from the start, BA is not at risk. The strikers, are not putting BA at risk. BA is the British market leader in international flights. It started to lose it’s top spot, before recession hit. The cabin crew on strike, were not responsible for that. Bad management, was responsible for that. The Tories who are now criticising Brown for being weak with the unions, are far weaker in their unwavering support for unbelievably incompetent management.

The Union offered 60 million in cuts, with a 2 year pay freeze on it’s staff. The staff were ready to accept it. Walsh didn’t think it went far enough. To him, the only way this is over, is if the Union is totally broken, so he can bully as much as he damn well pleases. I hope he fails.

There is something fundamentally wrong with a system that rewards incompetence and greed and punishes those who simply wish to protect their livelihood. Obviously i’m going to be incredibly bias, because just looking at BA Chief Exec. Willie Walsh’s smug face, on the left, makes me want to convert to fundamental Christianity and stone him to death.

The Sun reading British public, owing to it’s great sense of idiocy and selfishness is largely against the strike action. Regardless of how poorly management of BA has been, and regardless of how many jobs are on the line, the public seem to hate the strikers, simply because it might put a few holidays at risk. The death of brotherhood, and the ongoing nightmare World of the narcissistic consumer.

So why the anger at the striking cabin crew?

  • It wasn’t the Cabin crew who created the huge pension deficit. It was Willie Walsh’s management.
  • It wasn’t the Cabin crew who were fined £270,000,000 for price fixing. It was Willie Walsh’s management (this resulted in huge job losses, to pay for it.) He tried to manipulate costs. And yet, he wasn’t sacked.
  • It wasn’t the Cabin crew who fucked up over Terminal 5. It was Willie Walsh’s management.
  • It wasn’t the Cabin crew who ran the company so far into the ground, that 30,000 workers whose livelihoods depend on their wage packet, were asked to work for nothing. It was because of Willie Walsh’s management. The union actually called for better management, instead of workers working for free, surely that makes more sense?
  • The distrust of BA because of it’s dirty tricks economically, is not the Cabin crew’s fault. It was Willie Walsh’s management.
  • It wasn’t the Cabin crew who went to the Supreme Court to block industrial action. It was Willie Walsh.
    In short, the head of BA, Willie Walsh is a crook. An appalling manager. 13,500 people don’t just decide to strike because they want to ruin your holiday, or they want a bit of a break, or they’re “greedy”. They have a reason. And that reason, is still in charge of a company he damn near destroyed. The strikers don’t hate BA. The strikers want to save BA.

    Overpaid arrogant bankers and managers have screwed the entire system over, for the past thirty years. Lehman Brothers, and Goldman is testament to that. Walsh is just another one of the same breed of greedy bastards who have somehow convinced a generation that they are indispensable. They are not indispensable. They should be dispensed of as soon as possible. The Tories, quite clearly support ruthless Capitalism. Because whilst jobs and livelihoods at BA are threatened by management who bully their staff…….. BA stock price is at the highest it’s been in over six months. Which suggests that whilst staff are being threatened daily with cuts in the wages they rely on to survive, the shareholders, who quite clearly have a bit of money anyway given that they have shares in BA……… are making more money.

    If a President or Prime Minister were to run a Country as badly and with bullying tactics as Willie Walsh has ran BA, the public would be supremely outraged. When a company does it, the public don’t seem to care. The way of Capitalism. Greed and selfishness wins every time.

    What a wondrous system this is.

    David Cameron said:

    “The BA strike threatens the future of one of Britain’s greatest companies along with thousands of jobs. But will the Prime Minister come out in support of the people who cross the picket line? No – because the Unite union is bankrolling the Labour Party”

    Firstly, why are the strikers threatening BA? I don’t think they are. Why hasn’t Cameron mentioned the bad management, the scandals, the threats, the bullying? This leads me on to my second point…
    Cameron will never mention poor management and a need to curve excessive and rather fascist business tactics, because big business donated almost £5.9million to the Conservative Party last year. Big business is the Conservative Party. Anything that slightly threatens big business, is going to be called socialist, destructive, terrible for Britain.

    What Cameron means is, those like Willie Walsh should be allowed to bully their staff all they want and there should be nothing anyone can do about it.
    Let’s not forget that it is thanks to a brotherhood of workers, that those of us who complain about unions, have a minimum wage to fall back on, and a universal healthcare system to look after us when we’re ill, and better working conditions in so much as we’re not choking on deadly gases in our workplaces, or our kids being sent down mines.

    Kenneth Clarke suggested that we’re heading back to the 1970s and allowing the Unions to take over England. So, the polar opposite of the Unions taking control, is big business. As an example, i’ll use Lloyds Group.

    Lloyds today announced it has made profits of £3.5bn. They seem over joyed. The reason they were overjoyed is because recently, the took over HBOS, which had a plethora of toxic debts, which were then transfered to Lloyds, who miscalculated the risk. Lloyds shareholders decided to take over HBOS. The workers didn’t have any say, obviously, because that would be EVIL SOCIALISM!!!! So thankfully, those wondrous Capitalists were on hand to save the day………….. by having to appeal to Socialism to bail it out. The Government then took 43% of Lloyds over. The wondrous Capitalists who were going to save the day from EVIL SOCIALISM!!!! then announced they were taking on Andy Hornby as a consultant on £60,000 a month; the very same Andy Hornby who was at the top of HBOS and drove it into the ground. So whilst Lloyds needed desperately a government bail out because they’d made a huge mistake buying HBOS, they could still afford to pay an incompetent lunatic £60,000 as a consultant. A man who drove his bank into the ground, was now earning £60,000 advising another Bank how to run it’s business. But wait, those wondrous Capitalists weren’t finished saving the day yet. After making mistake after mistake, they then cut 15000 jobs. Lloyds, the largest employer in Aylesbury had effectively shut down the town by cutting 300+ jobs, because of supremely incompetent management. At what point does the Chancellor, who represents our 43% share in the business, step in and tell the management that we don’t want our money back as a Country, if it means 15000 lose their jobs. We’re not a Tory country. We don’t believe that sort of thing is perfectly acceptable.
    And these are the people who should be running the show as opposed to Unions?

    For those of you who believe the Unions have too much power, and deplore the BA strike…….. you are simply fighting in favour of protecting a system that allows mindless management thugs to control the lives of the very people who fund their luxurious lifestyles.
    BUT AS LONG AS YOUR HOLIDAY ISN’T AFFECTED!
    The idea that they should be happy to even have a job, amazes me, and doesn’t even warrant a response.

    I fully support Unions, in all their attempts to advance workers rights and curve the oppression of selfish incompetent fatcats.