recent weeks we have seen the reality of privatising
in Northern Ireland with the sacking of twenty-three
workers at Aldergrove Airport for taking strike action
in their demand for a living wage.
with the publishing of the finance plan for (NI) The
Assembly has shown that it is set to push through
the privatisation of our health, education, and public
transport under a massive extension of the private
finance initiative (PFI) and public private partnerships
(PPP) which will lead to the minimum wage rapidly
becoming the maximum wage for many workers in NI.
assembly's finance committee is recommending the extension
of PFI/PPP in to all areas of the public sector. At
the end of last December Tony Blair was pushed onto
the defensive about his plans to extend privatising
major trade unions and even some Labour MPs told Blair
that they were not prepared to allow the NHS and schools
to go the same way as the disastrous privatised railways.
in Northern Ireland there has been virtually no debate
on the issue because the UUP, SF, DUP, SDLP are all
in favour of PFI/PPP. Before the Assembly report was
even published, the DUP's Peter Robinson and SF's
Martin Mc Guinness both set up new PFI working parties
in their departments. Robinson wants to use PFI/PPP
to privatise public transport and water. In his 10
year plan he said that Translink were to get a extra
310 million, half of which is to come from the private
sector which will lead to cuts in bus and rail services
and job loses.
since 1995, 50% of the water service ground staff
have been replaced by out-side contractors (privatisation
through the back door) and in this time we have had
two cases of water poisoning. And now we have Sean
Farren SDLP supporting the minister for DRD saying
that we will all have to pay between £40, and
£50, extra per house hold for our water supply.
McGuinness says that PFI is an "innovative procurement
method" for schools but in reality it is just
over a year since the North Win consortium handed
over a new block, built under PFI/PPP to the NWIFHE.
Already the collage is £1.5 million in debt
and unable to pay the exorbitant mortgage costs due
to North Win.
lists on the NHS are longer than ever, and have increased
from 48,000 to 57,000 in one year. There is a 12-month
waiting list for heart surgery and a 18 month wait
for other surgeries. and still the minister for health
SFs Bairbre de Brun is happy to implement PPP/PFI
in to the national health service.
was dreamt up by the Maggie Thatcher and the Tory
Government in 1992. PFI means paying private firms
to build and maintain schools, hospitals, and other
public services. The contract/mortgage is usually
for 25 to 30 years, during which time the private
firm is guaranteed a profit of up to 16 or 18 per
cent, at the end of the contract/ mortgage the private
firm owns the building.
the appalling record of PFI/PPP and introduction of
profit motive, the main parties in the Assembly claim
there is no alternative and that all money coming
from Britain has a condition that 14 per cent of it
will be spent on PFI/PPP projects.
four main unionist and nationalist parties at Stormont
claim that they are unable to get extra money for
public spending because of the unfair "BARNETT
FORMULA"(which decides the amount of money given
to Northern Ireland) and because they do not have
tax varying powers.
all four of them have been lobbying to lower corporation
taxes in the North of Ireland to the same low level
as in the South, from 30 per cent to 12, or even 10
per cent. This is a formula for less money for public
services rather than more. As it is manufacturing
industry in the North is exempted from paying rates,
local and multinational companies get generous subsidies
and "tax holidays" of up to five years,
this is a massive level of corporate welfare.
is just another means of giving more public money
into the private hands. There is a growing resistance,
especially within the trade unions to PFI/PPP in Britain.
Millions of people have a deep suspicion about the
corporate takeover of public services. Such privatisation
is a key part of the WTO trade liberalisation agenda,
being promoted by the EU through the General Agreement
on trade in services (GATS).
trade unions in Northern Ireland have policies opposing
PFI/PPP. What is needed is a clear resistance to the
privatisation agenda, linked to a demand to tax the
rich to pay for health, education, public transport
political parties will not lead that fight, they have
declared their position. It's time for the unions
to organise a massive campaign against PFI/PPP and
to defend public services and jobs and wages. For
the last thirty-plus years the working class has born
the brunt of sectarian attacks. Now when things should
be getting better for all, it is the working class
who is again in the front line - this time not only
from sectarianism but all so from the multinational
capitalist corporations and the Stormont Assembly
who sit in their ivory towers telling us there is
nothing they can do about it, and that it is the best
deal for NI.
working class in NI need leadership from their unions
the ICTU and the trade groups. By uniting the workers
under the battle cry of no privatisation for the first
time in many a long year the trade union movement
has a change to unite workers on a common goal which
could lead to the defeat of sectarianism.
destroys not only jobs but all so communities and
puts profit before people, say no to the privatisation
of our public services and remember the Assembly elections
are only 9 months away. You voted them in - you can
vote them OUT.
of the NI unite.
author is an Independent Socialist
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