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Guns, not butter for Greece

31st March 2010 Socialist Action 0

By Nicky Dempsey

The leading countries of the European Union, led by France and Germany have insisted that the Greek government must respond to the financial crisis by a series of ferocious attacks on working class living standards. Job losses have mounted rapidly as pay has been cut, welfare and pension entitlements slashed and the retirement age suddenly increased. Yet one area of spending is exempt from this otherwise absolute requirement to reduce government spending, the military budget.

In what the Reuters news agency describes as “a bizarre twist to the Greek debt crisis, France and Germany are pressing Greece to buy their gunboats and warplanes, even as they urge it to cut public spending and curb the deficit.” France is looking to sell frigates, helicopters and fighter aircraft for €3.5bn while Germany is looking for back payments of €520mn plus €300mn for a submarine which failed sea-worthiness tests. It is reported that the deficit negotiations were used to strong-arm the Greek government into making the purchases.

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Who benefits from the 2010 Budget?

28th March 2010 Socialist Action 0

By Nicky Dempsey

The 2010 Budget was not designed to aid the recovery from recession, or help narrow the public sector deficit or even boost New Labour’s electoral prospects at the forthcoming general election.

A useful analysis of the Budget measures can be found here. The most telling aspect of it is a complete reversal of the 2009 Budget stimulus measures. These amounted to £50bn in increased spending over the previous year, £26bn of which was an increase in discretionary spending, not just upward pressure on spending arising from the recession.

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Solidarity with Unite cabin crew

24th March 2010 Socialist Action 0

By Frances Davis

In the face of an increasingly belligerent management approach, intent on seeking a confrontation with the union, Unite cabin crew members began seven days of industrial action last weekend, with three strike days set to be followed by four further days to begin this coming weekend. The stakes in this dispute should not be underestimated.

The dispute focuses on the union’s opposition to British Airways’ attempt to impose significant contractual changes on the workforce that would reduce pay and conditions. Proposals include the extension of working hours and the cutting of crew levels.

The union has not sought such a confrontation and has consistently made clear its willingness to negotiate. In contrast, BA’s management have set a path of belligerence, intent on breaking the union’s strength. Having deliberately provoked the current action by tabling last week a worse offer to its workforce than the one it had been offering previously, the management have further sought to intimidate staff not to join the strike action including with threats such as losing travel privileges and even being sacked, and to organise scabs.