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Voice from the Back

Weakest Link—for real
Employees at one of Britain's fastest-growing and most respected companies, FI Group, are being offered a £1,000 bounty to name colleagues who could be replaced by cheaper workers from India . . . Financial Mail on Sunday, 24 December.

How it's done
Former BMW boss, Bernt Pischetsrieder today admitted that he had deliberately provoked Rover's crisis two years ago to weaken union bargaining power. Mr Pischetsrieder, now a top executive with Volkswagen and running its Seat subsidiary, admitted he had undermined the launch of the Rover 75 as the "last chance saloon" in front of the world's press at the Birmingham Motor Show in 1998. He said BMW had been deep in negotiations at the time over company demands to boost productivity and the ploy was needed to win concessions from workers as the strong pound started to hurt the business. Evening Mail, 13 December.

Only joking (?)
"This Christmas, indulge in a little blackmail, extortion and torture." Advertisement for an Olympus camera.

How the wealth is spent
Forget Monte Carlo and Belgravia, for the very rich in 2001 the ideal home has no postcode. Instead they are trying to secure one of the few remaining apartments aboard the world's first residential cruise ship . . . With no fixed abode, residents are not liable to pay tax and one Monaco-based oil trader is already arranging the transfer of his entire business to his new floating home . . . apartments on the 12 decks cost between $2 million (£1.4 million) and $5 million . . . one Saudi businessman signed for his £3.5 million pad, with its £250,000 annual service charge, within 15 minutes of reading the brochure. Times, 27 December.

How the wealth is made
The [European] Parliament will be told that clothes for Adidas were made in two factories using child labour, forced overtime and sexual harassment. Representatives of workers in two Indonesian factories supplying the German company will tell Euro MPs that in the Nikomax Gemilang and Tuntex factories, in the Indonesian capital of Jakarta, children as young as 15 were: made to work 15-hour days; expected to do at least 70 hours a week and punished for refusing to do overtime; paid less than $60 a month, rates below the International Labour Organisation's demand for a living wage; penalised for taking leave during medical difficulties and had illegal deductions taken from wages as punishments for minor misdemeanours . . . Pay at the Nikomas plant was increased to more than 9,000Rs (75p per day) following the campaigners complaints, Adidas said. Observer, 19 November.

How the wealth is lost (1)
More pensioners died from cold last winter than during any winter since 1976. If latest wealthier predictions are correct, the death toll this winter will be even worse. Almost 55,000 people died from cold-related illnesses between last December and March, new figures from the Office of National Statistics reveal. The figures will acutely embarrass Ministers who had pledged to end pensioner poverty. "It's a tragedy that people in Britain are still literally freezing to death and a main reason is poverty," said Ben Harding of Help the Aged. "We deal with thousands of cases where older people can't meet the costs of heating their home. They need heat all day and sometimes at night are particularly vulnerable." Observer, 26 November.

How the wealth is lost (2)
The number of people in Britain classified as very poor has increased by half a million since 1997 when Labour came to power, according to an independent report. The number of people living in households with less than the 40 percent of the average income is now 8,750,000. The study, published today by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, also reveals an increase in the number of people living below the poverty line—defined as less than half the national average income—to 14,250,000 over the past two years. That is one million more than in the early 1990s and more than double the number of the early 1980s. Older people are suffering more according to the survey. Since 1993 the proportion of elderly households helped to live at home by their local authority has fallen by 30 percent. Times, 11 December.