1990s >> 1998 >> no-1130-october-1998

Voice From the Back

Capitalist profits

From December 1, when the second stage of this year’s pay award is implemented, a D-grade staff nurse will earn a basic of between £12,855 and £14,705. Starting salaries for teachers are £14,500 and for police constables £15,500. Guardian, 6 August.

Full Marx!

Karl Marx’s theories may not be much appreciated in police forces, but his observation that under capitalism everything eventually becomes a commodity may strike a few chords in the Los Angeles police department: it is registering its initials LAPD as a trademark. Guardian, 6 August.

Value for money

Barbara [Corcoran] says that in Manhattan, where she lives, her annual £45,000 investment in her looks is de rigeur. There, she says, “looking good is more important than being good . . .” “People judge you down to the tiniest detail, the cut of your suit shoulder, the size of the pearl in your earring, even how you apply your make up.” Express, 20 July.

This secret society

Gun Mart, a magazine for shooters, has a particular concern about the confiscation of the majority of private hand guns following the Dunblane massacre. In its August issue it draws attention to the fact that the police report on Thomas Hamilton, made to the Procurator Fiscal before the mass shooting of the school children, will not be put into the Library of the House of Commons. In fact, Lord Cullen, for the government, has recommended that a 100 year closure be placed upon this and related documents. Not even most war secrets are suppressed for this long. What are they hiding? Gross negligence is one possibility. A real excuse for the banning of guns is another.

Political starvation

“The country’s [Sudan’s] 15-year civil, war has uprooted millions. The UN World Food Programme predicted the food emergency last September. But a worsening drought, lack of interest in the international community, widespread fighting and a ban on relief flights by the Sudanese government have resulted in a much worse crisis today . . . people are dying, at an average of 50 a day in Wau, one of the hardest hit areas.” Catherine Bertini, Executive Director, UN World Food Programme.

Feelgood factor 1

Keith Bradley, Professor of international management at the Open University Business School was doing his bit for the class struggle in the Financial Mail on Sunday, 16 August. He said, “Chief secretary to the Treasury Stephen Byers touched a raw nerve last week when he hit out at ‘greedy’ power and water bosses whose massive pay rises of up to 70 percent fuel anger amongst ordinary workers. But while fat cats are easily pilloried, there is little doubt that huge pay disparities are here to stay. Indeed, the rich are likely to get richer-and deservedly so . . . In today’s world there is a massive difference between winning and coming second. Nearly winning a legal battle, nearly scoring a goal, or nearly completing a business deal are all worlds apart from actually achieving these things.”

Feelgood factor 2

Earlier this year, when he was anticipating, and perhaps trying to influence, the Labour government’s budget, Martin Taylor, chief executive of Barclays Bank, told the Commons social security Select Committee that the working families tax credit (WFTC), which was expected to replace the in-work family credit, would have “important psychological effects on the way people feel about work”. Delivered through the pay packet rather than the benefits system, it would change the attitudes to living on welfare by associating state aid with work, said Mr Taylor. “If welfare to work succeeds, and I expect it will, there are going to be a lot more people in relatively low paid jobs . . .” “It’s important that they should feel good about that and that society as a whole should feel good.” Mr Taylor was doing his bit for the class war-on behalf of his class.

Feelbad factor

In May, the Boston Sheraton hotel in Massachusetts had to pay $200,000 (£120,000) in a lawsuit in which employees said they were videotaped in a changing room, and a California trucking firm’s employees discovered a video camera in the men’s toilet. Every aspect of employment becomes disputed territory in the class war.

Pollute and be damned

Asbestos pollution is one of the biggest environmental health problems in the world, according to the Johannesburg Star, and South Africa is the global epicentre of asbestos-related disease (ARD), in particular mesothelioma, which is a cancer related specifically to asbestos exposure. It was estimated that 30 to 40 percent of people who worked in SA’s asbestos mines for more than 20 years developed ARD. A study of the town of Mafefe in Northern Province revealed that half the adult population of 12,000 had ARD.

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