Iraqi Unions Defy Privatization

Source: By David Bacon, The Progressive, October 2005

….. [Iraqi Oil] Unions occupy a critical but perilous position. As the most vocal opponents of privatization, they confront the occupation’s economic plan directly. So far, the oil union has successfully resisted privatization attempts in its own industry and helped other unions resist it, as well.

……….That oil union is one of Iraq’s oldest institutions. Originally organized under the British in the early 1920s, it has always been the heart of the country’s labor movement. “Iraq’s two biggest strikes, in 1946 and 1952, were organized by oil workers,” says Faleh Abood Umara, general secretary of the newly reorganized General Union of Oil Employees. After Saddam seized power, he persecuted unionists and banned independent organizing in the public sector, which includes the oil industry.

But today, the oil union is once again Iraq’s largest, most powerful labor organization, with 23,000 members in southern Iraq. Together with two other labor federations and a handful of independent professional associations, the labor movement is now the biggest secular institution in Iraqi civil society—and the one most opposed to Bush’s privatization schemes.

U.S. city is first to join international trend; Chicago privatizes one of its existing toll roads.

Source: John Schmidt, American City & County, Oct 1, 2005

Earlier this year, Chicago sold the right to operate the Chicago Skyway Toll Bridge for the next 99 years for an up-front payment of $1.83 billion. The sale to Chicago-based Skyway Concession Co. is the first privatization of an existing toll road in the United States and is causing many state and local governments to take another look at their toll roads and other infrastructure assets. The Skyway generated $1.83 billion for Chicago during difficult financial times. ….. Indiana, New Jersey, Delaware, New York, California and Virginia are among a number of states now considering privatizing their toll roads.

4 Deaths in D.C. Group Homes Raise Concerns About Neglect

Source: Karlyn Barker, Washington Post, Tuesday, November 29, 2005; A01

The District government is failing to provide adequate care for mentally and physically disabled residents in its group homes, according to a court monitor who found that a pattern of neglect led to four deaths in the past year. One woman and three men “are dead because they did not receive timely and competent health care,” court monitor Elizabeth Jones said in a newly released report. ….. Jones attributed the deaths to serious neglect by two contractors that operate some of the homes and to shoddy oversight by the city, particularly case managers assigned to track the care of individual residents. Two of the people who died were in the same home. ….. In 1999, a series of articles in The Washington Post disclosed 350 documented cases of abuse and neglect, as well as profiteering, in the city’s group homes. The series found that none of the 116 deaths that had occurred in the homes since 1993 had been investigated.

State faces new glitches on computers / After a multimillion-dollar system failed last year, more problems surface with two other projects.

Source: Mark P. Couch, Denver Post (CO), 12/01/2005

The state of Colorado has another multimillion-dollar computer mess on its hands. A year after the state’s welfare-benefits computer system bogged down as soon as it was launched, lawmakers Wednesday discovered that the state Department of Labor and Employment had spent $39 million on a computer system that doesn’t work. …… In early November, the state labor department declared Accenture in “breach of contract” and launched confidential negotiations with the company to resolve the matter. ….. The letter states that Accenture refuses to complete the project without a “substantial increase in compensation,” a demand that the state calls a “refusal to perform and a material breach of the contract.”

City Examines Sanitation Bids

Source: AMANY ALI, News Tribune (KY), November 30, 2005 03:11 pm

The city of New Albany is one step closer to knowing who will handle its garbage and recycling services. The bids were made by Industrial Disposal, Clark-Floyd Landfill Eco-Tech LLC, Rumpke and City of New Albany Sanitation Workers/AFSCME Local 1861. ….. In their bid, the union proposes to raise user fees by $3, building and operating a transfer station and selling recycled goods to a vendor. Customers currently pay $13.75 per household, per month for garbage pickup. Thompson said the union’s plan is to also eliminate what sanitation workers say are problematic garbage-collecting vehicles that were purchased by former mayor Regina Overton and buying five rear-loader trucks that have been used in the past. Sanitation workers say the Overton-era trucks don’t fit in all city alleys and have caused the collapse of garages in the city. The union also proposes using riverboat-gambling money to pay the remaining balance on garbage containers that were purchased under Overton.


Truckers to fight Iowa plan on liquor

Source: WILLIAM PETROSKI, Des Moines Register (IA), December 1, 2005

An Iowa trucking industry group intends to fight a plan to have state employees continue to haul alcoholic beverages to Iowa’s 480 liquor retailers. The Iowa Alcoholic Beverages Division announced this week that it will permit Crystal Distributing of Cedar Rapids to take over operations of the state’s liquor warehouse on Feb. 1, fulfilling a legislative request that private firms be permitted to compete for the work. But the state agency will still truck products to liquor stores because the agency submitted the lowest qualified bid to perform transportation services. ….. The combined private-public partnership should save Iowa taxpayers about $1.1 million annually when compared with the state’s payments to a previous contractor, Walding told the Iowa Alcoholic Beverages Commission this week.

Private firm to manage Fort Bayard

Source: Levi Hill, Silver City Sun-News (NM), November 23, 2005

It’s official. Fort Bayard Medical Center will be under private management on Feb. 1. The announcement was made Tuesday at Fort Bayard in a joint news conference with GEO Care Inc. and the New Mexico Department of Health. Health Secretary Michelle Lujan Grisham and GEO President Jorge Dominicis shook hands on the signing of a short-term contract and discussed with the public what the contract means for the aging facility. …… Representatives from the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) attended the conference. The union representatives have been vocal in comments about the changes occurring at Fort Bayard. Joe Chavez, president of the local 3973, said the union is still waiting to see what becomes of the changes.

ER docs to be sacked / NUMC says credentials and training of doctors don't meet standards, while union sees the move as a step to privatize the public center

Source: MICHAEL ROTHFELD, NY Newsday, November 29, 2005

Nassau University Medical Center officials yesterday announced plans to replace nearly all their veteran emergency room doctors within six months, saying the physicians’ training and credentials are not up to today’s standards. Union leaders who represent the doctors immediately accused administrators of violating a deal to forgo layoffs at the public hospital in East Meadow. They said the firings are the first step in an effort to privatize the emergency room. The hospital entered into an affiliation agreement with the nonprofit North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System in the summer. Jerry Laricchiuta, president of the Civil Service Employees Association Local 830, said he believes North Shore will eventually take over operating the hospital. “They monopolize health care on Long Island and in Nassau County,” he said.

'Trophy video' under investigation / Video appears to show private security contractors shooting at Iraqi citizens.

Source: Tom Regan, Christian Science Monitor, November 28, 2005 at 11:00 a.m.

A video posted on the Internet that appears to show private security contractors in Iraq shooting at Iraqi citizens is being investigated by British officials. The Sunday Telegraph reported that both the British Foreign Office and the company connected to the video, Aegis Defense Services, have launched investigations into the video. ….. Private security contractors in Iraq operate under the same rules as the US military, and cannot be prosecuted by Iraqi officials for use of lethal force.

U. contractor under fire for anti-union violence

Source: Brown Daily Herald (RI). 11/30/05 Section

Martins Maintenance, a janitorial contractor employed by the University, is being criticized by the local chapter of the Service Employees International Union for allegedly assaulting and firing an employee who talked to union organizers. ….. Martins Maintenance was one of several outside contractors hired by the University three years ago when Brown Dining Services extended the hours of some of its retail locations, such as the Gate, said Mark Nickel, director of the University News Service.