Tag Archives: International

Exclusive: New document details America’s war machine — and secret mass of contractors in Afghanistan

Source: Tim Shorrock, Salon, May 28, 2014

What is a huge army of private contractors secretly doing in Afghanistan? A leaked Powerpoint presentation explains. …

…. The role of contractors in the Afghanistan war is spelled out in a document obtained by Salon from SAIC, one of the nation’s largest military and intelligence contractors. The document, an unclassified PowerPoint presentation, shows exactly how contractors have been used in that war since 2009, when Obama endorsed a surge of 33,000 troops and a counterinsurgency strategy in the war against the Taliban. Those policies increased the U.S. presence in Afghanistan to over 100,000 troops.

One of the PowerPoint slides defines the four “mission areas” of the company’s five-year, $400 million contract with the U.S. Army Research Laboratory, which provides contracted services to other combat commands, special forces and other parts of the U.S. military. They are “Expeditionary Warfare; Irregular Warfare; Special Operations; Stabilization and Reconstruction Operations.”

There, in black and white, is proof positive of how deeply contractors have penetrated the U.S. war machine.

“We’ve already taken public functions and privatized them,” said Lawrence Wilkerson, a retired U.S. Army Colonel who was the chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell during the Bush administration, in a recent interview with Salon. “But this is an example of privatizing the ultimate public function, war.”

The PowerPoint was created by SAIC to help its subcontractors understand the Army’s needs in the contract, which was signed in 2010. The ARL, which is based in Adelphi, MD, just outside of Washington, provides the “underpinning science, technology, and analysis that enable full-spectrum operations” by the U.S. military, its website says. ….

Australia Eases Up on Privatization Government’s Popularity Dwindles Following Harsh Budget Measures

Source: Rob Taylor, Wall Street Journal, May 28, 2014
(subscription required)

Australia’s conservative government scaled back an aggressive plan to privatize state assets that ran the risk of denting its popularity with voters already disgruntled by new, harsh budget measures. Finance Minister Mathias Cormann said the government won’t follow an audit commission’s recommendation to consider privatizing the national postal service to help pay down the country’s debt. It will also not sell the country’s main naval shipbuilder, ASC, he told senators at a briefing on Wednesday. The decision comes at a sensitive time for the eight-month-old government. Its popularity has dwindled since it announced plans to raise taxes on fuel and income and make deep cuts to welfare spending in its new budget. … Privatizing Australia Post would have been particularly sensitive given the perceived danger that people in far-flung, rural parts of Australia would see their services reduced or cut if the entity fell into private hands.

Turkey’s Preventable Tragedy

Source: Ozgur Ozel, New York Times, May 20, 2014

On the morning of May 13, Turkey finally woke up from its deep slumber on workplace safety — but at the cost of 301 lives. The subterranean fire last week at the Soma coal mine in western Turkey was the worst mining disaster in the country’s history. Hundreds of hardworking men in the district I represent are dead. And sadly, their deaths could have been prevented. As early as last September, I had petitioned the Turkish Parliament to create a commission of inquiry, which is one way that the legislature can use its powers to oversee industry in Turkey. Ever since the Soma mine was privatized in 2005, the price of extracting coal has gone down dramatically — and so have safety conditions for workers….
Related:
Don’t Call Turkey Mine Disaster an Accident—Privatization Made it Inevitable
Source: Erinç Yeldan, Epoch Times, May 18, 2014

…. This isn’t simply misfortune: what lies behind these tragic events is the unregulated and poorly supervised attempts of a corrupt ruling government to enact hasty privatizations and force people into more informal work. The Soma mine itself was privatised in 2005. In the heyday of an anti-public sector campaign, the new owners of the plant had proudly declared that production costs had declined from around US$120-130 per tonne under public ownership to just US$23.8 per tonne.

Low-Cost Mass Graves for the Working Class: Miners Massacre in Turkey
Source: Eren Buğlalılar, Socialist Project, The Bullet, E-Bulletin No. 984, May 16, 2014

A mine explosion has just claimed the lives, as of the latest count, of almost 300 workers in Turkey. This event added another link to the long chain of massacres that has taken place during the rule of the Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi (Justice and Development Party, AKP) government. Leaving hundreds of workers dead and injured, the massacre has brought grief to the rest of the population, whose sharp anger was already directed toward the government.

The explosion took place in a mining site located in Soma town of Manisa, a city in western Turkey. Formerly a national, state-owned property, the mines were privatized in 2005 by the DG of Turkish Coa, with the operating rights of the mines transferred into a company called Soma Coal. …

….The AKP government swept off the last obstacles in front of the companies by amending the regulation further in June 2010, and opened the entire country to the corporate sector through a massive project of privatization. Thus between 2005 and 2010 approximately 45,000 mining licences have been distributed across the country.

In 2004, the AKP amended the Mining Law and introduced the new method of privatizing the mines without privatization. The “royalty” and “royalty tender” methods became a means to transfer the already existing but still state-owned mining sites to the private sector. In these cases, the state kept the property rights of the mines while the operating rights of the mines were tendered to the corporations…..

OPSEU calls on leaders to debate privatization

Source: Christina Blizzard, Toronto Sun, May 15, 2014

The head of one of the province’s largest public sector unions is calling for an all-party debate so party leaders can set out their plans for privatization of public services. In a letter to Liberal leader Kathleen Wynne, PC leader Tim Hudak, New Democratic leader Andrea Horwath and Green Party leader Mike Schreiner, Warren “Smokey” Thomas, the head of the Ontario Public Service Employees’ Union that represents 130,000 public sector workers, said it’s time for all leaders to come clean on their plans for contracting out public services.

The monitoring and enforcement of labour standards when services are contracted out

Source: Sasha Holley, Journal of Industrial Relations, online before print March 6, 2014

From the abstract:
This article demonstrates that by contracting-out government services, the employment relationship has changed: workers’ labour standards are now regulated through the combination of traditional labour law mechanisms and lesser understood contract law mechanisms. This has changed the regime of regulation and enforcement of labour standards for employees performing services that have been contracted out, in ways that deserve more attention. Evidence is drawn from a case study of New South Wales (NSW) government school cleaners, conducted between October 2010 and April 2011, which finds that cleaners’ labour standards are regulated predominantly through commercial contracts for services. This is concerning because contracts are designed to facilitate commercial objectives such as competition and efficiency, and are poorly designed to protect labour standards. When used as a mechanism to enforce labour standards, contracts fail to meet the requirements of responsive regulation; contracts have limited enforcement tools and a weak credible threat of a ‘big stick’ style of punishment for infringements.

Lawmakers dig into allegations of fraud cover-up by large federal contractor

Source: Scott Higham, Washington Post, Federal Eye blog, April 1, 2014

Two members of a powerful congressional committee on Tuesday asked one of the nation’s largest government contractors to produce internal corporate files, signaling a widening investigation into claims that the company covered up reports of fraud. The lawmakers, from the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, sent a letter KBR chairman William P. Utt saying they had launched an inquiry into allegations that the company required employees seeking to report fraud to sign confidentiality agreements. Those agreements barred employees from speaking to anyone about their allegations, including government investigators and prosecutors, according to court records and lawyers involved in the case. Those who violated the agreement faced dismissal and legal action….The whistleblower case was brought by Harry Barko, a former KBR employee who claimed that Halliburton and KBR inflated the costs of services provided to military bases under a multi-billion dollar logistics contract in Iraq. The suit was filed in 2005, when Halliburton was the parent of the company, then known as Kellogg Brown & Root. Between 2002 and 2011, KBR was the largest U.S. contractor operating in Iraq and Afghanistan, winning nearly $40 billion worth of work….

Public Works: Sucking Garbage

Source: Peter Goffin, Torontoist, Public Works, March 25, 2014

A vacuum-powered waste management system would cut costs and be good for the environment. Is it right for Toronto?

The year 2014 is shaping up to be the year Toronto talks garbage. Mayor Rob Ford and Coucillor (and Public Works and Infrastructure Committee Chairman) Denzil Minnan-Wong (Ward 34, Don Valley East) have each called for reports on fully privatizing Toronto waste collection, which Ford has already pegged as an election issue. The City’s waste management budget for this year is nearly $350 million, which is roughly the same as in 2013, and slightly more than in 2012, but carries with it a three-per-cent hike in residential garbage collection fees. Before we get too down on Toronto, though, remember that garbage is a problem for many big cities. In fact, more and more of those cities are looking at new means of collecting and transporting waste. Sanitation experts in New York City, for instance, are taking a good long look at Envac, a Swedish company that installs and operates vacuum-powered waste collection and management systems.

Anything to do with suction tube travel sounds distinctly futuristic, but Envac has been doing its vacuum waste collection thing since the 1960s, when pneumatic tubes were an exciting and beloved means of transporting inanimate objects (or so we’ve been led to understand). Today, Envac has its vacuum systems installed in a residential development on Roosevelt Island, New York; a catering company at Pearson Airport; Montreal’s “Quartier Des Spectacles”; Disney World; and dozens more public, commercial, and residential areas around the world…..

Government reviewing privatization of winter road maintenance

Source: James Armstrong, Global News (Canada), March 25, 2014

The Ontario government is reconsidering the privatization of winter road maintenance in the province after a report from Global News raised questions about road safety. A poll released exclusively to Global News Monday suggested more Ontarians than not feel road quality in the province is getting worse. … Right now the province hires contractors to plow and salt the roads. The province doesn’t tell them how many trucks to use or how many employees they should have but judges their work on whether or not the roads are cleared and the plows are running…. Gélinas suggested fines aren’t enough and some contractors are willing to take the fine rather than do the work….

‘I’d rather work in a supermarket’: privatization of home care work in Japan

Source: Kaye Broadbent, Work, Employment & Society, Published online before print December 6, 2013
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
The rise in nuclear family households and more married women engaging in paid work have forced governments to address the issue of aged care for the elderly to a greater degree. A good illustration is home care in Japan where the government introduced a Long Term Care Insurance scheme (LTCI) (2000) focused on offering affordable almost universal care by extending existing home care services. Japan’s home care services were privatized in 2006 and, while this is not unique to Japan, the combination of cost-cutting measures and the client-driven model encompassed in the LTCI has had a significant impact on employment conditions and the organization of work in home care services. This research assesses the impact on employment conditions and the organization of work in Japan’s former government-run home care sector compared with the pre-LTCI period and argues that privatization has resulted in work intensification and deteriorating employment conditions.

Electricity privatisation in Australia: A record of failure

Source: John Quiggan, Report Commissioned by the Victorian Branch of the Electrical Trades Union, February 2014

The record of failure for electricity privatisation in Australia has its genesis in ‘market liberalism’ and ‘economic rationalism’ that drove reforms in the Thatcher and Reagan eras in the 1980s & 1990s. Whilst these theories conflicted with all the evidence showing that public ownership of essential services that are natural monopolies is optimal, the theories are nonetheless used to justify selling off public assets. Actual fiscal analysis does not support that there any long-term benefits to governments from the sale of assets to pay down debt. …