Tag Archives: International

The Quiet Movement to Make Government Fail Less Often

Source: David Leonhardt, New York Times, Upshot blog, July 15, 2014

…New York City, Salt Lake City, New York State and Massachusetts have all begun programs to link funding for programs to their success: The more effective they are, the more money they and their backers receive. The programs span child care, job training and juvenile recidivism.

The approach is known as “pay for success,” and it’s likely to spread to Cleveland, Denver and California soon. David Cameron’s conservative government in Britain is also using it. The Obama administration likes the idea, and two House members – Todd Young, an Indiana Republican, and John Delaney, a Maryland Democrat – have introduced a modest bill to pay for a version known as “social impact bonds.”….

Public risks, private profits

Source: Canadian Union Of Public Employees (CUPE) and the Polaris Institute, 2014

….The Public risks, private profits series shines a spotlight on water and wastewater services corporations who may bid on Canadian P3s. The profiles provide overviews of corporate structures and governance, lobby activity, past and present P3 contracts, and background on legal troubles or controversies.

The companies being profiled are diverse, ranging from international corporations to smaller Canadian-based financers and contractors. All have been identified by federal P3 promotion agency PPP Canada as likely bidders on Canadian water and wastewater P3s.

The Public risks, private profits series is an important tool for communities challenging P3s. Pressure to privatize is mounting, with federal crown corporation PPP Canada targeting municipal water systems, and the Conservative government’s Building Canada Fund forcing all infrastructure projects worth $100 million or more to be screened for P3 suitability.

The first profile exposed the controversial track record of SNC-Lavalin Group Inc. Future profiles will include Bilfinger Berger, Black & Veatch, CH2M Hill, Epcor and Suez. All are corporations identified in a PPP Canada-commissioned study on Canada’s water and wastewater systems…..

Profiles include:
Corporate profile: Black & Veatch eyes Canadian water P3s
Corporate profile: Veolia P3s put public water at risk
Corporate profile: Bilfinger Berger avoids taxes on its P3s
Corporate profile: Public interest at risk for SNC-Lavalin’s profits

Paris’s return to public water supplies makes waves beyond France

Source: Geert De Clercq, Reuters, July 8, 2014

Nearly five years after Paris took the management of its water supply back into its own hands, the move is inspiring other cities at home and abroad and hurting profits at private water firms Veolia and Suez Environnement. In 2008, socialist mayor Bertrand Delanoe ended the contracts with the two firms that had operated Paris water distribution systems since 1985 – Veolia on the right bank of the city and Suez on the left bank. … That is posing a big challenge to Suez and Veolia. While they have responded by focusing more on their waste and energy activities and looking for industrial clients, they still rely heavily on water.

G4S probed by UK watchdog over West Bank security contracts

Source: Andrew Trotman, Telegraph, June 2, 2014

G4S is being investigated by a UK Government-funded watchdog over the supply of security equipment to the West Bank and Israel. The National Contact Point (NCP), a part of the Department for Business, said it had “accepted issues for further examination” into the British company’s actions in the area. G4S supplies and services security and screening equipment to military checkpoints, prisons and detention centres in occupied Palestinian territories. Following a complaint by Lawyers for Palestinian Human Rights (LPHR), the NCP will look at whether the human rights of Palestinians have been breached by G4S. … G4S has already said it will not renew its contracts in the region when they expire next year. … The probe comes just a week after Microsoft founder Bill Gates sold down his stake in G4S after his foundation, which works to tackle poverty around the world, drew criticism for G4S’s actions on the West Bank. …

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….
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.