Forest of Dean & Wye Valley

MODERN TIMES: the Dinosaur Column

In Dinosaur on April 12, 2012 at 11:08 am

Preparing for the “Sicko” society?

I don’t know how many folk out there actually watch the adverts on TV. Maybe they prefer just to blank them out, treat them as rather annoying moving wallpaper, or go off to make a cup of tea during the commercial breaks.

But those who have been paying attention may well have noticed the sudden increase in the number of adverts for private health insurance. I’m aware that for some time we’ve had to put up with those smugly cosy plugs for BUPA, but now a range of insurance companies are getting in on the act.

After the National Health Service came into being, back in 1948, private health insurance seemed to sink without trace. After all, we all paid national insurance as a matter of course, so why pay twice for our health treatment? So is this sudden resurrection of private health insurance a sign of the times? Getting ready for when the Health and Social Care legislation comes into effect? It’s a chilling thought, isn’t it?

Those who’ve watched Michael Moore’s film Sicko will have seen what happens in the USA where folk rely on private insurance to see them through bouts of ill health and sickness. Me, I’m one of the NHS generation of dinosaurs – and I’ve no intention of surrendering to the blandishments of the private health care industry.

branching out:

Since Group 4 merged with Securicor it has attempted to re-brand itself. It now calls itself G4S, and in recent years it has been busy bidding for any Government contracts that come its way – including Ofsted, for goodness sake.

But one contract that it gained didn’t work out quite so well. It was some time ago that it was signed on to provide the security at Halifax Airport, Nova Scotia, Canada.

As readers may have noticed, this Dinosaur is partial to the odd visit to Canada – and Nova Scotia in particular. On one such visit we flew in – only to discover that Group 4 were now in charge of airport security. It was like stepping into a Marx Brothers’ comedy film.

The security guards were all dressed in what looked like ill fitting Ruritanian uniforms, and they charged around in a state of disorganised chaos. Queues at the checkout lengthened, with passengers reduced to a state of bemused uncertainty. There was no panic, but, hey, this was Canada, after all..

The next time we flew in to Halifax, the Group 4 guards had vanished, and it was all back to normal.

The nature of capitalism – in Canada

Whilst we’re talking Canadian, I came across one news item about a stand-off between the US company Caterpillar and its workforce at the company’s plant in London, Ontario.

Caterpillar makes those giant earth moving machines, as well as a range of mining and construction machinery. They’re big, in more ways than one. In 2010, It took over the local firm EMD, and moved into Ontario.

At the time, Canada’s Tory Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, praised the takeover as an example of how his government was attracting foreign investment into the country. But now Caterpillar has sacked the entire workforce at its Canadian plant – after they refused to take a 50 per cent pay cut. Yes, 50 per cent – I kid you not! Not only that, but workers would lose their pension rights.

On New Year’s day, the workers were locked out, and then in February the company announced that it was closing the factory and moving to a non-union plant back in the USA.

The union involved. is the Canadian Auto Workers Union. Its members put up a brave fight to save their jobs and the factory – but faced with unacceptable demands from a predatory company, their jobs have gone, and the whole local economy will suffer as a result.

Incidentally, on an ironic note, it was in London, Ontario, that the Tolpuddle Martyrs chose to settle after they returned from their long years doing penal servitude in Australia. And they are remembered by the town that they chose to settle in. There is a monument there to their memory, as well as a co-op housing development and a trade union complex in the town, both named after them. Despite the machinations of US asset stripping companies like Caterpillar, this is the true face of trade unionism in Canada.


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