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From The Socialist newspaper, 18 May 2006

Privatisation fails workers and customers

COMMUNICATIONS COMPANY NTL have announced over 1,500 job losses. They recently merged with Telewest after both companies ended up in financial difficulties. This highlights the need for a democratically controlled public communications system.

Bernard Roome, CWU NEC, personal capacity

NTL is the last of the fixed network operators who were supposed to bring competition to the market after the privatisation of BT. Now after over twenty years we are left with only these two competing privatised fixed-network companies. All the others were either bought out or failed due to a lack of investment.

Even now only BT has a commitment to provide universal service, so NTL can pick and choose the areas where it gives service. If you live in a rural area you still have the same choice as you had before privatisation - no choice.

BT got themselves into a financial mess due both to their failure to invest properly and the policy of the then chief executive of making BT the world's biggest telco. This is the same company that was making 3 billion a year profit and was the most cash-rich telecom company in the world. They had to sell off their mobile arm, O2 and their share in the telecom satellites. Now they've had to sell their satellite business to Barclays Private Equity.

The mobile companies are trying to out-do each other to provide the most gimmicks at the same time as trying to cut tariffs. This has resulted in attacks on pay and working conditions.

In O2, the only union-recognised company, new contracts have been introduced with pay rates several thousands of pounds below that which people who worked for BT before the sell-off received.

Billions of pounds that could have been used to both benefit customers and workers has been squandered on the altar of capitalist greed.

We can no longer allow the country's economic future or the jobs of the workers in the communications industry to be left in the hands of companies who have no concern for the future and are only interested in short-term profit. We must have a communications industry that is based on investment to take the whole of society forward. One that will allow the financial and intellectual resources to be used to benefit the many and not just a few greedy capitalist bosses.

The communications network must be taken out of their control and publicly managed for the benefit of all, under democratic control shared by the workers in the industry, the wider trade union movement and ordinary customers.

CWU conference

Campaign for a New Workers' Party meeting

Sunday 21 May, 6pm

Hermitage Hotel, Exeter Road, Bournemouth.

Speaker: Glenn Kelly, CNWP trade union officer

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