News in brief

Venture vultures

THE SERIOUS Fraud Office is investigating the circumstances behind the collapse of the MG Rover car plant at Longbridge, Birmingham in 2005. This follows a four-year, £16 million government inquiry (conducted in secret) into the collapse. The government report will not be made public. Over 6,000 workers lost their jobs when the factory closed as well 12,500 jobs in the local supply industries.

MG Rover was acquired from BMW for just £10 by Phoenix Ventures in 2000 – an acquisition supported by the Labour government. Before the company collapsed, the four directors of Phoenix siphoned £40 million out of MG Rover in salaries, fees and pensions.

At the time of the takeover, The Socialist argued that Phoenix was no ‘white knight’ but a bunch of asset strippers who would leave the workers high and dry. The trade unions involved should have instead fought tooth and nail for renationalisation of the car maker under democratic workers’ control and management.

No future

UNIVERSITY GRADUATES face a recession double whammy of job shortages and cuts in starting salaries.

According to the Association of Graduate Recruiters there are 25% fewer jobs available in the UK compared to last year, and with an average starting salary of around £25,000. Yet the average debt burden for graduates is £22,000.

Faced with higher tuition fees, no living grant and an uncertain economic future, many students, especially those from low income backgrounds, will increasingly be put off applying for or continuing university courses.

Shipyard cuts

A LEAKED memo from BVT Surface Fleet – private owners of three shipyards – indicates it will close two naval shipyards after completion of an order for two aircraft carriers in 2014, saving the company half a billion pounds.

The memo says the Ministry of Defence is willing to pay for thousands of redundancies amongst shipyard workers. Currently BVT run two shipyards in Glasgow and one in Portsmouth. The redundancies and closures could cost the public purse up to £165 million.

Striking sparks

10,500 ELECTRICIANS, members of the TEEU union in the Irish Republic, are taking all out strike action in defence of existing wage rates and conditions and in favour of a wage increase due from 2007 and 2008.

Joe Higgins, Socialist Party MEP, said:

“The construction industry was at the heart of the massive rip-off in society during the ‘Celtic Tiger’ [economic boom] years and is responsible for the collapse in the Irish economy.

These people made hundreds of billions and landed working-class people with massive mortgages and negative equity.

It’s a disgrace that they are now pleading poverty and using the cover of the recession to pursue a ‘race to the bottom’.

I applaud the stand being taken by the electricians and call on all working people to give them support and solidarity in this important struggle.”