Anglo American Platinum plans to cut 6,000 jobs in South Africa after its profits were affected by violent labour strikes last year.
Originally posted here: Amplats planning 6,000 job cuts
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Anglo American Platinum plans to cut 6,000 jobs in South Africa after its profits were affected by violent labour strikes last year.
Originally posted here: Amplats planning 6,000 job cuts
Past five years appear to be a dress rehearsal for future: smaller economy, falling living standards, austerity and fed up voters
Since the start of the crisis five years ago, mainstream economics has been waiting for life to return to normal. Whatever ideological differences they might have, Keynesians and monetarists share a faith that all it takes is time and the right policies to bring back the good times. What unites them is the belief that the tough time the world has been going through since the summer of 2007 is an aberration.
But what if it isn’t? What if – in the memorable phrase of Tony Crosland when the wheels came off the economy in the mid-1970s – the party’s over? What if the 25% share of the vote taken by Ukip at last week’s local elections is not just a here today, gone tomorrow protest, but a sign of the political disaffection to come?
Should that prove to be the case, it will necessitate a complete re-think of political economy, since the model of the past 70 years has relied on decent levels of growth providing the resources not just to raise personal consumption levels but also to allow the expansion of welfare provision.
There are three reasons why this might be an over-gloomy assessment. The first is that growth does at last seem to be picking up, even if slowly and unevenly. In the US, the housing market is on the mend and the financial system has been largely patched up. In Britain, demand for mortgages is rising, new car sales are robust and the forward-looking business surveys are looking stronger. Consumers seem to be fed up with being miserable and have started to spend a bit more.
The second reason why the dark clouds may eventually be banished is that this is not the first time people have predicted the end of growth and been proved wrong. You don’t need to go all the way back to Malthus for an example: in the 1970s, there were plenty of doomsters who said the limits to growth had been reached.
The final reason, linked to the second, is that every now and then a burst of technological innovation has come along to revitalise the western industrial model. It happened at the end of the 19th century with a wave of innovations that included the automobile, the aeroplane and the cinema, and there are those who think what’s happening in digital, biotechnology, robotics and energy will perform the same function over the next 10-15 years.
Let’s take these points in turn. It is certainly true that western economies – the eurozone apart – are enjoying some growth. It is also true that the emergency policy actions of late 2008 and early 2009 prevented a severe recession from turning into a rerun of the 1930s. But five years on these emergency measures are still in place. Not just that, they have been augmented over time and are now permanent features of macro-economic policy. We have become hooked on stimulus and this is not a healthy sign.
An alternative history of the past 40 years goes as follows. The growth pessimists were broadly right, but what they did not anticipate is that the west would find new, ingenious and often dangerous ways of keeping the show on the road: financial de-regulation, personal debt, globalisation, exploiting the environment. There are still a few tricks policymakers can turn, such as shale gas and quantitative easing, but essentially these are just new versions of the old tricks. The game is up.
Nor, if the American economist Robert Gordon is right, can we rely on the cavalry to arrive in the form of technological change. Gordon argues that the current wave of innovations will prove less growth rich than those of a century ago.
Stephen King, the chief economist at HSBC, says in his new book, When the Money Runs Out, that we should not take progress for granted and should instead be bracing ourselves for the end of western affluence. He says the stagnation is far from temporary and will reach crisis proportions before too long.
King paints a dystopian vision of the future in which nations recoil from globalisation and become more willing to fight over resources. Populations lose their faith in governments and in money that has been debased by attempts to revive growth.
You don’t need fully to buy into this argument to see that King might be on to something. In Britain, we have a set of economic assumptions: that the economy will expand by 2% or so a year; that rising house prices will provide owner-occupiers with a nest egg; that the nation is wealthy enough to spend more on the steadily increasing cost of health, education, pensions and care for its elderly citizens.
There would need to be a radical scaling back of expectations in the event that the trend rate of growth is no longer 2 to 2.5% a year but 1%. Some of the promises we have made ourselves about the future would look extravagant, even reckless. There would be hard choices to be made between higher taxes and pared-back provision of public services. There would be a struggle to secure the fruits of what little growth there was, which those with the sharpest elbows would win. Many people would be in the position of seeing their living standards drop year after year, and would be mightily unhappy as a result.
In reality, a dress rehearsal for this sort of world has been going on for the past five years. The economy is smaller now than it was in 2008; living standards have fallen sharply; austerity has been imposed and – as the support for Ukip shows – there is a great deal of disgruntlement about.
Received political wisdom is that David Cameron and the Conservatives have the most to lose from the rise of Ukip. That’s true if Nigel Farage is merely surfing a wave of Euroscepticism, but if he’s tapping into a deeper well of disquiet the political leader with the real headache is Ed Miliband.
Why? Because social democratic parties thrive in times of abundance and wither in times of dearth. A growing economy allows parties of the left to increase investment in public spending and to redistribute resources from rich to poor. When they preside over falling living standards and cuts in social provision, they get kicked out.
Many natural Labour supporters voted for Ukip last Thursday, even though the past three years under the coalition should have made the official opposition the receptacle for protest. Labour should have done much, much better. That it didn’t boils down to two things. The opposition is still blamed for the state of the economy when the crisis broke. More significantly, perhaps, Labour needs to show that the growth pessimists are wrong and that it has a plan for remedying the UK’s deep structural problems after the next election. As yet, it has not remotely done so.
• Stephen King: When the Money Runs Out; Yale University Press
Chuka Umunna, shadow business secretary warns the £3bn sale of the postal service could lead to sub-standard services
Labour has accused the government of desperately pushing ahead with the £3bn “fire sale” of Royal Mail in order to “raise funds to cover the gaping hole in George Osborne’s failed economic plan”.
Chuka Umunna, the shadow business secretary, said there was a “distinct whiff of desperation” surrounding the privatisation of the world’s oldest postal service. He accused the government of rushing into a saleout of a desire to quickly reduce a £245bn overshoot in government borrowing. He warned that a rushed sell-off could lead to “sub-standard services and people being ripped-off”.
“This timing of this privatisation has the distinct whiff of desperation from a government that has borrowed £245bn more than it planned and is eager to dig itself out of that hole at any price,” he said. “Ultimately it is the taxpayer who will lose out.”
A spokesman for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) said: “As business minister Michael Fallon said last week, the decision will not be based on ideology. It will be a practical, logical and commercial decision. Royal Mail will only be sold if it gets maximum value for the taxpayer.”Fallon has said that unless Royal Mail passed into private hands, it would not be able to access equity markets, without which “every £1 it borrows is another £1 on the national debt”. He said at least 10% of the shares would be allocated to Royal Mail employees, but refused to say whether staff would get free shares or have to buy them at a discount.
The flotation, which the government hopes to get away before April 2014, will be the largest employee share scheme since the privatisation of British Gas 26 years ago. About 140,000 staff are expected to each collect shares worth about £1,500 on average.
However, Labour questioned why “just 10%” of the shares in the initial public offering are earmarked for Royal Mail employees.
The Communication Workers Union (CWU) said postal workers would not “sell their soul” for a 10% stake in the company. Billy Hayes, general secretary of the CWU, said: “We don’t want our prize assets to be flogged at bargain basement prices just to cover up George Osborne’s mess.
“Privatisation is an old-fashioned idea from Thatcher’s era. We’d like to see a little more imagination and positivity when it comes to our postal service. We firmly believe it can and should continue to flourish in full public ownership.”
Umunna also warned that privatisation risks undermining the universal service obligation ensuring mail delivery six days a week to villages as well as cities at the same prices.
Fallon has already promised that “Royal Mail will remain the UK’s designated universal postal service provider and must continue to provide a six-day-a-week service throughout the UK”.
There was also renewed speculation over the weekend that the government is preparing to sell off the student loan book. It is to test the water with the sale of a £900m tranche of loans announced in March and is considering a wholesale privatisation, said the Sunday Times.
The Student Loans Company, which administers about £5.5bn of state loans a year, is part of the BIS. The department’s 2011 annual report showed £28bn of loans are outstanding, but it is suggested the total is likely to rise to near £40bn because of the increase in tuition fees.
A sale might be difficult due the sensitivities of a new owner cracking down on graduates to repay loans. The department declined to comment.
Category : World News
TORONTO, ONTARIO–(Marketwired – May 2, 2013) - Sid Ryan, President of the Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL), will be available for comment immediately following the release of the 2013 Ontario Budget to discuss its impact on working people across the province.
As election looms, Labour promises tax breaks for firms that offer living wage
Labour would offer tax breaks to persuade the private sector to pay a living wage as a way to boost productivity and cut welfare bills, Ed Miliband will propose on Saturday.
The Labour leader suggests that firms could be offered either tax reliefs on training or capital investment, or lower business rates, in return for paying the living wage.
Speaking to the Guardian on a campaign tour in advance of Thursday’s local elections, the Labour leader said: “Living wage zones would work for everyone – the people who get decent pay, the employers who get a more committed workforce and the government that saves money on credits.” He said the proposal was a labour market reform that tackled in-work poverty and lifted productivity without boosting the welfare bill.
Dismissing the language of “scroungers and skivers” used by some on the right, he said he wanted “responsibility for everyone to look for work and … compassion for those that cannot find work”.
He added: “I am not going to try to divide the country on welfare.”
The independent thinktank the Institute for Fiscal Studies has calculated that for every pound spent paying the living wage, the Treasury saves 50p through not needing to pay tax credits and benefits.
The shadow Treasury team is now looking at the level of incentives needed to get employers to take up the scheme, and whether living wage zones could be established in industry sectors or geographical areas where a critical mass of employers are prepared to pay the living wage.
The measures are being considered as part of the Labour policy review, which is looking at a range of welfare reforms ranging from a compulsory jobs guarantee for the long-term unemployed, to restoring the contributory principle in some areas and switching housing benefit spending to house building.
Miliband said: “We are not going to be able to tackle the problem of in-work poverty through the tax credit system alone. It is a about changing the way the labour market works, using the power of government, making work pay and doing it in a way that gives the private sector real incentives. We have had enterprise zones. We can have living wage zones.”
He said: “Twelve councils are now living wage employers and there are a 17 further in the pipeline. These councils are not only paying their staff the living wage, but also requiring the same of their contractors. We want to extend this progress.”
The living wage is currently set at £7.45 per hour outside London and £8.55 in the capital. There are 200 employers accredited with the living wage campaign. The statutory minimum wage is £6.19.
The Resolution Foundation thinktank has calculated that if all those currently on the minimum wage received the living wage there would be a £2.2bn net saving to the public sector including higher income tax and national insurance receipts.
Miliband said he wanted to see local councils mandated to approach larger private sector employers to help create living wage zones.
He said: “It would be in central government’s interest to get private sector employers over the hump to pay the living wage, so local councils could offer temporary rate subsidies or extra cash for training.
“The money would come from savings to the Treasury through lower tax credit payouts. It’s an incredibly exciting idea since it is a way of persuading private sector there is a real incentive to pay the living wage.
“Employers might say at present this is just a cost to us but if we can show how they will benefit then that attitude changes. There is also increasing evidence that living wage employees are more productive and committed.”
He added: “The whole living wage idea has come up from the grassroots. It has not come from the thinktanks. It is an example of the kind of politics that I want.”
The idea is partly inspired by Arnie Graff the Baltimore-based community activist now working for the Labour party.
His aides said: “Low and stagnating pay is fast becoming a national crisis. In-work poverty has risen by 20% in the last decade and now stands at 6.1 million living in low-income households. Average wages have fallen since 2008, and the number of low wage, low skill jobs is expected to grow.” Miliband, under renewed pressure over lack of policy specifics, has recently been buffeted by the aftermath of Lady Thatcher’s death, unsolicited advice from Tony Blair and warnings from his biggest union backer that he will be consigned to the dustbin of history if he continues to take advice from Blairites such as the shadow defence Jim Murphy.
The Labour leader insisted he is energised by campaigning – making speeches in market squares on a pallet, not he insists a soapbox, the oratorical weapon of John Major. He said: “My biggest enemy is the people that say you politicians are all the same and governments cannot do things.”
On Friday, he was forced in Chesterfield market square by a passing pensioner to make a public vow that if elected he will speak the truth, the whole truth and nothing the truth. Miliband said there is a terrible wall of cynicism out there, adding that Angela Eagle, the shadow leader of the House has just started a public inquiry into political disengagement.
He also insisted he was not on the wrong side of the welfare argument. He said: “I am incredibly confident of our position on welfare. We are in the right place. For the 230,000 young people aged under 25 unemployed for more than a year, or older people unemployed for more than two years, we guarantee you a job at the minimum wage, but you have to take the offer. It’s a clear message that you have got a responsibility to work.
“At the same time I am not going to join George Osborne in saying anyone out of work is a skiver and a scrounger. Personally, I don’t even think it works for them [the Tories]. I don’t think my party is divided over this.
“I want responsibility for everyone to look for work and I want compassion for those that cannot find work. I am not going to try to divide the country on welfare.”
He said he supported benefit caps set regionally since housing benefit, a large part of welfare income, has to reflect regional housing costs. “If the government is so confident about the national cap, why are they not implementing it across the country, instead of some regions?
“The fact is that for all their heavy rhetoric we will be spending more on welfare at the end of this parliament in real terms than at the beginning,” he said.
Asked if he recognised himself as the most leftwing leader of Labour since Michael Foot he said: “I am firmly in the political centre ground, and I am addressing issues that go back decades. For the Brown and Blair generation, it looked like the Thatcher settlement had worked for most people. So Blair for totally understandable reasons was largely not about challenging the social settlement.
“For this generation looking back it becomes blindingly obvious that the Thatcher economic settlement did not work. We have an insecure labour market, wages falling and an economy only working for those at the top.
“We are about creating a different kind of economy for the future. Cameron is almost the business as usual candidate. That is why I think the ball is at our feet and it is our election to win.”
A strong currency and rising energy and labour costs are making Australia increasingly expensive – and the Australian film industry is one of the sectors feeling the impact.
Originally posted here: VIDEO: Australian films hit by rising costs
Former Chancellor Alistair Darling urges Labour not to commit to future spending plans until it knows the government’s own position.
Original post: Darling urges spending caution
Conservatives succeeded in blocking a Lords amendment to tighten up laws which allow corporations to stifle free speech
The Conservatives have succeeded in their attempt to water down defamation laws which would have prevented large companies ranging from McDonald’s to Tesco from suing their critics unless they could prove financial losses.
The Conservatives won a vote in the House of Commons to remove a House of Lords amendment to the defamation bill to tighten up the laws which critics say allow corporations to stifle free speech.
But during the Commons debate, the justice secretary Helen Grant promised to reconsider the amendment after the vote to get the support of the Liberal Democrats.
But Labour denounced Grant’s concession as a sham and it is almost certain the Liberal Democrat peer Lord Lester, who has led a three-year battle for libel reform, will move to reinstate the amendment when the bill returns to the Lords.
After losing the vote 298 to 230, shadow justice secretary Sadiq Khan said: “The government gave the impression there would be last minute concessions but this has proved false.”
Labour MP Paul Farrelly said “the issue here is not just about big corporations which want to bully like McDonalds intimidating the little people just because they could … it’s also about the desire of big businesses to silence its critics”. He said big corporations used the libel laws “to take journalist out of the game”.
Tracey Brown from Sense about Science which has campaigned for doctors and scientists who have been sued after they criticised big health companies said she was “deeply disappointed” the clause was removed but that support from many MPs on the issue had led to the government concession.
The amendment also included a clause, now struck out, which would have banned local councils and their subcontractors from suing anyone who criticised them in their performance of public duties, paid for by the taxpayer.
Tory MP Sir Peter Bottomley made an impassioned plea with his fellow politicians not to vote to remove this clause said that although case law had established, under the so-called Derbyshire principle, that councils could not sue, this did not extend to private companies such as Atos Healthcare, a company employed by the department of work and pensions, which has threatened disability blogs and websites with legal action.
Agreeing with Bottomley, Khan said: “Just because a school, prison or hospital is run by a private company doesn’t mean it should be insulated from public criticism.”
English PEN, whose campaign for libel reform has been backed by high-profile figures including Stephen Fry and William Boyd said: “We’re depending on the Lords now to deliver the reform that all the parties signed up to.
“It’s essential that companies are no longer allowed to exploit libel law to bully whistleblowers into silence. This has always been a key demand for the campaign.”
Labour says bank levy has raised £2bn less than planned and should be supplemented with tax on fat cat bankers
The Labour party has branded the government’s bank levy a failure after releasing figures showing that over the past two years it has raised almost £2bn less than planned.
Chris Leslie, Labour Treasury spokesman, said this amounted to a “tax cut of nearly £2bn for the banks” and reinforced the case for the tax on bank bonuses that Labour proposes.
The Treasury did not contest the figures, but stressed that the rate at which the levy was charged was reviewed regularly.
Alastair Darling, the Labour chancellor, introduced a one-off tax on bank bonuses when he was in power that raised £3.5bn in 2010-11. The coalition government chose not to repeat it, but instead said it would raise about £2.5bn every year by introducing a permanent bank levy, a tax based on the annual value of debts held by the banks.
But, according to figures published by the Office for Budget Responsibility and HM Revenue and Customs, the levy has failed to raise this amount in both years it has been in force.
In 2011-12 the Treasury raised £1.8bn from the levy. But the banks also gained £100m from the cut in corporation tax that was implemented that year, leaving a net gain of £1.7bn.
And, according to the Labour analysis, the levy raised just £1.6bn in 2012-13. This was offset by a £200m gain to the banking sector from another cut in the rate of corporation tax, leaving the exchequer with a net gain of £1.4bn. Labour says this means the levy has raised £3.1bn over two years, instead of £5bn as promised.
Leslie, who is going to raise the figures when the Commons resume the debate on the finance bill this week, said: “On top of last week’s tax cut for millionaires, this is effectively a tax cut of nearly £2bn for the banks at a time when millions of working people are being forced to pay the price for this government’s economic failure.
“Whether it’s on tax or watering down reforms to separate retail and investment banks, David Cameron and George Osborne have repeatedly failed to stand up to the vested interests of the banks.”
Labour wants the bank levy to be supplemented with a tax on bank bonuses, which it believes could raise £2.5bn. It would use the money to fund its youth jobs guarantee.
The Treasury said it had raised the bank levy to compensate for the fact that banks would gain from the chancellor’s decision to cut corporation tax. A spokesperson said: “It is inevitable that the fragility of global financial markets will have had an effect on banks’ balance sheets. This is why the government increased the bank levy both in December last year and at budget this year.
“These increases offset the benefit to banks of the government’s latest corporation tax cuts. We have said that we will review the bank levy this year to ensure it is operating efficiently.”