Friday, 30 January 2009

Opinion: The refinery strikes

These days its all about the economy. In the biggest global depression for over 70 years you can hardly blame the media for the extensive coverage the 'meltdown' has received.
Today then is no different, although this time oil refineries are involved.
Up and down the UK, hundreds of British workers have walked out and gone on strike, protesting against the number of foreign employees being used on the country's oil refineries.
So here's a quick for and against commentary on the issue.
For the British workers decision
The whole situation centres around the Total owned oil refinery in Lincolnshire. A California based company had the contract to build it and it was then subcontracted to an Italian based firm called IREM. But five British companies were also in the running to get this contract as well, so why did IREM get the nod? It probably sounds a bit nationalist, but surely you should look inward first before looking externally?
In 2007, Gordon Brown specifically said he would create "British jobs for British people", so this surely contradicts this?
It is estimated that around 60% of power stations will need to be replaced within the forseeable future. So if foreign companies are going to continually be brought in to do these tasks, then why not make a statement now and let you voice be heard?
Against the British workers decision
Technically speaking, none of the Licolnshire workers have lost their jobs because of IREM. According to Total, there's actually been 1,800 local workers on the site up till now. Also, its not as if the foreigh workers are NOT getting paid less or indeed more to do the same job. They're getting paid exactly the same and its their legal right to do so because of European law.
The workers, as well as trade union UNITE, are claiming they've been discriminated against in their field. But surely protesting against it, is discriminating against the foriegn workers as well? In fact, they aren't doing anything wrong, its the legal right to be able to work in the UK.
These protests are also illegal. They are unofficial and their trade unions can't back them. If they truly wanted a result, then going down the proper channels should have been the better thing to do perhaps?
Its difficult to speculate when you can't see the contracts which have been signed by IREM. The situation is obviously less than ideal. In times of recession, foreign workers are hardly going to be welcomed with open arms by UK nationals. Its not something I agree with, but its definitely am issue that exists and trying to deny it is naive. In this case though, the overseas workers aren't earning any less or more than their UK counterparts, so any argument is surely going to be discriminatory one way or the other.
Ultimately in times of recession, no-one wants to see others out of work or made redundant. But in this case, no-one has been let go...yet. If heads do begin to roll however, then this story could take an even more volatile route in the very near future.

Thursday, 22 January 2009

Opinion: Bournemouth Uni & politics

Tuesday marked a landmark day in the history of the United States of America.

It's an over used expression of course, but in this case it does it justice.

Barack Obama's Presidential inauguration was a truly remarkable for all concerned and the vast majority of Americans, and indeed the world, believe this is the start of something truly special.

The aura around him is astounding to say the least.

But for me, this occasion's significance was brought home while walking through the Bournemouth University campus in order to catch a bus.

What I witnessed, literally stopped me in my tracks.

In the Atrium (a walkway to lecture theatres), a plasma screen (usually containing gratuitous advertising) was actually broadcasting Obama's inauguration and around it were 30 students, stood intently, hanging on his every word.

This is without a doubt, the first time in two and a half years since being at the Uni, I've felt that my peers have wholeheartedly engaged with politics and actually shown a genuine interest in what's happening in the political world around them.

Now this isn't to say I haven't met some top quality thinkers and really kind people while here. Not at all. This is isn't have a bash at BU time. In fact I've met them in abundance.

But there just seems to be more emphasis on what happened last night when everyone was hammered, or when we're next going out, rather than questions like "did you see the news this morning?"

Still if Obama's inauguration can force 30 students, from what I would argue is a largely politically apathetic Uni (controversial I know...) then surely there's hope for this generation and BU students yet.

But as the speech drew to a close and as I walked away, my illusions were quickly shattered when I overheard a bloke say "so why is this so important then?"

Some things never change...

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Opinion: Graduating in DisMay

Life certainly isn't rosey at the moment if you are a final year student set to graduate in the summer.

Deadlines are mounting, the overdraft is beginning to bite and of course time is allthewhile rapidly disappearing into the ether.

Such New Year blues are probably not helped then, with today's new research that students graduating this summer are to do so in the worst job environment in over two decades.

The top 100 graduate recruiters in the country are cutting back on recruiting students by 17% and most positions for 2009 on graduate schemes have already been filled due to increased demand.

Investment banking opportunities have also declined by 44%.

Just what we need to hear...

On a personal level, this all hit home on Monday when Deputy Editor of the Bournemouth Daily Echo Nick Perkins visited our University to deliver a careers talk.

He recalled that Peter Kay once described comedy as being all about timing. Unfortunately as students we could have timed our course a bit better.

Still, one crumb of comfort in such a depressing economic climate is that at least those lucky few who do break into the industry will be the ones who truly want to achieve in journalism.

They'll be the ones who'll work for free, write to every editor in the land, apply for every job going and prepare to jump ship and re-locate in order to succeed.

I for one aspire to be a part of this category.

There certainly won't be any easy jobs in this climate.

Perkins ended his talk by amusingly describing budding multi-media trained reporters as the industry's "garlic bread" and more employable as a result due to more diverse range of skills.

As a multi-media journalist set to graduate in May, one can only hope he is right.

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Opinion: Gordon Brown's internships...

"Credit crunch", "Economic downturn", "Sub-prime", ah yes the media do love a good soundbite to repeat to death, I should know, I want to work as someone who makes them up.

But with journalists being named one of the three biggest industries to have been affected by the current economy, that ambition may well be some way off when this budding reporter graduates in May.

So when, Gordon Brown said he was about to unveil a new scheme set to help soon to be graduates like myself, it was with much anticipation I tuned in to listen to what the PM had to say.

On reflection, it wasn't worth the effort.

An estimated 300,000 students are set to graduate this summer into the worst economic crisis since the depression of the 1930's.

Something, obviously, needs to be done and you have to applaud the PM for at least recognising that the issue exists. But that's about the only positive you can take from this scheme which leaves a lot to be desired.

The idea is for highly respected employers, such as Microsoft and Barclays, to take on 3,500 graduates for a 3 month internship this summer. This will be funded by the government.

This is bizarre on so many levels.

Firstly, where's the money going to come from? Surely the debt of this country is great enough already.

Then there's the fact that only 3,500 students will be awarded places on these schemes. Its a drop in the ocean in comparison to the bigger picture, what about the rest of the new graduates?

Of course, even if you do gain admission to one of these internships then you are only going to be there three months and then you're just going to be shown the door, and you'll have the same problem as before only three months down the line.

The thinking behind this is that its supposed to make graduates appear more employable, but isn't paying £3,000 a year for your degree supposed to do that in the first place?

At least Brown is trying, but the embattled PM is only putting up a short term solution here in a time which needs long term planning for the future.

The lack of which, in fact, got us into this mess in the first place...