Republican News · Thursday 06 April 2000

[An Phoblacht]

Will Microsoft ruling change anything

If you have suffered the ``Blue Screen of Death'' or the polite message ``This programme has performed an illegal operation and may be shut down'', you will have taken some solace from the fact that Microsoft were found this week to have abused their dominant market position and acted as a monopolist.

In the United States, stock markets slumped as dealers sold off technology and shares, fearful of the repercussions the judgment could have for computer, software and communications industries.

However, remarkably silent about the Microsoft ruling were Netscape. They are the company whose victimisation by Microsoft led to the US Attorney General and 19 individual US states filing anti-trust claims against Microsoft in the first place.

Netscape make an internet browser that was competing with Microsoft's Internet Explorer. Microsoft were using the fact that 88% of PCs have their Windows Operating system as a lever to push Netscape out of the market.

Netscape have become, since been bought by America On Line (AOL), the world's largest internet service provider. Earlier this year, AOL merged with Time Warner to create not only the largest media company in the world but one of the largest companies in any sector.

Netscape are no longer minnows; they are now part of the shark category. Their elevation and the Microsoft ruling highlights a much deeper problem afflicting the global computer and communications industries - that of more and more companies being controlled by an ever smaller number of people.

The real test of the Microsoft ruling is whether it will be used as a ruler for the computer and communications industry at large or as just a stick with which to beat Microsoft.

The perfect IMF

Just in case you were wondering whether there is any chance of reforming the International Monetary Fund's (IMF) flawed policies (which have actually increased indebtedness and poverty in less developed states) the short answer is no.

Horst Kohler, the IMF's managing director in waiting, has said that though he will reassess the IMF's role, there is no need for ``a new grand design''.

``There is no need to turn the IMF upside down'' said Kohler. He added that the IMF should be credited for the ``extension of markets and democracy over the past 50 years''.

The message is, therefore, that though there is a new broom at the IMF, it will be business as usual.

Pensioner Poverty

A new survey by the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) has found that nearly 60% of people over 65 in the 26 Counties live on less than 100 a week and that a quarter of elderly households are living on income of less than half the average industrial wage. This is an income level that many academics and social commentators believe will leave families in poverty.

The report also found that the disposable income of the average household has risen by 61% between 1987 and 1997. The income of households depending on non-contributory old age pensions has risen by only 18%.

Interim settlement at Dublin Bus

Dublin Bus workers called off the next stage of their industrial action this week after an 11th hour agreement between the unions and management at the company.

Since February, the bus workers have secured weekly wage increases at the basic entry level grade of 44.37, up from 207.13 to 251.50. The top rate of basic pay for bus drivers has risen from 273.26 to 302 a week. The increases will be financed by cost-saving measures proposed largely by the unions at Dublin Bus.

The wage increases proposed so far are only an interim settlement and fall short of the NBRU's original demands. A three-person interim committee has been set up and is to report to the Labour Relations Commission before 1 May on the issues that remain unresolved.

National Bus and Railworkers Union (NBRU) members voted by 527 to 340 in favour of the proposals, while SIPTU workers backed them by tighter margin of 315 to 290.

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