Now that's what we call a rip-off


AFTER THE SCANDALS of Ray Burke, Greencore, the Telecom site, National Irish Bank, the Ben Dunne money, Michael Lowry, the Beef Tribunal, etc., it was inevitable that bosses north of the border would also be caught with their greasy fingers in the till. And there is nowhere better to catch them than at Belfast International Airport.

The airport was privatised by the British government back in 1994. The recent report, by an all-party committee of Westminster politicians, about how it was done makes for interesting reading.

A management group led by James Mairs, Jim Dornan and Greg Hamill bought the airport for £32.75 million and resold it less than two years later for £107 million! Each of them made £6.42 million on their initial investment of £655,860.

And, if that wasn't enough, it seems pretty clear that inside information was used to further maximise their profits. Management's first bid of £39 million was reduced by £6.25 million just before the sale went ahead. The new, lower, bid was less than £1 million above the next highest offer.

This suggests that they used inside knowledge of what the nearest bid was going to be. The Department of the Environment also left out the usual contract provision that super-profits could be taken back by the government.

And the new owners are doing well out of it too, their profits are now approaching £130 million a year. Meanwhile we are told that wages must be held down, the poor should have low expectations, and workers should not be "greedy" when putting in pay claims.

It's another case of the 'golden rule': whoever has the gold makes the rules!

Joe King

This article is from Workers Solidarity No 55 published in October 1998