Their cuts and attacks call for a workers' counter-offensive!

13 July 2010

Predictably, the bosses welcomed the cuts in the "emergency budget". But the bosses' organisation, the CBI, also made a song and a dance, demanding "a package of measures to ensure Britain's labour market is best placed to sustain businesses and jobs during the recovery. The proposals include embracing more flexible working, blocking regulations that will cost jobs and changing industrial relations legislation."

Never mind the fact that there is no recovery in sight! But then, the aim of the exercise has got nothing to do with creating jobs, anyway, but everything to do with boosting company profits. The long and short of it, is that the bosses want even more "flexibility" - but, of course, only in order to step up the exploitation of workers!

What the bosses have in store

For instance, they want the "consultation period" for collective redundancies to be reduced from 90 days to 30. Not that this consultation period has ever stopped them from slashing jobs left, right and centre, whenever they wanted. But the fact that they would like it to be reduced, certainly shows what sort of "recovery" they have in mind - one without jobs being created!

They also want "simpler rules around the employment of agency workers to ensure existing jobs can be maintained and new posts created." As if resorting to agency workers was not, on the contrary, a device to cut the overall number of permanent jobs on which workers can really rely in order to make a living!

Likewise, they want TUPE rules applying to workers transferred collectively from one company to another, to be "reviewed" - that is, they want the very limited protection enjoyed by these workers against employers' attempts to slash their conditions, immediately to be scrapped.

The CBI also demands that the individual right to opt-out of the 48-hr week, remains in place. Of course, they would! This so-called "right", which would have gone long ago were it not for Labour's clinging to it on behalf of British companies, is really the right for the bosses to blackmail workers into working crazy (and therefore dangerous) hours.

For workers, this "right" is nothing short of a slave charter, which should never have been tolerated in the first place. Today, at a time of rising unemployment which would require all existing work to be shared out between all workers, without anyone losing on his or her wages, this slave charter should be thrown out once and for all!

The backlash will come!

Of course, the bosses are not stupid to the point of believing that the working class will not respond to the drastic offensive they want to see. So, the CBI's "package" also includes a further tightening up of the existing anti-strike laws. Apparently, these laws, that Labour inherited from the past Tory governments and then kept in place, are no longer enough for the bosses. In addition to the present majority of "yes" vote required for a strike to be legal, they also want this majority to include at least 40% of all those entitled to vote - something which is at best difficult to achieve and, in some industries, virtually impossible, due to the practical constraints imposed by postal ballots.

So far, the government has denied it had any plans concerning any of these issues, particularly the anti-strike legislation. They are most definitely lying. The point, however, is that Cameron may still think that it could be politically dangerous to introduce too many attacks against workers at the same time. Not that he has much to fear from union leaders, who, so many times, have used the anti-strike legislation as a fig-leaf for their own reluctance to organise any fight back. But the big unknown for this government is how far it can go in its attacks against the working population without sparking off a reaction of anger.

And for good reason. Because, if and when this happens, no anti-strike legislation, no court, no riot police even, will have the capacity to contain the frustration accumulated in working class ranks since the beginning of the bosses' crisis.

In the meantime, any new attack on workers' jobs, living standards and rights should - of course - be opposed as required. But ultimately, it is the whole rotten system that caused the crisis which will have to be challenged. By standing up collectively, behind organisations and leaders whose fighting determination it can trust, the working class will need to impose on the capitalist class its own solutions to the crisis - in particular, the collective control of the population over all economic activities in society.