Yet more job cuts and that's what they call "the light at the end of the tunnel"!

30 October 2012

What are we supposed to make of the much trumpeted 1% increase in national production over the 3 months to September? The government says it proves that its austerity policy is "working" and that this may be a sign that the "end of the tunnel" is in sight. Really?

In fact, this is just a sleight of hand. To boost official figures, government experts are treating the proceeds of the Olympic games' tickets as "production" and adding that to their figures, as if such "production" had any social use! But if these proceeds are excluded, as they should be, national production actually went down over the 6 months up to September!

So no, there's no "light" in sight at the end of the tunnel. But then we all knew that. Especially those of us who find ourselves at the receiving end of the present round of job cuts

Jobs sacrificed to greed

In the course of just one week, 285 jobs were written off at black cab manufacturer Manganese Bronze, 2,200 jobs at JJB sports retail chain and 700 at Waverley drinks manufacturer. Then there were the 1,400 job cuts announced by Ford Motor company - which is closing down one assembly plant in Southampton and a stamping and tooling plant in Dagenham, east London - coming on top of 275 white collar jobs which were cut last month and an unknown number of jobs which are bound to disappear in subcontracting companies as a result of the plant closures.

But while some of these companies may be bankrupt and in receivership, that's not the case for all of them, by far.

Ford, for instance, is one of the world's largest and richest companies. Its profits last year, at £12.6bn, were the highest recorded in 13 years. Business is so good for Ford that last January they restarted paying dividends to shareholders for the first time in 5 years. So why these job cuts?? Certainly not because the company is in dire straits!

No, Ford bosses just want to make even more profits by increasing their profit margins. To this end, they've already slashed pension payments for existing members, closed the existing final salary scheme to new entrants, and cut wages for new hires. And now, they're boosting their profit margin by another notch, by cutting the headcount!

Of course, the likes of Ford always have good excuses to cover their greed. They talk about "hard times", "recession", "falling sales", etc... But the truth is that, like all big companies, they are just using the crisis as yet another opportunity to step up their exploitation of workers. No wonder Ford's share price went up immediately after the plant closures were announced!

The capitalists must pay!

There's an additional twist in Ford's case, though. Business Secretary Vince Cable let the cat out of the bag by saying that Ford would get "some help" from the government to keep its engine plants in Bridgend and Dagenham open... even though Ford never had any plan to close them down! In other words, by whining loud enough, Ford even got a bonus award from the Coalition, into the bargain!

In this light, the call made by Unite general secretary, Len McCluskey, "for this government to start pursuing an industrial strategy that supports manufacturing and promotes jobs and growth" sounds particularly tragic. More subsidies for bosses like Ford? As if they had ever used past subsidies to create jobs! Of course they didn't. They just took the money and ran. That's what capitalists do!

No, there can be only one response to job slashers like Ford - that they should be banned from cutting jobs and forced to use their accumulated profits to keep all workers on their payrolls.

And why shouldn't they? Having failed to make any real investment for years, these companies are sitting on record piles of cash. But where does this cash come from, if not from the value produced by their workers over the years, including by those whose jobs they want to cut. Why shouldn't these piles of cash be used to share out the available work between all available hands, without loss of pay? By the same token, this would end once and for all, at last, the exhausting shift patterns and long hours which still prevail in many companies.

Of course, the bosses' won't give in so easily, especially in this crisis from which they are doing so nicely. They will need to be made to fear for their profits, by a large-scale fight back involving large sections of the working class, in their workplaces and in the streets. Workers can't rely on union leaders to offer such an option. But we could take it ourselves - and if we were determined, it is a fight we could win - all of us, together.