"Triple-dip recession"? double need for a fight back!

Workers' Fight workplace bulletin editorials
5 February 2013

Everybody in financial circles and the media talks about a "triple-dip recession". The economy shrunk by 0.1% over 2012, instead of the 3% growth promised by Osborne. Leaving aside the temporary blip of the Olympics, the economy shrank in the year's 3 other quarters. The 0.3% fall in the last quarter means that if any shrinkage occurs in the next 3 months then officials will tell us that we are facing the third recession since 2008.

For the working class, however, this is nothing new - just a continuation of the same crisis, which is already in its 6th year. It will just mean more of the same: attacks against jobs, conditions and living standards. But then again, these attacks began long before the banking meltdown itself, although they were certainly aggravated by it. Didn't workers' conditions start going down the drain during the so-called "days of prosperity", as a result of the bosses' drive to casualise employment?

The bosses' class war

What lies behind these abstract figures, however, is the destruction of large chunks of the economy, as factories and other workplaces are closed.

Thus, manufacturing and construction - where real value is produced - shrank by 2.5% and 9.3% respectively in 2012. And if services are up, by a very modest 1.2%, it's only temporarily, because of the short-lived boost from the "Games"!

This destruction of the economy reflects the class war waged by the bosses against the working class to shore up their profits. And this class war has continued since the beginning of the year.

In January alone, 400 job cuts have been announced at Rolls Royce's Ansty site, in Coventry, another 800 permanent full-time jobs will go at Honda's factory, in Swindon, on top of the 325 temps who were already sacked, while Honda production is to be reduced by 16%.

Meanwhile, more high-street retail names are disappearing, adding to the jobs massacre. HMV is to close its 240 stores, throwing 4,500 workers on the dole. Most of Blockbuster's 528 shops are also to be closed, affecting 4,190 workers. This follows photographic chain Jessops with its 187 shops and 1,530 workers, electrical retailer Comet, with 200 stores and 6,900 workers, clothing chain Peacocks with 611 stores and 9,600 workers.

In fact, every industry is hit: from airlines (4,500 jobs to go at IAG, 300 at Flybe) to banking with government-owned Lloyds axing another 1,300 jobs (after cutting 25% of its workforce) and 5,000 more to go later in the year.

And, of course, all this comes on top of the on-going savaging of public sector jobs which, for instance, is resulting in up to 100 jobs disappearing every week in the NHS!

Responding in kind

Of course, ministers are quick to boast about the 510,000 "new" jobs which were allegedly created last year, even claiming that employment figures are at a "record high". But then a closer look shows that around 20% of these so-called "new" jobs are part of government schemes where workers are merely working for their dole money. As to the other "new jobs", the majority are casual, often part-time jobs, on which no-one can make a living!

The standards of living of the working class are also going down the plug-hole. The government's own statistics reflect this, when they show that the real average wage (taking inflation into account) has gone down by 4% over the past year alone. And since the gap between low and high earners keeps increasing, this fall in the average wage can only conceal a much steeper fall for the low-paid.

This fall for the low-paid is compounded by benefit cuts - especially housing benefit. And they will be the hardest hit by the impact of latest local government budget cuts which in many cases will mean council tax rises by as much as £600/year, while council tax benefit is to be drastically reduced.

Meanwhile, capitalist profits are soaring. Share prices are back to their pre-crisis levels. It's enough for a company to announce a new round of job cuts ("savings" as they say!) for the price of its shares to go through the roof - as happened in January, when Lloyd's announced its job-cutting plans. Despite of the crisis, and in some cases, because of it, big companies are making a killing - yet again!

For the working class, however, the common experience of these attacks affecting all its sections can bring all of us together, in a common fight for jobs, wages and conditions. No section, however small should be left to act on its own. We are all in the same working class boat. But it will only stop sinking if we decide to use all of our many arms to row it.