Hands off our jobs!

Workers' Fight workplace bulletin editorials
11 November 2013

The figures showing a 1.2% increase in industrial production have been hailed by Osborne as evidence that his "recovery" is alive and kicking - and that, at last, his policies are working.

Never mind the fact that this 1.2% increase only reverses a 1.2% drop recorded for the previous month, or that industrial production is just 1% higher than a year ago - and still 8% below its 2008 level! And that's according to official figures, which can be trusted to understate the reality by a wide margin.

But what is really "recovering"? Profits? Yes, definitely. And share prices have more than recovered from their 2008 crash. The sales of luxury goods are soaring and the price of a square foot of property in the leafy, trendy areas of the big cities has reached unprecedented, obscene levels. The capitalist class has nothing to complain about!

But, just as definitely, the two things which aren't "recovering" are workers' jobs and living standards. In fact, as regards living standards, the government doesn't even bother to hide the reality. Its own statistics show that, in the best of cases, wages are lagging well behind prices, and in the worst cases, they are being cut. And even this is only part of the picture, since these figures do not reflect the cut in incomes faced by the many workers who are forced to work fewer hours.

The on-going job drain

As to jobs, no matter how much ministers repeat that there have never been so many people in employment than today, the facts are more stubborn than their rhetoric - or than their massaged figures, for that matter.

According to Money Charity, 1,447 people have been made redundant every day between June and August! The past months have seen another string of redundancies in big companies: in banking, with 2,000 jobs cut at Standard Chartered and 1,000 to come at the Co-Operative Bank, in steel, with 500 jobs cut at Tata (ex-British Steel), in manufacturing, with 140 jobs gone at glass manufacturer Pilkington and up to 600 at WR Refrigeration, to name just a few.

And how many more permanent, full-time jobs are being cut, without being reported, because the employer or subcontractor replaces these workers with part-time, zero-hours, self-employed, casual workers, either directly or via an agency?

Then to crown it all, this last week BAE systems, which is still one of the country's largest companies, announced that it was cutting its shipbuilding operations! Its Portsmouth facilities will be closed down completely and it will "downsize" in Scotland (in Glasgow and Rosyth) and Filton, near Bristol. This will mean that 1,800 more jobs will disappear into thin air, plus an unknown number in subcontracting companies. The blow for the surrounding areas, which are already desperately short of jobs will be huge.

Jobs can be defended

BAE blames its job-slashing on the government's defence cuts. It would.

But why should this result in job cuts? There may be fewer warships to build (which is rather good news!), but why should workers foot the bill for this? BAE is not a cash-strapped company. According to its latest financial report, it made a hefty £911m net profit last year, all of which went straight into the deep pockets of its shareholders.

What's more, BAE sits on a £387m cash pile. This cash alone would be enough to pay a decent wage for 7 years to all of the 1,800 workers they want to sack - to do nothing, or to produce something socially more useful than heavy military equipment!

Yes, rather than cutting jobs, it should be payback time for companies which have accumulated so much profit out of workers' labour over the past decades - and even more so, for those which, like BAE, have been living a parasitic life on public funds for so long!

Of course, not all job-cutting companies are as wealthy as BAE is. But as a class, the capitalists are awash with wealth. So, while some individual companies may be in a mess, this class could and should be made to pay, collectively, for the crisis it has caused, not the working class!

This would require sharing out all available work between all available hands, without loss of pay for those who are already in full-time jobs, while providing a decent wage for all. And, of course, the bill should be presented to the capitalist class as a whole!