Jobs , wages, pensions - only all-out fight back can stop the bosses’ attacks!

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22 February 2017

 Bizarrely, the collapse of US giant, Kraft's takeover of Unilever last week, was hailed as some sort of a victory both by the pro-Brexit establishment and the union leadership.  According to them, this is supposed to protect “British jobs” from “foreign predators”.  
    But where’s the protection?  Why is Unilever, which employs far more workers across the rest of the EU - its largest market - any less “foreign” than Kraft, which already owns Heinz, Britain’s biggest food-processing company?  And wasn’t Unilever one of the first major companies to respond to Brexit by increasing its retail prices, thereby undermining our living standards?
    Why should there be anything for the working class to choose between these two predators?  As if the predatory nature of a company wasn’t due to the greed of its capitalist shareholders, regardless of their nationality!
                                                                       
The real issue isn't who pays our wages
                                                                       
This idiotic nationalistic posturing is now being repeated all over again since the announcement by French car manufacturer PSA, of its plan to acquire General Motors’ European operations - that is, Opel, with over 35,000 workers across Europe, and the much smaller Vauxhall, which employs just about one-tenth of this number - and only in Britain.
    But, there again, for Vauxhall workers, what is there to choose between PSA, which has cut 17,000 jobs in France over the past three years, and the much bigger General Motors, which has closed down far more plants in the US?  Just a few years back, GM undertook a major global offensive against  workers’ wages and benefits, under the pretext of facing bankruptcy.  Both PSA and GM  prey on workers’ jobs and conditions.  That’s the long and short of it!
    The joke about all of this is of course, that whatever the self-proclaimed champions of “British jobs” may say, there aren't and haven't been any "British" car manufacturers here for a long time.  Today the bulk of "British" cars are produced by companies owned by the likes of BMW, Nissan-Renault, Toyota, GM, VW, Honda or Tata.  The only "British" thing about these manufacturers is that apart from having plants in Britain, they also all have a substantial number of British shareholders.
    And so what?  Capitalist profiteering is capitalist profiteering, period.  The way it exploits our labour, and screws up our lives is not a matter of nationality, is it?
    So, for our workmates at Vauxhall’s Ellesmere Port and Luton factories, what really matters is not who will eventually own their plants, but how they can stop these sharks from attacking their jobs and conditions!
                                                                         
Relying on our collective strength
                                                                      
The bosses can be expected to use Brexit as another pretext to go on the rampage.  But Brexit or not, in this crisis-ridden world, the capitalists are on the offensive to protect their profits, any way they can.
    So what is the union leaderships' response?  Concerning Vauxhall, Unite’s Len McCluskey came up with the demand that “whenever the carmakers are meeting with the French and German governments, then the UK government must be at the same table.”  A fat lot of good it will do for Vauxhall workers, to have their interests represented by Theresa May and her ministers!
    Hasn’t May announced a plan to give legal footing to all forms of casual employment - from zero-hours contracts to self-employment and Uber-type non-jobs?  Isn’t she proposing to help companies “under stress” - whatever this may mean - to cut workers’ pensions?
    Of course, the union leaders’ spinelessness shouldn’t come as a surprise.  Some of us remember how, in 2006, McCluskey’s union responded to the closure of the Ryton car plant, then owned by PSA’s forerunner.  At the time, these union leaders launched a nationalistic “Back Britain, don’t buy Peugeot” campaign.  Never mind that only an actual fight back by the Ryton workers, with active support from across the car industry, had any chance of stopping the closure.  But workers were never offered that option and 3,000 jobs went down the drain.
    What has changed since?  Haven’t  union leaders just endorsed yet more blackmail over jobs, by backing a deal that will cut the Port-Talbot steel workers’ pensions, allegedly to “save jobs”?
    The union leaders will do anything to avoid rocking the boat of their cosy partnership with the bosses.  But companies are on the offensive and will make the best of Brexit to boost their profits.  Whether they succeed or not, depends entirely on the strength of our resistance without and regardless of union leaders' involvement.  The only way we can build that resistance is to take our fate into our own hands - and prepare the kind of fight back we need, now!