Workers' Fight workplace bulletin editorials, 1 Nov 2011

1 Nov 2011

Another year of economic crisis, and another year of huge pay increases for the fat cats.

According to the latest figures, directors of Britain's largest 100 companies have awarded themselves a 50% pay hike this year compared to last year - up to an average £2.7m.

While creating no value themselves, these parasites will have "earned" an income equivalent to well over 100 times what their companies pay their employees - yes, those who actually produce all their and their shareholders' wealth!

By far the best paid among these directors is the head of mining giant Xstrata, now netting over £18m/year. This may not be all that surprising considering that a many of Xstrata's mines are located in Africa, South America, Malaysia and the Philippines, where they pay overworked miners no more than a few pounds a day - if that! These fat cats feed on the blood and sweat of the poorest.

They never have enough

Compare the directors' pay rise to what we are "awarded" this year.

In the public sector, pay is frozen. This means that this year, with inflation measured according to the RPI index reaching 5.6%, public sector real pay will have been cut by the same amount!

In the private sector, official statistics show that pay deals average at 2.6% overall. This means a 3% wage cut for the workers concerned.

And these figures do not take into account agency temps whose lower pay is also likely to be frozen - and may be reduced whey they shift from one placement to another, even doing the same job.

For the bosses, inflation is not a problem: they just pass on to consumers whatever cost increases they may have. What do they care if the result is a chain reaction causing even more inflation?

On the contrary, for the capitalist class inflation is a just a means of getting the working class to pay for the crisis, by surreptitiously reducing the real cost of their wage bill on workers' backs, by keeping wage increases below inflation.

Nevertheless, this is not even enough for the bosses - they want more. The threat of outright wage cuts is back, and this time, without even the excuse of the credit crunch, as was the case in the first two years of the crisis, since the companies concerned are very big and very rich.

For instance, Ford, one of the world's richest and largest companies, has included in this year's pay offer a plan to cut wages for new starts by about 25%, starting from next April.

Even worse, the eight big companies which dominate the construction industry (Balfour-Beatty, Laing, etc..) want to cut the pay of electricians who currently work on large building sites like the Olympics, Crossrail and London's "Shard", by up to 35%, depending on their jobs!

Against wage cuts, whichever way!

For over 2 months, these construction site electricians have been staging weekly protests to stop this attack on their wages, which they refuse to take lying down! As to Ford workers, what they do about the company's attempt to cut wages will be decided in the coming week.

In any case, we cannot allow the bosses to ride roughshod over our living standards. Any attempt by bosses to cut wages should be resisted, whatever their pretext.

As to the bosses' use of inflation to erode the real value of our wages, it should be opposed with just as much determination.

This inflation is the direct result of the enormous excess of unused capital which is circulating. The capitalists won't invest in useful production. Instead, they have been hoarding their cash, wasting it on luxuries and, above all, using it for speculation, which only made their crisis worse.

Meanwhile, their politicians have been printing massive amounts of money in order to bail out the financial system from this recklessness. Their two rounds of "quantitative easing" have flooded the economy with £275bn worth of fake money, which has pushed inflation up even more.

These are the factors which have produced today's inflation in Britain - the highest in Europe. It is not due to the economy being in bad shape. It is simply due to profiteering by the tiny number of capitalists who own everything in this society.

Maybe we can't do anything about inflation itself. But when bosses award themselves 50% pay rises, when companies distribute £90bn worth of dividends to their shareholders, there is no doubt that they can pay inflation-proof, decent wages. And they should be forced to do it, since force is the only language they understand!