Workers' Fight workplace bulletin editorials - 4 January 2017

Workers' Fight workplace bulletin editorials
4 January 2017

The last year ended with champagne flowing in the City as share prices were soaring. This year started with even more joy for the capitalists, with the FTSE100 index of the largest 100 companies reaching an all-time high. Predictably, this was immediately described by Tory Brexiteers as hailing a new era of economic affluence outside the EU.

But does it? Hardly! In fact, 3/4 of these companies’ income is in dollars and euros. With the pound losing value against both currencies, their income in pounds has increased in the same proportion, and so have their profits and the dividends they pay to shareholders. Hence the scramble to buy their shares and their rising price in pounds on the stock market. Nothing to do with an improving economy!


Meanwhile, in the real world where workers live, our conditions are heading towards the bottom of the league of European countries.

This year’s train fare increase, for instance, may not look exorbitant at 1.9% for regulated fares - although for the 60% of unregulated ones, they can reach 7%. But two decades of profiteering by the private train companies have now created a situation where the percentage of earnings which some spend on season tickets is almost 4 times higher than in Germany, France, Italy or Spain!

Of course, ministers claim that “97p in every pound paid by passengers goes back into running and improving services”. Never mind that it’s out of the fares - plus the public subsidy they get out of our taxes - that the rail sharks make their profits and pay hundreds of millions in dividends!

No wonder that despite their exorbitant cost, Britain’s train services are among the most underfunded, undermanned and overcrowded in Europe, with a rolling stock which is 20 years old on average - and up to 40 years old on certain lines! No wonder too, that chronic delays, due to staff shortages and inadequate maintenance, are the source of endless misery for commuters. Such is the cost of the rail profiteers’ parasitism!


And it’s not just railway services where Britain is “leading Europe” from the bottom! Britain is in the same abject position when it comes to welfare expenditure.

In fact, this is one of the very few European countries where the share of wealth devoted to welfare expenditure has gone down since the beginning of the crisis - to the point where Britain is level with poor countries like Estonia! And since that share was already low at the beginning of the crisis, it is now the lowest among the rich European countries!

This, combined with a record level of casual employment, means that the number of working households living in poverty keeps increasing! And so does the number of those who are homeless.

Profiteering has, again, a lot to do with this. In London, for instance, 40% of homeless people are former renters who have been evicted by their private landlords - usually in order to increase rents. The other cause, of course, is the governments’ failure to build social housing for decades.

And it’s not the “starter homes” programme trumpeted by Hammond (but already announced 3 years ago by Osborne without a single house being built so far!) which will change anything when it comes to this housing crisis: at £450,000 in London (£250,000 outside), these “discounted” homes will not be for the low-paid!


Despite the politicians’ fairy tales about Brexit (“soft” or “hard” makes no difference), we will remain confronted with the same profiteering parasitism, sucking the blood out of society. And it is this parasitism that needs to be dealt with.

The various strikes which have been taking place lately - in the railways, the Post Office and next week, in the airports - show that when called upon, workers are prepared to fight.

One obstacle to fighting back and hitting the bosses’ profits may be workers' lack of confidence. But another big obstacle is the union leaders, who are more concerned with being accepted as partners by the bosses than building up their members’ confidence. This was illustrated by their failure to coordinate rail strikes - despite the fact that workers had the same grievances in all rail companies - and the repeated cancellations of planned action.

But this should just tell us that it is down to us to build up the necessary fight back which is needed to stop the profiteers’ attacks, using our own collective resources and strength. And since we’re not short of these, let’s use them!