Workers' Fight workplace bulletin editorials - 6 October 2021

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6 October 2021

It was symbolic that on the day the prime minister gave his florid and mendacious (i.e., lying!) show-biz speech to an (apparently) adoring Conservative Party conference, his government cut the £20 per week uplift in Universal Credit - hitting the poorest households in the country.

    Yes, this extra £20 - only given because so many from the middle class suddenly needed welfare benefits during the lock-down -is indispensable to workers in temp jobs and on poverty pay. And anyway, it isn’t enough. The “uplift” was in itself an admission that social benefits were too low - among the lowest in the developed world.

    The same goes for the minimum wage, which the government euphemistically calls its “national living wage”. This £8.91/hour for over 23s - i.e., poverty pay -is what has dragged wages down and nothing else!

    But in Johnson’s incredible “Alice through the looking-glass world”, up becomes down, right becomes left and reality flies out of the window!

   So according to Johnson, low pay is not due to his set-low minimum wage, but the fact that bosses actually pay it, no less! And, he says, this results in a distorted, low-pay, low productivity economy - which has nevertheless acted as a magnet, attracting “workers from abroad”!

    And now, having “got Brexit done”, Johnson has fixed this, by ending free movement of labour and preventing foreign workers from taking such outrageous advantage of these low wages!

Johnson’s capitalism on one island 

Yes, the world has turned completely upside down. The government, which froze railway workers’ pay and which offers NHS staff a pay cut, is calling for higher pay! British bosses are told to overcome their ”addiction to cheap labour from abroad” and pay and train local workers to do the jobs which used to be done by EU workers... like HGV truck driving...

    Conspicuous by its absence is any mention of the critical shortage of 200,000 NHS and social care workers! This, in the context of 5.7m people waiting for urgent hospital treatment and the collapse of the NHS.

    Many sectors, including health and social care, have been relying heavily on immigration from the EU for years. And it’s obvious why. The British workforce has contracted, declined and aged. There was no other way to make up numbers, let alone supply new blood, skills and energy, other than through immigration! 

    So where are the necessary workers going to come from? Prisoners have already been mobilised by the meat industry! What’s next? Compulsory conscription of labour? 

    But Johnson has spelled it out: “levelling up” means replacing the free movement of labour across the whole of Europe, with free movement of workers on one small island... How “free” would that be?

Brexit will continue to haunt them

The government also keeps totally dumb over the ongoing Brexit hit to the economy. Like, for instance, the relegation of London’s City, which has already lost its role in world finance. London’s 2006 share listings represented 10.6% of global shares; today it’s 3.6%.

    What’s more, the attraction of Britain for companies to invest was precisely the low wage, low tech environment, allowing them to squeeze out higher profits - but on the basis of EU access, which they no longer have.

    Indeed, Johnson’s “new model, high tech economy” is pure hot air. It can no more be taken seriously than the pledges he makes that his backward-looking, reactionary and anti-immigrant party will oppose misogyny.

    For now the working class, faced with the looming crisis, exacerbated by Brexit, the pandemic and Johnson’s “little island” austerity, can only rely on its own collective forces to ensure it wins the pay it needs.