Socialist Worker

Job cuts to cash in on the crisis

Issue No. 1769

'YOU'RE SACKED.' That's the blunt message tens of thousands of workers are getting from their bosses. Behind official talk of pulling together behind the 'war on terrorism' a growing number of firms are ramming through savage job cuts.

This comes on top of thousands of jobs axed in response to the crisis already sweeping the aviation industry before the 11 September attacks in the US. The economic gloom is not confined to the aviation industry, and is far deeper than a reaction to the attacks in the US. Car giant General Motors is to announce plans this week to slash production by 15 percent across Europe.

In Britain construction firm John Laing saw its shares crash to half their value last week. The boss resigned as the company was forced into emergency financial measures to try and stave off crisis.

The move could spark a wider crisis in the building industry, where tens of thousands of workers would be thrown out of work. Manufacturing industry in Britain has been in recession for months, with output down by over 3 percent this year. The MSF union has just warned that 100,000 manufacturing jobs could go between now and Christmas.

High-tech industries like computing and electronics are already shedding jobs. Thales, the multinational electronics firm, announced last week it was shutting its plant at Bracknell in Berkshire, throwing almost 500 workers on the dole. Lucent, the multinational telecom equipment firm, is sacking 500 of its workers in Britain.

Marconi, the former GEC industrial giant, has already planned thousands of job cuts, as the firm was hit by the enormous global slump in the telecom equipment industry. Now even worse could be in store. Marconi shares have been declared all but worthless on the money markets amid fears that the firm could go bust.

Thousands of workers will be fearing their jobs could be the price demanded to try and stave off bankruptcy. Chemical giant ICI could also be in trouble. The firm was until recently one of the success stories of Britain's manufacturing industry.

ICI's problems stems from declining sales of products like food flavourings, indicating wider problems than anything resulting from the attacks on the US.

ICI has debts greater than the company's market value. Rolls-Royce is another manufacturing giant in trouble. Across manufacturing 'the situation is going to get worse' in the coming months, warned the Engineering Employers Federation this week.

At Labour Party conference John Edmonds, leader of the GMB union, said, 'Companies are using the crisis to justify redundancies when their only purpose is to boost profits.' He is right. But more than words are needed.

Union leaders should be demanding and urging action to save jobs, not letting bosses use the fog of war to get away with sacrificing workers' livelihoods to bolster profits.


Shorts betrays 2,000

THOUSANDS OF workers in East Belfast were stunned last week as one of Northern Ireland's biggest manufacturing employers warned of massive job cuts.

Shorts, the aircraft manufacturer owned by the Canadian Bombardier multinational, announced that up to 2,000 jobs at its plant are to go. Some 890 jobs will go by February, with more to go in the months afterwards.

The move comes as a hammer blow to a workforce who are already reeling from job losses. Shorts and nearby Harland and Wolff have been the key manufacturing employers in East Belfast for generations. Harland and Wolff has been axing jobs for years, and in the last two years has further cut the workforce from 1,500 to just 500.

'The workers are gutted,' said Kevin Macadam of the MSF union at Shorts after last week's shock announcement. 'I know a couple of young lads who started there recently and have just taken out mortgages. What will happen to them now?' said Sam McClelland who lives on the nearby Newtonards Road and recently retired from Shorts after 30 years there.

'This will be devastating not just for the people of this area but for the whole of Northern Ireland,' said Margaret Balloch, who also lives on Newtonards Road.


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Article information

Features
Mon 1 Oct 2001, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1769
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