Rover gives a warning on the future of Corus
Bosses and some politicans are telling Corus steel workers on Teesside that the only way to save jobs is to look towards a buy-out by a private equity consortium. The workers should remember what happened at Rover Longbridge in Birmingham after a similar takeover.
The factory employed 40,000 workers at its height. Its closure in 2005 decimated the area.
Today the whole site has been razed to the ground but the promised “regeneration” is nowhere to be seen.
Staff paid a high price for the closure of Longbridge. Debt, repossessions and family breakdown were common.
There were even suicides and one longstanding worker collapsed and died on hearing that he had lost his job.
Some 6,300 people lost their jobs when the plant closed.
Around 90 percent have since found new jobs, but two thirds are in “service sector” jobs with median incomes of 22 percent less than they earned at Longbridge.
That means that, on average, each of these workers earns £6,000 less per year than they did at Longbridge.
Ten years ago, when the plant came under threat of closure, 100,000 Rover workers and their supporters marched to save it.
Their unions squandered the mood for a fightback. Instead, they placed all their hopes in the Phoenix consortium, which bought Longbridge from BMW for just £10.
Workers were still prepared to fight. In 2003 they voted to strike over pay, but the union leaders didn’t act on the vote.
The dodgy gang of four at Phoenix profited from Longbridge’s closure. They siphoned off £42 million for themselves in “wages” and pensions before it collapsed.
The collapse of Phoenix paved the way for the Nanjing Automotive Company to asset strip and move equipment and production to China.
There was an alternative to Phoenix, and it lay with workers at the Longbridge plant. Socialists inside the plant and their supporters called for an occupation of the plant and demanded that New Labour nationalise Rover.
A successful occupation could have mobilised support from the 100,000 who marched in solidarity with Rover workers.
Corus workers, the 50,000 Birmingham city council workers facing cuts and the 8,000
Land Rover workers, who are constantly told they could suffer the same fate, should know that the defeat at Longbridge was not inevitable.
An alternative hung in the balance.
More voices calling for strikes and occupation can tip the scales in our favour this time around.
Louise Rathbone, Birmingham
Fighting spirit grows at King’s College
I am 26 years old and a new employee at King’s College in London.
I’ve been greatly encouraged by the vibrant and militant campaign at the college against cuts in education.
Although I am only on a six-month fixed-term contract, I have joined the union and have become a shop steward in my first eight weeks.
It is important to join the union because short-term contracts will probably become the norm should the cuts and restructuring be driven through.
This is why we need to fight back with collective, class-based actions.
Making us beholden to short-term contracts is not a financial necessity. It is about undermining workplace struggles and intimidating workers from organising against the bosses.
Having previously been unemployed for six months, I am not willing to go quietly back to the job centre.
I am here—and I will struggle to instill a fighting spirit in my workplace.
Even if my contract is not renewed, I hope the movement continues with the fightback.
Librarian, King’s College
The strike in defence of education at King’s on 30 March exceeded all expectations. More than 250 people joined loud and vibrant picket lines.
Members of other unions brought refreshments to colleagues on strike. Cafes displayed UCU union material.
Students brought cakes for pickets, played musical instruments, set up stalls and hung a huge banner reading “Education massacre: do not enter.” Messages of support flooded in.
If we stand together we can defend our education system from the ministers and managers who want to turn it into a marketplace.
We are preparing for further action. Send messages of support to firstname.lastname@example.org
Jim Wolfreys, President, King’s College UCU
The bosses are the wreckers, not strikers
The bosses’ response to Labour’s proposal to increase national insurance contributions is outrageous.
They are threatening to cut our jobs if they are forced to pay up, making disgusting references to public services as “waste” that should fall under the axe.
They are more than happy to slash our hospitals, education and welfare systems to keep their noses in the trough.
Labour’s response was a cringing attempt to deflect the argument by saying that the Tories had deceived the bosses over the impact of the planned national insurance rise.
Whoever gets elected has the same agenda—to cut our services. Our agenda has to be to organise to defend our services, and make the bankers and bosses pay for their greed and incompetence.
Public sector workers are angry and bitter about cuts. That anger blew up in our college last year when management tried to cut jobs and crucial teaching provision while sitting on £6 million in “reserves”.
We went on all-out strike for 21 days and achieved an undreamed-of victory. Leeds refuse workers and sacked workers at Visteon also made gains against all the odds.
This is a glimpse of what is possible. The desire to fight is there—it’s a matter of when, not if.
Alison Lord, Tower Hamlets College UCU union branch (pc)
Bill is music to ears of big business
Socialists and those on the left should oppose the digital economy bill.
This new legislation, which has just been rushed through parliament, includes the ability to cut people’s internet off if they are found to have participated in file sharing—the distribution of downloaded music, films, books and so on.
The government argues that file sharing is an infringement of copyright and is therefore stifling the music and film industry.
They say they are protecting performers, writers and artists, but in reality this is a bosses’ law set on making inordinate amounts of money out of art.
The bosses and those in government backing the bill don’t care a jot for workers involved in music, film and art.
If the big wigs of record labels really cared about music and artistic integrity, they wouldn’t give such narrow briefs to artists in order to sell more and more records.
The provision to suspend people’s internet connection on the basis of “copyright infringement” will just punish those enjoying a number of art forms by making the most of advancements in technology.
Simon Byrne, Surrey
BA millions at our expense
The truth is out—BA bosses are fat cats.
BA chiefs have already cost the company up to £800 million in a price fixing scandal, fines and the T5 opening debacle. Now they are to get a £3 million share windfall.
Meanwhile workers are expected to work harder and have their working conditions changed to pay for this.
Yes Willie, you can sleep soundly in your bed knowing that, when you are finally got rid of, you will go with a massive over-inflated golden handshake.
BA bosses are just like this government—the buck doesn’t stop with them.
Sue, by email
Brown rejects redistribution
Thanks for your centre pages last week that showed how much could be raised by taxing the rich.
I was amused to see that Gordon Brown was wrongfooted in the Commons last week.
Veteran socialist Bob Wareing MP asked him if he thought it was “time that we went back to traditional Labour policy—to redistribute wealth in favour of poorer people.”
Brown dodged the question! If he was in favour of such a policy Labour might do much better.
Anna Sanders, North London
Posties won’t stand for EDL
Post workers from Dudley delivery office contacted their CWU union to ask for advice concerning their safety when the racist English Defence League (EDL) marched on 3 April.
Branch officials told workers not to deliver in areas where they felt their safety would be compromised.
A union spokesperson said, “It’s a sad day when the streets of Britain are no longer safe due to Nazi thugs roaming around in packs trying to intimidate law abiding citizens.”
Dave Jones, Wolverhampton
Appeal from Roy Mayall
Hello, I’m the postal worker and blogger who had some success last year with my book, Dear Granny Smith.
I’ve been invited by Comment is Free on the Guardian webpage to write a blog over the election from the point of view of public sector workers in general, and postal workers in particular.
If anyone has any interesting observations to make, any gossip or information, please feel free to contact me.
My email address is email@example.com
Roy Mayall, by email
The EU won’t help Greece
The neoliberal leaders of the European Union have no right to tell the Greek people what to do about the economic crisis (Socialist Worker, 27 March).
The EU has sought to liberalise the economy and open services to competition.
This deregulated system is the root of the problem.
Only the Greek working class should decide the fate of Greece.
Graeme Kemp, Shropshire
A useful site for housing
I would like to inform Socialist Worker readers of a housing website I have set up called » www.indoubt.co.uk It attempts to provide a researched overview of the Decent Homes scam. It is especially for council tenants faced with a transfer ballot.
Michael Barratt, Crawley
Gimme a car Mr Brown!
There are 14,000 cars sitting on an airstrip waiting to be destroyed.
These cars are the victims of the scrappage scheme.
It’s a disgraceful waste—why can’t the government give them to people who need them?
Jane Orchard, Halifax