Socialist Worker

Workers' reaction to jobs slaughter

Issue No. 1702

Workers' reaction to jobs slaughter

By Kevin Ovenden

OVER 10,000 job losses were announced across Britain last week. Retailer C&A is to shut all its stores. BAe and Corus steel are sacking thousands of workers.

Chancellor Gordon Brown talks of a "booming Britain" while hundreds of thousands of workers fear the sack and whole communities face ruin.

"This is going to devastate South Yorkshire. Hundreds of steel jobs are going and no one thinks it's going to stop there." That is how steel worker Steve Copeland described the impact of Corus steel's announcement that it is sacking over 1,000 workers at three plants in South Yorkshire.

There is a sense of shock in the area. Steve works at the Aldwarke plant, where 650 jobs are to go. "It's only a few weeks ago that management said we were on target to hit production levels," he told Socialist Worker.

"People have planned their lives around having a job with the firm. There are a lot of workers with young families and children. What are they going to do? You can see how little the management cares about us by the way the announcement of the job losses was made. We heard about it on the news. They say that if these jobs go at Aldwarke then the rest will be safe. But I think they will get rid of 650 this time, 650 next time, and the last couple of hundred after that."

Another Aldwarke steel worker told Socialist Worker, "Three years ago management announced a five year plan to raise productivity. We've gone along with it to the letter.

"Teamworking is due to come in this year. It means you do more than one job. There have been shift changes and scarcely any pay increases. We are on �8 an hour. We have sacrificed so much. Now none of us know if we are going to be among those sacked in September."

Lisa Maltby's husband works at another steel firm, Tinsley Wire. "It is nerve- racking," she told Socialist Worker. "They haven't announced job losses there, but who knows what will happen? The workers there are already working flat out. My husband's shift system means that sometimes he works a night shift, gets back at 7am, sleeps to 11am and is back at work for 12.15 to work the back shift. Imagine the stress that places on a family. And there is no guarantee they won't sack you at the end of it. The government should step in. The unions should be making a noise. I'm not sure what they should be doing. But they should be doing something."

Let politicians live like this

TENS OF thousands of jobs have gone from the mining and steel industries in South Yorkshire over the last two decades. "It seems like every day you pick up a paper and find more jobs have gone," one Corus worker told Socialist Worker.

There was contempt and anger at the New Labour government in Rotherham town centre last Saturday. Speech therapist Janice Nicholls said, "It's about time we stood up and were counted. People here are feeling downtrodden. All those promises from Labour that things would get better add insult to injury. It's feels like you're sitting on a volcano. And sooner or later volcanoes explode."

Gloria's two sons work at Corus's Aldwarke plant. "There should be a march like they had in Birmingham over Rover," she said. "The government should nationalise the steel plants. It used to be nationalised. Why can't it be again? But Blair's not Labour, is he? What does he know about working people? And don't even ask me about John Prescott."

Maria Ufton works at Jaeger's clothing plant in Rotherham. She said, "We had 30 redundancies out of 100 workers recently. You keep hearing from the government that there are jobs elsewhere. But who wants to uproot themselves and move to the other end of the country? Who could afford to move down south? We are at the mercy of people who are not happy with �1 billion and who are looking for the second billion. You don't know from one week to the next what your future will be. I'd like to see the politicians living like that."

Labour politicians, MPs and council leaders in South Yorkshire have expressed their shock at the job losses. The Labour leader of Rotherham council has called the announcement "Rotherham's Rover".

But they have not called for a fight to save the jobs. Rotherham MPs Denis MacShane and John Healey could not even get a meeting with Corus management at Aldwarke last week. Local Labour politicians are restricting their call to economic aid to ease the impact of the mass sackings, and for the government to move speedily to joining the euro. That is of no comfort to those facing the sack.

We can save jobs

THE JOBS massacre can be stopped. But it will require turning people's shock and anger into the kind of strikes and mass demonstrations that can force the government to act.

Part of building that resistance is rejecting the fake arguments of the employers and the government that workers have to pay for the crisis in industry by losing their jobs.

BAe is a hugely profitable company. Its productive capacity could be used to produce goods that people need. But BAe has thrown more resources into cut-throat competition with US arms companies.

The government could nationalise BAe along with Corus steel and other companies that are laying workers off. Trade union leaders should be putting these arguments instead of looking to negotiate compensation for the loss of jobs that will never be replaced.

Whole plant could close

BAe SYSTEMS, formerly British Aerospace, is axing 3,800 jobs. Some 850 are to go at the company's Brough plant near Hull, East Yorkshire.

Steve, who works at Brough, told Socialist Worker, "A quarter of the workforce is to go and no one knows who it will be yet. I've worked here 15 years, many people longer. There are highly skilled workers here in an area that has lost skilled jobs. Are we going to see the whole plant close?"

'We're gutted'

SOME 4,800 workers at C&A heard last week that the company is closing all 109 stores in Britain. Workers at C&A's Oxford Street branch in central London gave us their reactions: "We knew that something was coming. A couple of stores have closed already. We thought maybe there were a few more jobs to go. But we did not expect this bombshell. Half the staff in our store went last year-half. Older workers, floor managers, they were all pushed out. I thought I was lucky then because I kept my job. Now I don't feel so lucky at all. I feel gutted."

  • Sales assistant

"WE'RE shocked, we're angry, we've been lied to and betrayed. But what can we do? We've never been allowed to have a union. Now they're saying they will organise a jobs fair for us. There are people who have been here for 20 years. Who wants a jobs fair? We want a job."

  • Sales assistant

Why I'm going to Marxism

'I AM coming to Marxism to talk to like-minded people. I'm a 39 year old single parent. I suffered under the Conservatives, looked at the Labour Party and saw that they weren't going to do anything for people in my situation. I joined the Scottish Socialist Party when I read their manifesto. I stood as an SSP candidate for the local council elections.'


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Article information

Sat 24 Jun 2000, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1702
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