Socialist Worker

Jobs axe looms over industry

Issue No. 1692

Crisis threatens manufacturing

Jobs axe looms over industry

MANUFACTURING industry is being hit by a swathe of job losses, yet New Labour and trade union leaders are doing nothing. It has been officially in recession for the last three months, despite boom conditions elsewhere in the economy. Employers are screaming about the high value of the pound, which hits their ability to sell goods abroad.

Alan Johnson, the government's "minister for competitiveness" (and a former trade union leader), was expected to get a rough ride when he spoke to machine tool employers this week. The machine tool industry is a big supplier to the car industry, where bosses are threatening the wholesale devastation of communities. Ford bosses are holding the axe over the giant Dagenham plant, Honda has cut production at its Swindon plant, and Toyota bosses are worried about jobs at their plants in Derbyshire and north Wales.

Thousands of families across the Midlands are still reeling under the impact of BMW's decision to sell Rover. Rover workers face redundancy in a matter of weeks. Alchemy, the asset stripper likely to buy Rover, has made clear it will keep only a tiny handful of the workforce. The 100,000-strong march in Birmingham two weeks ago showed the potential for a fight. Workers were expecting a second mass march, this time on parliament, to be organised by their unions. Disgracefully, it has not been called. This risks throwing away a chance to build a fight to save jobs and force New Labour to nationalise Rover.


Why no action on Rover jobs?

"Our lives are going to be ruined, but time is going against us. We've got to organise another march as soon as possible. We've only got two weeks until Alchemy takes over. What is the government doing? Nothing." That was the frustration felt by one Longbridge worker at the lack of action from union leaders and the government last week.

No resistance is being organised at plant level. Union officials say action by workers would only put off a "better" buyer than Alchemy. But the alternative bid from businessman John Towers is regarded by the bosses' Financial Times as a non-starter. Even if it does beat Alchemy's bid, jobs will still be decimated. A group of workers at Longbridge collected over 700 signatures on a petition demanding a mass meeting to discuss what to do. When the petition was handed in to the works committee they showed nothing but contempt for every Rover worker facing the dole by dumping it straight into the bin.


Germans not the enemy for Clydeside workers

UP TO 12,000 jobs are at risk at the former Kvaerner shipyard on the Clyde. The yard's new owner, BAe Systems, is blackmailing the government and using the workers as political pawns. BAe bosses say that unless they get new orders for ferries from the Ministry of Defence they will kill the yard off. That would mean around 3,000 jobs could go at Govan and its sister yard at Scotstoun. Up to 9,000 more would be axed in supply industries and the local community.

Much of the press coverage blames "the Germans" for the crisis. A German yard is thought to have put in a lower bid for the ferries. Glasgow MP George Galloway says, "The idea of the Royal Navy ordering ships from Germany rather than Clydeside, which has been left a smoking ruin at the hands of the Germans before, will appall the public." This foreigner hating and British nationalism leads nowhere-except to help the bosses.

BAe systems is a hugely profitable company which has just grabbed an extra �530 million credit from the government to build an executive airliner. Instead of blaming the Germans anyone who wants to secure Clydeside jobs should be demanding that the government nationalises the yard.


Rolls strike back

BOSSES AT Rolls Royce aero engines also want to sack workers to keep profits high. Rolls bosses want to axe over 1,000 jobs. Hundreds of workers are to be axed at the end of May. Redundancy notices are to go out to workers at the Hillington plant in Glasgow next Wednesday. But 10,000 manual workers are planning resistance.

Mass meetings are to be held at every Rolls Royce plant across the country next Tuesday. Union convenors were to argue that workers should strike for the rest of the day. "This is not about a lack of work," says a Rolls worker. "There is plenty of that. Rolls made �317 million profit last year. Their bulging order book is worth �13 billion. These job cuts are all about cutting costs, but we know we are strong and we can knock them back."


Power resists

WORKERS IN the power industry also face huge job cuts. Across Scottish Power, and its subsidiary MANWEB in north west England, up to 1,700 workers could either lose their jobs or be transferred to another company. A mass meeting of Scottish Power workers was planned on Saturday to launch a ballot for action.


Ford throws more insults

CAR manufacturers were slammed this week by an official report which found they are fixing the market and overcharging by �1 billion a year. Ford is one of the main culprits. Yet despite their price fixing and money grabbing, Ford bosses continue to insult and threaten workers at their Dagenham plant. Workers have already been told they are "lazy, aggressive and insular". And last week workers got a company letter telling them to improve quality and stop taking time off sick or the plant would shut. This comes after Ford axed a whole shift and 1,500 jobs at Dagenham. Bosses won't give a final decision on the plant's future until next month.


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Fri 14 Apr 2000, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1692
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