‘IT’S THE world we live in. It is the nature of modern business.’ That was the callous reaction of Tony Blair to the news that 1,000 workers, many his own constituents, are to lose their jobs. Black & Decker announced the cuts at its Spennymoor plant, right next to the prime minister’s Sedgefield constituency in County Durham. The company claims it can’t afford to keep production of power tools going at the plant. It is shifting operations to the Czech Republic to take advantage of cheaper labour.
Black & Decker is a profitable multinational, headed by one of the fattest of the global pack of fat cats. In the first six months of this year its profits actually increased by 32 percent, up to $99 million.
Nolan Archibald is the chairman, president and chief executive of the company. He pocketed a staggering $23.3 million in pay and share options last year. Workers at the plant were devastated when they heard the news of the job cuts. ‘They told us production was safe,’ Lynn Heslington told the local Northern Echo newspaper. ‘So much for promises.’
The whole area had already been hammered by the shutdown of the mines, which used to be the key industry throughout County Durham. John Carter lives in the town. He told local journalists, ‘I worked at a number of mines and lost my job.’ Now he says of the Black & Decker job cuts, ‘This will kill Spennymoor.’
SPENNYMOOR IS a town of just 20,000 people. The town and the region have already been devastated by a swathe of closures in recent years.
BLACK & Decker has been bitterly hostile to trade unions, its hired goons even chasing union organisers off the Spennymoor site. Union officials in the area last week condemned the job cuts. Some said that if the unions had been recognised then at least they would have been ‘consulted’ over the job cuts.
Consultation will not stop the jobs massacre, nor will it build the unions. A fight will. Demonstrations, protests and best of all occupying the factory could galvanise the bitterness at the seemingly endless job cuts. It could create the political pressure on Blair to force his government to intervene.
HARLAND AND Wolff, the Belfast-based shipbuilder, is cutting its staff by two thirds to just over 100. At one time the yard had 35,000 workers. The chair of the unions’ senior shop stewards at Harland and Wolff said, ‘It is going to be worse than we thought. Without a doubt, shipbuilding in Belfast is dead.’
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