Workers' Fight workplace bulletin editorial, 8 December 2008

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8 December 2008

After the banking sharks, the US car giants are to get their share of government largesse. The US Congress has now given its go ahead to allow the US "Big 3" - General Motors, Chrysler and Ford - to share £23bn of public funds, including an immediate £10bn cash injection.

Officially, this bounty is designed to "protect" a million jobs, which depend directly or indirectly on the 3 companies in the US. However, this is a blatant lie. In fact, one of the conditions for the companies to take their share of the loot, is that they present a "restructuring and savings" plan - in other words, large cuts in jobs and wage "costs", such as health insurances and pensions.

Enough of these bailouts on our backs!

In Britain too, car industry bosses are putting pressure on the government to give them access to the state coffers.

But why should they be bailed out, after all these years of sweating so much profit out of our labour? Especially as, just as in the US, this will do nothing to protect jobs: haven't the car sharks already begun to slash jobs and impose lay offs, meaning worse conditions and lower income for the remaining workers?

Why are the billions accumulated by giants like Ford, Vauxhall, Honda, Nissan, etc., and their shareholders, not used, instead, to ensure that all workers retain their jobs across the industry? After all, if car sales are falling, it is due to rising job cuts and hardship among potential buyers. Why should the bosses get state aid only to increase the problem by slashing more jobs?

Even car parts companies could be made to pay their share in bailing out their own system. Contrary to common belief, many of these companies are part of wealthy financial empires. This is shown by the two latest cases of parts plants going to the wall last week.

Wagon Automotive UK went bust, threatening 500 jobs in the West Midlands. Allegedly this is because RBS and Lloyds refused a £10m loan to Wagon. As if Brown could not read the riot act to these state-controlled banks! But, on top of that, this is petty cash for Wagon, which employs 4,500 workers across Europe. And even more so for its main shareholder, US multi-billionaire Wilbur Ross. If Brown managed to freeze Iceland's UK assets using anti-terrorist laws, why can't Wagon's shareholders' UK assets be frozen to stop them from using terrorist methods against workers' jobs?

Likewise for the 200 jobs which are threatened at Linamar's car parts factory in Swansea. Canadian-owned Linamar is no small fry, with 37 plants across the world and a £1.5 billion turnover. Why shouldn't it be made to use its huge resources to maintain these workers' livelihoods?

The profit sharks must pay!

Over past months, the car industry has been allowed to cut jobs right, left and centre. In particular, temps were told their contracts would not be renewed, when they were not marched out of the gates by security, without warning, as happened at Ford Dagenham. How can this be allowed, at a time when jobs are so scarce?

Much responsibility for this lies with union leaders who did nothing to get bosses to make all temps permanent. To retain their cosy relationship with companies, they underwrote the use of casual workers, thereby dividing our ranks. And now, far from organising resistance against the attacks on jobs, casual or permanent, they justify them!

So after Jaguar-Land Rover announced that it was planning to sack 850 temps at the end of November, all that Unite's national office could find to say was that "it's more important than ever for the government to take direct action to make low cost loans available to the car industry."

But since when is it the role of workers' organisations to hold the bosses' begging bowl for them, in front of their trustees in government? Since when is it their role to ask the state to use the taxes that we pay to boost the bosses' profits?

It is true that "direct action" should be on the agenda, but not "direct action" by the government to increase the bosses' parasitism.

What is needed is direct action by us, workers, using our collective strength to stop the job slashers. If they are to get state aid (out of our pockets) these companies should be expropriated without compensation for their shareholders and their books should be opened for all to see how our money is used.

And this is no utopia. Crisis or not, the bosses need our labour to keep going. Neither they, nor the government would withstand a determined counter-offensive from our ranks. And to prepare for this, reviving the principle that "an injury to one is an injury to all" is our best defence against the profit sharks and their crisis.