The Socialist 10 December 2008 |
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Stop job cuts
Share out the work
For a 35-hour week with no loss of pay.
Create more jobs
Nationalise job-shedding companies. For massive investment in public housing and infrastructure projects.
Many people, fearful of losing their jobs, no doubt feel like cancelling Christmas and putting New Year celebrations on hold.
Elaine Brunskill, Northern region Socialist Party secretary
The grim reality of the credit crunch is now impacting on a growing number of workers and their families. Thousands are facing job losses or an enforced shorter working week as the economic crisis spreads from the City to the high street, building sites and factories.
Ford, General Motors, Honda, Nissan and Toyota have all announced job cuts or temporary shutdowns at UK plants. BT has said 10,000 posts are to be slashed - many of those in the firing line will be agency and contract workers, some of whom have worked for years for BT.
Almost 30,000 Woolworths staff are facing layoffs. Woolworths pensioners are also facing an uncertain future as the group's pension fund has a £100 million deficit. Woolworths trustees have agreed to pay £50 million but, even if they get this, pensioners will have to stand in line with other creditors to claw the rest back.
In construction, workers have been warned to brace themselves for an 'avalanche of job losses'. Some building companies have already laid off up to 40% of their workforce.
According to The Independent, unemployment "could easily reach three million by the Christmas after next". That would mean over one tenth of workers being out of work.
Workers threatened with redundancies will often have large mortgages, soaring utility bills and a mountain of debt accumulated during the 'boom years' when low wages pushed many of us into using loans and credit cards to maintain a half-decent lifestyle.
In the US also, growing numbers are being thrown out of work. In November more Americans lost their job than in any month for 34 years. Bank of England policy advisor David Blanchflower has said: "What happens in the US tends to be repeated six to nine months later in Britain."
The 'Big Three' car manufacturers, Chrysler, General Motors and Ford, have approached the US Congress for a $34 billion bailout. Will Hutton commented in The Observer that: "This is more than an appeal for a bail-out: it is American capitalism and society at a crossroads".
Certainly, the increasing number of job losses, following the banking failures, is a huge ideological blow for free-market capitalism.
The attacks on our jobs, wages and conditions must be met with an organised fightback. Trade unions should demand that companies that are sacking workers and attacking conditions should open their books for scrutiny. We should be able to see where all the bumper profits of the boom years have gone.
When workers are facing redundancies, unions should demand a 35-hour week to share out work with no loss of pay. Any company that refuses to cooperate with these demands should be nationalised under democratic workers' control, with compensation to shareholders given only on the basis of proven need.
This should be the starting point for securing the future of working-class and young people, one free from the failures of the market economy. We need to fight for a democratic socialist society.