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Capitalism :: Shell
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"Our basic wage is £31,800 and we've asked for £36,000 for a 45-hour working week, working shifts. That will still put us £2,000 to £3,000 behind workers in the rest of the industry.
"In 1998, when Shell outsourced the transport, drivers' pay was cut by 25% within two days. We were basically told there was a one-off payment, and if you want the job then come back on Monday to start again with new terms and conditions. The money dropped down to £18,500 a year.
"Over the last ten years we've fought to get back to £31,800, but it's not been easy. What we did lose in the process was the rest of the package. We lost the pension; we lost the canteen, the free meals, free drinks. All those nice things went." Some drivers now do not have lockers, which is a legal requirement.
Shell management now say that they are not a transport company but just an oil refining and exploration company. "Yet if they don't have the transport they can't sell the product," said Gary. "We're at the front line."
Another dispute could take place over pensions: "We've told Shell that we want them to hold the purse strings to the fund, so that when the contractor changes, the fund stays. They could save £2 million a year by putting us back on the Shell pension scheme."
Gary said the drivers were quite determined to win: "This dispute could go on for weeks. We could go and earn the same money, without all this grief, somewhere else. If we don't win this we could walk away."
"SHELL OWNS the land so they've closed the road," was a security guard's explanation for why 55 peacefully and legally striking tanker drivers were surrounded by four road blocks and dozens of police! The right to free speech and free association seemed in short supply at Shell's Stanlow oil refinery on Merseyside.
While strikers were corralled behind police barriers, at 6am the only vehicles moving were from the press, the police and a few workers for the industrial estate. No tankers were moving at all. This solid demonstration of workers' economic power is a reminder too that our remaining democratic rights are not safe in the hands of the state forces or of politicians whose strings are pulled by the likes of Shell.
A THOUSAND revving motorbikes, lorries, cars, Land Rovers, and an ice cream van made for a different kind of demonstration! The soaring cost of fuel forced road transport workers to protest in Manchester on 4 June, demanding the government act.
"I drive a black cab," explained spokesperson Paul Redfern. "Doing 100 miles used to cost me £18, now it's more like £28-30. We want the price of fuel brought down, the tax taken off, we just want to be in line with the rest of Europe." Tax makes up 67p of the £1.15 cost of a litre of British petrol and a similar proportion of the cost of diesel. In Ireland, the tax take is an equivalent of 35p, in Spain it's 31p.
With the price of fuel leading to job losses across the industry, another worker adds: "I'm worried about my job." Echoing those fears, the Transport & General Workers' Union section of Unite is calling for a rebate on diesel tax for 'essential users', to avoid smaller companies being bankrupted, workers losing jobs and wages being driven down.
Taxing workers and small companies into bankruptcy will do nothing to combat climate change. The government's argument tries to fill the hole left by tax cuts for big business, continued tax evasion by the super-rich, and £ billions spent both on wars and the privatisation of public services.
No more rip-off taxes! Ending tax evasion by the super-rich and reversing the cuts in corporation tax would bring in well over £30 billion every year, easily enough to fully restore the 10p tax rate four times over. Nationalise the oil companies to bring down the fuel price for essential users!
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Article dated 18 June 2008
The Socialist, weekly newspaper of the Socialist Party
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