THE UK’s largest car maker, Jaguar Land Rover (JLR), yesterday announced a massive pre-tax loss of £354 million for the six months to September this year.
The response of JLR to this catastrophic loss was to announce that it was embarking on a turnaround plan to cut 2.5 billion pounds and make the company ‘leaner and more efficient to weather the storm’. These savings can only be made by huge numbers of job cuts and plant closures.
Already JLR have laid off 1,000 agency workers at its Solihull plant this year while in September more than 3,000 workers at its Castle Bromwich site were put on a three-day week up to Christmas while 10,000 workers at Solihull are currently in the middle of a compulsory two-week holiday.
JLR management have been at the forefront of the campaign to reverse the referendum result to leave the EU issuing threats of mass job losses and closures in the event of Brexit but it is clear that it is not leaving the EU that is causing a crisis that threatens to close down JLR for good but the bankruptcy of British capitalism.
Nissan shed hundreds of jobs at its Sunderland plant earlier this year while Vauxhall announced it was terminating the contracts of all its 326 dealerships in Britain which employ more than 12,000 people due to falling sales.
The motor industry has always been used as a barometer of the health of capitalist manufacturing industry. New car sales in Britain plunged earlier this year by 15.7% compared to 2017. JLR and the motor industry are just the tip of the iceberg; the entire manufacturing industry in Britain is on the point of collapse.
On the same day that JLR announced its losses new figures were released showing that factory output in the UK was falling even further and that manufacturing was set to shrink over the next few months, hit by a drop in orders.
This collapse of manufacturing industry is being attributed by the companies to the ‘uncertainties’ over Brexit and the trade war being waged by US capitalism against all its rivals.
But the truth is that UK manufacturing has been rapidly declining over decades – in the last decade the average rate of growth of the UK economy has been no more than 1.1% a year. In the 1980s, the Tory government of Margaret Thatcher declared that Britain didn’t need a manufacturing base, that British capitalism would in future prosper from relying solely on the service sector, especially the financial service sector of banks and financial services.
The Tory dream was of a capitalist Britain free from manufacturing industry with a powerful working class organised in trade unions, but a nation that would prosper from the wealth created by retail and banking ‘trickling down’ to the rest of us.
Today, not only is manufacturing collapsing but the whole retail sector is in massive crisis, with large high street companies like Toys ’R’ Us and BHS going bust and even Marks and Spencer closing down stores and laying off workers. More than 200 UK shopping centres are in danger of falling into administration according to the National Retail Research organisation.
Many of those at risk are owned by US private equity firms who jumped on the bandwagon of shopping centres and are now bailing out as all the years of austerity have meant that people simply don’t have the money to spend.
As for the banks, rather than any wealth created ‘trickling down’, when they went bust in 2008 it was the working class that was forced to bail them out through the savage austerity cuts that are now collapsing what remains of manufacturing and retail industries.
The working class must demand that the unions take action to defend every single job that is under threat from this collapse of British capitalism into bankruptcy. They must organise strikes and occupations to prevent closures and job losses and above all organise a general strike to kick out the Tories and bring in a workers government that will nationalise all industry along with the banks and place them under the management of workers as part of a planned socialist economy.