Making the country fit for the gangmasters

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AT the just concluded TUC Congress, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Gordon Brown, openly condemned the description of ‘globalisation’ as ‘a race to the bottom’.

Brown insisted that the answer to globalisation lay not in trying to protect workers’ jobs but ‘in radically upgrading our skills, science and technology’.

This statement however, was just a feeble verbal smokescreen for what is really going on. In fact, Brown’s answer to globalisation is to seek to lead the race to the bottom, and to get there first. He is trying to defend what is left of British capitalism by slashing wages and jobs and by bringing in a cheap labour economy.

He is, after all, the Chancellor who allowed the advanced engineering of MG Rover to be sold to a Chinese state-owned company for a song, while one of his ministerial colleagues fended off criticism by saying that the sacked highly-skilled MG Rover engineers could get jobs at Tescos!

Brown wants a country that is truly fit for that modern phenomenon, the gangmaster, a pillar of the early days of capitalism, and now making a comeback under Labour. Everything is being done to ease the way for these profiteers and super-exploiters, as the following example illustrates.

Yesterday, the TGWU and the GMB were forced to issue a warning about the relationship of the government to the gangmasters.

The two unions said: ‘As the trial begins of five people charged in connection with the deaths of 23 cockle pickers at Morecambe Bay in 2003, two of the UK’s biggest unions, the T&G and GMB warned yesterday that pressure for the Gangmasters Licensing Authority (GLA) to limit pre-licensing inspections to those gangmasters deemed sufficiently “risky” means rogues will avoid detection and will be granted a licence to operate.

‘The unions – both members of the GLA – represent hundreds of thousands of workers in food processing and agriculture.

‘They are extremely concerned that the GLA is coming under pressure from government to water down its checking procedures and accept “risk-based audits” as the mechanism for determining who is eligible for a licence.

‘This is despite the GLA Board’s agreed position that every applicant must go through rigorous pre-licensing checks. This was unanimously agreed by the Board, which comprises of trade union, retailer, gangmaster and food industry representatives, who believe that strenuous checks are the only way to uncover illegality including fraud, enforced labour, illegal deductions from wages and health and safety breaches.’

The unions raise their concerns in a joint letter to Paul Whitehouse, Chair of the GLA.

Chris Kaufman, T&G nominee on the Board of the GLA, commented: ‘Watered-down checks will throw a lifeline to the rogues. They will then believe that they stand a reasonable chance of obtaining a licence without having to endure a thorough scrutiny process.’

Labour ministers, the political friends of the gangmasters who want a completely deregulated capitalist economy, are intervening to try to ensure that checks are minimal and are ‘throwing a lifeline to the rogues’, thus risking even more inddustrial killings such as the deaths of the 23 Morecambe Bay cockle pickers.

The position of the News Line is clear. The gangmasters must be banned, and all workers in this country must be paid trade union rates of pay. Employers who won’t must be expropriated.

The Labour government, the political friend of the gangmasters, must be removed by the trade unions and be replaced by a workers’ government carrying out socialist policies. This is the only way forward.