THE ANNOUNCEMENT this week by the aircraft engine manufacturer Rolls Royce that it is to slash 4,600 jobs in the UK as part of its ‘major shakeup’ of the business is yet another blow to the Tory boasts about British capitalism thriving and creating a veritable paradise of near full employment for workers.
The announcement by Rolls, including the threat of compulsory redundancies, follows hard on the heels of the announcement by Britain’s largest surviving car manufacturer Jaguar Land Rover (JLR), owned by the Indian multi-national Tata Group, that it was shifting production of the best-selling Discovery model from the West Midlands to a plant in Slovakia, putting hundreds of jobs at risk.
These losses come on top of cuts of 1,000 jobs that JLR announced would go last April following its profits slump this year to £364 million pre-tax – a massive drop of nearly 50% over the profit of £676 million the previous year. These are just two of the latest examples of the continuing destruction of well-paid secure jobs as manufacturing in Britain is being smashed up.
In the past decade, over 600,000 jobs in the sector have been lost from every region in the country.
According to a study by the GMB union in 2007, there were 3.5 million permanent and temporary jobs in industry, over 12% of all British employment. By 2016, this figure had shrunk to just 2.9 million, leading the GMB national officer Jude Brimble to warn: ‘We are at a critical crossroads in UK manufacturing.’
He went on to say: ‘The right support for our manufacturing sector would accelerate growth, address the skills gap and provide a much-needed boost to technology, production and exports.’
This is the attitude of the trade unions, that the complete destruction of the manufacturing industry can be reversed if only the government gives some ‘support’.
This begs the question, what are the unions going to do to fight for the jobs of their members?
In 2016, Tata made over 1,000 workers redundant in its steel plants across south Wales and in Corby and Hartlepool, leading to a massive call from the workers for action to prevent the looting and closure of the steel industry.
The Tories, fearful of the demands of workers for action to save the industry, tried to defuse this explosive situation by pledging hundreds of millions of pounds of subsidy to Tata. With the guarantee of taxpayers’ money, Tata then embarked on a programme of cuts and closures. This was the ‘support’ that was given and was gratefully seized upon by the trade union leaders to avoid any real fight to keep the steel industry and prevent the loss of thousands of jobs. It didn’t save a single job.
The crisis is even more acute today as US president Donald Trump makes good his pledge to wage trade war against America’s rivals.
The effect of Trump’s 25% tax on steel and aluminium imports and his threat to single out cars imported from Britain and the EU spells the destruction of manufacturing industry. Indeed, all manufacturing industry will be completely wiped out in Britain and across Europe as a result of capitalism seeking to dump its crisis firmly on the backs of the working class through mass unemployment and poverty levels of subsistence. This is the only future capitalism can offer workers and young people; it is a system that can no longer support any real life for workers and it deserves to perish.
Across the world, workers are rising up against capitalist austerity and coming to the realisation that the only way to protect any job today is to expropriate the bosses and multinationals and place these industries under the control of the working class as part of a planned socialist economy.
In Britain, this means workers demanding the union leaders stop collaboration over job cuts and instead lead a real fight of occupations to prevent plant closures and a mass campaign to force the TUC to call a general strike to remove the Tories and bring in a workers government that will advance to a socialist society. This is the only way to defend jobs and wages.