LAST week it was announced by BAE systems, the private defence company, that the shipbuilding industry was to be closed down in Portsmouth and slashed to ribbons on the Clyde with 1,776 full time jobs and 170 agency workers being laid off.
At the time of this announcement, the company stated ‘Subject to consultation with trade union representatives, the company proposes to consolidate its shipbuilding operations in Glasgow.’
The response from the main unions representing shipyard workers, Unite and the GMB, was summed up by the Unite national officer responsible for the industry who said:
‘Unite will be working very hard to retain the maximum number of jobs at both Portsmouth and in Scotland.
‘It is a huge blow to Britain’s manufacturing and industrial base, with many highly skilled workers faced with losing their jobs.’
Both Unite and the GMB avoided any call for action to defend jobs.
Yesterday, the fruits of their two-day consultation were revealed when it emerged that not a single job has been saved in Portsmouth, where 1,110 jobs are going, or in either of the two shipyards on the Clyde where 850 jobs are declared redundant.
So much for working hard to retain the maximum number of jobs – BAE have achieved exactly the result they wanted and the union leadership have achieved precisely nothing for all their ‘constructive’ approach of sitting down with the bosses and selling out thousands of jobs without even the pretence of a struggle.
The small straw being grasped by the unions is that the cuts will be scheduled over three years and that voluntary redundancies will be sought by the company which, in the words of the GMB Govan convener, ‘eased the pain slightly’. he added: ‘We’ll all stay unified and we’ll all stay dignified and that’s what will take us through.’
This admission of helplessness reflects the outright refusal of the leadership of Unite and the GMB to lead any kind of fight to defend jobs.
All this ‘suffering with dignity’ is a cover-up for the fact that the leaders of the two most powerful unions in the country have given up without even an attempt to fight for the jobs of their members and in the process presiding over the destruction of jobs for future generations.
This exposes the sheer hypocrisy of leaders like Paul Kenny, GMB national secretary, who on Wednesday issued a press release headed ‘GMB Call for Action on 2.47m Jobless’.
The action Kenny was calling for turned out to be for the Tory-led coalition government to do something, not for the trade union movement to take action to fight for jobs.
He wrote: ‘The (government’s) Autumn statement should address mass youth unemployment because if it is allowed to continue there will be a lost generation with long-term economic and social consequences.’
But the government has made it absolutely clear this week that the only issue, it intends to address is how to smash up workers’ jobs and pay not just for the next few years but permanently.
This is what bankrupt capitalism today is demanding – that the working class bear the full brunt of the capitalist crisis – and these union leaders are fully in agreement.
So tied are they to capitalism that they are going along with every cut, every job loss and every privatisation with barely a murmur of protest.
They are fully prepared to engage ‘constructively’ with Cameron’s plan to smash every gain made by workers and drive them back to the conditions that existed before trade unions were built.
The time is over-ripe for these lackeys of capitalism to be kicked out of the unions and replaced by a leadership that is prepared to fight, that is prepared to mobilise the huge strength of the working class in a general strike to bring down the government and go forward to a workers government and socialism.
Only the WRP is fighting for this policy. Come to our News Line/Trotsky anniversary rally next Sunday (see ad pg3) and join our party. It is the only party that has a policy for how the working class must deal with the capitalist crisis by bringing an end to capitalism and removing its ruling class of bosses and bankers.