Unite and the major trade unions must defend jobs with occupations and a general strike

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THE UK government is considering intervening in large UK companies through ‘Project Birch’ to ‘save’ the firms that are going bust by more government intervention.

The Treasury has said that this ‘last resort’ support is to be made available if a firm’s failure would ‘disproportionately harm the UK economy – meaning many small firms will be allowed to close.

A number of big firms are already demanding government help. These include Jaguar Land Rover, which is in talks to secure a £1bn loan, and Tata Steel which needs £500m just to survive.

The government has already put in place loan programmes, deferment of tax payments, and the furlough scheme which allows workers to receive 80% of their salary paid by the government. According to the latest figures, eight million workers are covered by the furlough scheme which has been extended until the end of October.

However from August, businesses will be expected to meet part of the cost of the scheme. There is now concern that many huge companies are on the brink and that millions of workers will be sacked even before the furloughing policy ends.

The projected new bailout plan, ‘Project Birch’, could involve the state taking stakes in companies, or just extending the existing loans.

The Unite union has welcomed the plan. Unite assistant general secretary for manufacturing, Steve Turner, stated: ‘There is no more time to lose if we are to prevent a tsunami of job losses from sweeping through communities this summer.

‘We still need to ensure that proposed changes to the Job Retention Scheme do not undermine a plan to recover and rebuild and that workers continue to get their wages.’ Among the mooted changes is that employers will be responsible for a contribution of up to 25 percent of the scheme’s guaranteed pay. Unite is concerned that this will trigger some employers to simply sack masses of workers.

Commenting on 23 May, Turner divided the bosses into ‘good’ and bad’. He stated: ‘While the worst employers will opportunistically sack workers and attack terms and conditions of employment, for the vast majority of good employers, where demand has crashed and cash flow is a serious and on-going concern, such a change now will leave them with few choices.’ Both ‘good’ and ‘bad’ employers will be sacking thousands, even millions, of workers this year.

Turner continued: ‘Unite is calling for a National Council for Recovery, a national alliance of political and industrial leaders to develop, plan and deliver proposals to support the nation’s recovery and renewal in the immediate and longer-term.’

Unite indicates that it would support short-time working with Turner saying: ‘What we also need, and urgently, is phase two of the Job Retention Scheme, a recovery phase to assist us rebuilding our economy, supporting flexible and short-time working while we pull the economy out of its deep freeze and attempt to stimulate demand.’

Meanwhile, Unite has had to respond to a situation where Rolls Royce is to cut 9,000 jobs globally, 3,375 of them in the UK, by the end of 2020 with more to come in 2021.

The union is also warning that BA’s shock, unilateral decision to abandon the principles and intent of the Job Retention Scheme and instead make workers redundant, undermines the work that Unite and the industry have been doing with government to secure a financial package and strategy for the entire sector spanning airlines, airports and air traffic control, as well as addressing industry-related environmental concerns.

Unite is calling upon BA to withdraw the 12,000 redundancy notices, issued ‘out of the blue’, along with a plan to renegotiate the contracts of another 30,000 workers to see if they can be reemployed!

Calling on BA’s CEO Alex Cruz to think again, the general secretary of Unite, Len McCluskey, said: ‘BA’s decision to ignore the principle and intent of the Job Retention Scheme and instead throw 12,000 workers onto the scrap heap is both unlawful and immoral.’

Capitalism remains capitalism. The jobs, wages and all of the gains of the working class will not be safeguarded by either a National Government or a National Council for Recovery designed to get the unions to agree to job cuts and wage cuts – for the national good of the bosses.

Capitalism is in its greatest world crisis ever.

The only way for the UK working class to get out of this crisis is to sack its leaders and bring in a new leadership that will organise a general strike and a socialist revolution to bring in a socialist planned economy that will provide jobs and decent wages for all.