Why we must protect manufacturing

Rover should have been nationalised – a joint venture could have been set up with the Chinese govt. But no, we can only bail out banks, not the productive real economy…

From the soon-to-be-free-online Morning Star:

Bleak aftermath of Rover closure ‘proves need to protect skilled jobs’
(Wednesday 12 November 2008)

UNITE union joint general secretary Tony Woodley warned new Labour on Wednesday that it must protect highly skilled, well-paid manufacturing jobs in light of research showing that ex-Rover workers are now earning thousands of pounds less.

Some 6,300 people lost their jobs when the Rover plant at Longbridge closed in the wake of the car firm’s collapse in 2005.

A study of the workers by the Work Foundation and Birmingham Business School showed that two-thirds earned less money now, with an average pay cut of £5,640 a year.

Mr Woodley said: “It is testimony to the resilience of the Rover workforce that the vast majority of those who found themselves out of work when Longbridge closed dusted themselves down and found new work.

“But the bald reality is that most of them were forced to abandon manufacturing, set aside their skills and take a hefty pay cut just to stay in work.

“The real lesson from the Rover experience, and one that we urge government to pay close attention to at this time of tremendous economic uncertainty, is that we must never again allow highly skilled, well-paid manufacturing jobs such as these to be lost from our communities.

“As recession grips the UK, we need our leaders to take swift and significant steps to protect our remaining manufacturing jobs. Our government must do all in its power to ensure the mistakes of Rover are not repeated.”

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Pensions threat – New Labour bows to big business?

Looks likely. The FT reports:

Moves that would weaken the protection for pension schemes are to be considered by ministers, the government will announce on Wednesday.

Rosie Winterton, pensions minister, will announce that she is bowing to a big demand of employers by consulting on changes to so-called Section 75 – which compels any business winding up a pension scheme as part of a corporate restructuring or demerger to cover fully its liabilities. The issue has become more pressing for businesses as falling stock markets have increased pensions shortfalls.

In remarks prepared for a breakfast meeting of CBI employers, Ms Winterton will say that the moves are aimed at easing the burden on scheme sponsors which are coming under strain in the current economic climate, and who “remain committed to the scheme”. The “debt on the employer” rule has been a source of irritation to business since it was enacted, with many companies complaining that it has been a barrier to corporate activity.

Section 75 – enacted in 2004 – closed a loophole that cost about 125,000 pension scheme members all or part of their retirement funds. It was prompted by the case of Maersk, the Danish shipping line, which tried to walk away from the pension liabilities of its UK subsidiary even though it remained solvent.

The original rule was adopted on an emergency basis as plunging stock markets and falling gilts yields unmasked record deficits at UK companies and after new accounting rules for the first time made the size of those deficits transparent to investors. Companies, on realising the extent of their pension debts, sought to reconfigure themselves to avoid responsibility.

Ms Winterton will say the Department for Work and Pensions has begun a four-week “informal consultation” on the matter. In her remarks, Ms Winterton is set to acknowledge that balancing the needs of employers and pension security is a delicate act. But Ms Winterton will tell the group: “If we can, we will hold a full public consultation in February and introduce any changes in October 2009.”

In anticipation of the likely backlash from pensions groups, Ms Winterton will say that the department will seek industry’s views on the options for not triggering a debt “where the employer remains committed to the pension scheme”. However, it was unclear on Tuesday night what this might mean.

The risk to government is that if the change goes wrong, more schemes could be forced to rely on the Pension Protection Fund.

BBC dishonours armed forces – fails to report majority opinion against Afghan war

Talk about state television…

Each week, more young men are coming home from the Middle East in coffins or with missing limbs and mental scars.

The BBC’s idea of a debate on the role of UK forces in occupied Afghanistan is a feeble one-sided radio “debate”.

This is the most readable part of the story on Auntie’s website:

More than two-thirds of Britons think UK troops should leave Afghanistan within a year, a BBC poll has found.

Of 1,013 people polled, 68% said troops should withdraw within 12 months, with 59% of men agreeing and 75% of women.

One assumes that the Stop the War Coalition were not even asked to put someone up, as the only panelist expressing doubts is Simon Jenkins:

“I think the government should always pay attention to public opinion, particularly in matters of war and peace. It has never received a popular mandate for this war in any realistic sense.

“It was done at the bidding of the Americans – there’s a new American president we might be able to capture something from that but he’s equally in favour of it. I just think we should pull out.”

The rest of the article is just lies about the threat of international terrorism increasing. If anything, I imagine it would decrease.

As far as I see it, only good can come of troop withdrawals.

If it were not for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq (and the occupation of six counties in Ireland):

* There would be a quicker response to floods and other natural disasters as the armed forces could be deployed for civil defence. More people would be saved, fewer homes would be damaged.

* Muslim people would be more willing to give information to the police on terrorist activities.

* The corporate newspapers would be less inclined to print Islamophobic drivel. Although, the capitalists would still use religious and ethnic differences in an attempt to divide working people…

* In both Iraq and Afghanistan, reconstruction and development could start in earnest.

It’s typical of the BBC to deny an open debate on the merits of the Afghan war – it’s the state broadcaster and was given something of a punishment beating over the Kelly affair.

The survey it conducted delivered no surprise verdict. The poll result was similar to others that have already been taken.

What’s galling is that the BBC has been through days of Remembrance broadcasting and a special season of programmes on the First World War, but has kept quiet about the pro-peace majority.

If only it would keep quiet about John fucking Hutton.