Brave Vestas workers are sacked – but the fight goes on

For over a week now Vestas workers on the Isle of Wight have occupied their employer’s offices in an effort to stop the factory closing and their jobs being shipped overseas.

A workforce that wasn’t unionised, that had no experience of such a campaign, have shown how workers in England can struggle and gain support nationally (from many trade unions and environmental activist groups) and internationally (South Korean workers in the same situation have sent solidarity greetings).

These workers have now been sacked.

We need to show the government and Vestas how much this annoys us.

Our brothers and sisters in Scotland had 20,000 people marching in Kilmarnock last Sunday to protest job losses at profitable Diageo’s Johnnie Walker plants.

We can do the same for the Vestas workers!

Socialist Worker reports:

The workers have released a statement, which was read out at the protest outside the plant this evening. They said, “We all received letters to tell us that we had been sacked with no redundancy money. This has not deterred us in any way. We are now fighting for everyone else. Come to the court tomorrow. Bring your friends and family, and spread the word.”

Steve, one of the occupation’s stewards, read management’s letter to the rally. It stated that the workers had been sacked for “gross misconduct” as a result of their industrial action.

Steve said, “We will fight this all the way. We will not rest until the workers get what is rightfully theirs. They have fought for all of us. We will show the world that they are heroes.

“We have one message for the Vestas management: ‘We are here to stay.’ Please come to the court tomorrow. We will be putting on a show of strength there to show that workers in the Isle of Wight will not roll over.”

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Waterford Wedgewood’s new owner plans to outsource jobs

The company should have been given over to its workers, without whom the company is nothing. The old bosses had failed, the workers should have been given a crack of the whip – the British and Irish governments could have helped turn the firm into a workers’ cooperative. But no, both states are structured to help the rich get richer, not to keep workers in good jobs.

Now most of them will be sacked – their jobs going where the wages are cheaper, all part of the “free” trade “free” market race to the bottom. The rest will no doubt be called upon to take pay cuts – all to restore the profitability of the firm for its new owners.

We all face this situation – the fear that if our jobs aren’t exported our wages will stagnate. But if we were the owners, we wouldn’t be trying to squeeze profit out of ourselves – we’d be trying to make a living, not a killing!

This candid article is from the Financial Times, and I’ve put the pertinent information in italics and bold:

The new owner of Waterford Wedgwood plans to use the fabled but struggling ceramic and crystal tableware brands as a platform for acquisitions after cutting costs and transferring production of all but the most prestigious products overseas.

Michael Psaros, co-founder of KPS Capital Partners, said that his strategy for turning round the lossmaking company was to cut costs by streamlining its back office operations and shift more production to cheaper countries.

“It is all based on costs and we are not assuming any revenue growth to achieve profitability,” said Mr Psaros, who completed the purchase of the major assets of Waterford Wedgwood out of receivership last night. “We intend for Waterford Wedgwood to be an acquisition platform in this industry and we’re prepared to invest very significant capital in helping to grow the hell out of the business.”

The deal transferred 3,800 staff and many Waterford Wedgwood assets out of receivership, such as its Staffordshire china factory and visitor centre, and its biggest brands, including Royal Doulton and a licence to make Vera Wang pottery.

New York-based KPS, which specialises in buying troubled companies, will invest €100m (£94m). The company will be “virtually debt free”, after leaving €800m of debt and pension liabilities in receivership. The deal involved operations in 10 different countries, including the US, Japan, Australia and Singapore.

KPS is not buying any assets in Ireland except the stock of products. Mr Psaros said 173 of the 480 staff in Ireland would continue to work, but they would be employed by the receivers, not the new company. A consortium of local Waterford-based businessmen are in talks with the Irish government to fund construction of a new crystal factory in the area. Mr Psaros described the existing factory as “a dinosaur manufacturing plant”.

Mr Psaros said the company was already moving its Waterford crystal production to Germany and Slovakia, and its Wedgwood and Royal Doulton china production to a factory in Indonesia. But he said “it didn’t do it fast enough”.

“We are going to accelerate transfer of activity from the UK to Indonesia,” he said. “Indonesian labour is 85 per cent cheaper than the UK. But the real works of art and highest-end products will still be done in Barlaston.”

Proof, if needed, that offshoring is bad for workers

Auntie reports:

The pay and prospects of junior IT support staff in the UK have stagnated as services have been relocated to India, research has suggested.

Annual salaries at the lowest end of the industry have not risen in five years, according to the Association of Technology Staffing Companies (ATSCO).

The “offshoring” of low-skilled jobs to cheaper locations in Asia has deterred people from entering the industry.

This risked leaving a shortage of candidates for UK managerial positions.

Less experience

According to ATSCO’s annual skills survey, which compares salaries across more than 75% of the industry, average pay for low-skilled front-line staff has stalled at £18,000 for five years.

By contrast, pay for managers has risen by more than 20% over the period.

The offshoring trend is threatening to deprive the UK IT industry of entry-level staff with the potential, one day, to become managers, the report said.

This is a particular worry, ATSCO said, because senior project management and advisory positions have remained in the UK even when operational roles have been transferred.

Despite concerns about poor customer service and data security lapses in offshore operations, few UK firms have repatriated their technical support teams, it added.

The report predicted that the teams would only be brought back to the UK when the salaries of Indian workers start to match those of their UK counterparts.

‘Bottom rung’

Despite growing wage inflation in India for skilled workers, this is unlikely to happen for some time.

“It is like removing the bottom rung of the ladder,” said Ann Swain, ATSCO’s chief executive, of the drift of jobs out of the UK.

“The shortage now is of candidates with a few years experience looking for second and third jobs. But how do you get that experience if entry-level jobs are being sent offshore?”

India is expected to have earned up to $40bn (£19.9bn) from IT outsourcing in the past year, the National Association of Software and Service Companies has said.

Calling on Brown to save Rolls Royce – what’s Woodley on?

From Permanent Revolution:

Rolls Royce and Remploy – fighting to defend jobs 

The Rolls Royce plant in Bootle, Merseyside, is set to close this year with jobs starting to be axed as early as April. Two Remploy factories, one in Birkenhead, Merseyside, and one in Liverpool have also been earmarked for closure…..by a Unite member….

All three factories have been making healthy profits for the bosses. But the lure of lower costs has prompted those bosses to take their businesses elsewhere. Rolls Royce is transferring the work to Mount Vernon in the USA.

The British government has decided that the disabled workers at Remploy will be better served by competing for minimum wage jobs in super markets and retail parks than by continuing to produce top quality work-wear products for union agreed rates of pay and terms and conditions in their existing specialist factories.

On Saturday 9 February about 500 Rolls Royce workers and their supporters marched through the centre of Liverpool to demonstrate their anger at the announcement last week that their plant is to be shut down. On Wednesday 6 February the Remploy workers at the two Merseyside factories staged strikes as the opening shot in their campaign to defend their jobs.

Unite is running the “Keep Rolls Royce-Pride on Merseyside” campaign. The GMB and Unite are the unions organising the Remploy workers. It was a shame that the organisers of the Rolls Royce march did not think it fitting to invite Remploy strikers to speak at the rally on Saturday 9 February.

Such a public show of unity between workers involved in two such important campaigns would have sent a powerful message to the bosses about the resistance they will face to their job-cutting plans. That it didn’t happen was unlikely to have been the product of an administrative oversight by the organisers at Unite’s head office. It was part of a wrong strategy for trying to defend the jobs at Rolls Royce by the union’s officials.

This strategy is based on avoiding strike action at all costs – hence no invitation to strikers who might give credence to the idea that such action is necessary to force the bosses to listen. It is based on a pressure group style campaign with getting the Prime Minister to intervene as its principal objective. Unite joint leader, Tony Woodley, made this clear when he revealed that he had spoken to Brown and was urging such intervention as a priority.

The problem is, however, intervention against multinational bosses’ closing their factories in order to get the work done more cheaply somewhere else is not something that New Labour does. And it generates an extremely cruel illusion amongst the ranks of the Rolls Royce workforce to suggest that Brown will come to the rescue.

Yet, while the illusion does exist – and it was clear from the march that many workers have bought Woodley’s line – precious time gets lost lobbying when action could achieve a lot more. And instead of stressing working class unity, including globally, in the fight to defend jobs the Unite leadership is encouraging a nationalist inspired approach to saving British jobs, with emphasis on British, not jobs. This went so far as giving marchers union jacks to wave on the protest.

The idea is simple – paint the job cuts in nationalist terms as a means of putting pressure on Brown to act in the national interest. Simple, but futile. For Brown the national interest revolves around guaranteeing the profits of the corporations not in challenging their right to move jobs around the globe in search of ever cheaper labour costs.

And the union leaders know this. That is why Unite Regional Officer, Debbie Brannan, hinted that while industrial action would not be ruled out the real objective was “as a minimum the real shareholders [the workforce] should see a 35% increase in their redundancy package”. This is tantamount to accepting the plant is going to be closed and using the appeal to Gordon Brown and nationalism to disguise the union’s failure to organise a proper fight to stop it.

What does a proper fight mean? In Remploy the rank and file workers took the lead in taking their very first strike action last Wednesday. Labour had promised to keep the Remploy factories open. Barely had Peter Hain made this promise (and well before he resigned under a dark and dodgy financial cloud) he and Brown reneged on it and targeted a series of factories – including the best union organised ones like Birkenhead – for closure.

Divide and rule worked to an extent when a ballot for action across the whole group failed to deliver a majority. On Merseyside the workers decided that the threatened factories should take the lead and organise plant wide ballots for action. When the ballot went ahead there was a 100% vote for a strike in Birkenhead and a 98% vote for action in Liverpool.

The rank and file then contacted other workers via the Merseyside Association of Trades Union Councils, which in turn approached postal and refuse workers, delivery workers and so on to make sure that no one would be crossing the picket line at Remploy. The strike was a tremendous success.

More action is to follow. Now it is possible to have a discussion about the best action to win – and there can be no doubt that an occupation of the threatened plants, a sit down strike, is what is needed. If two Remploy factories and the Rolls Royce plant were occupied, prior to the bosses being able to start moving plant out, prior to them using redundancy packages to weaken resolve and prior to them starting to cut the workforce bit by bit in an attempt to demoralise workers, then the whole situation would change.

Three occupied plants flying a “No Closure Banner” would electrify the labour movement locally and provide a national focus for solidarity from organisations such as the National Shop Stewards networks and the more militant and well organised unions across the country. Solidarity could become a route to victory rather than a slogan on a moth eaten banner.

For this to happen the Rolls Royce workers need to start organising for action now, alongside the Remploy strikers.

The demo in Liverpool on 9 February was impressive. The will for a fightback was clear amongst the rank and file. It is evident too amongst the Remploy workers. If it can be channelled into a wave of sit down strikes then the possibility of saving each of the threatened plants will be increased considerably. Brown and the US bosses of Rolls Royce will be forced to listen if the gates to their factories are blocked by striking workers.

Organising and backing such action should now be the number one priority for the unions involved.

Offshore outsourcing and cutting carbon emissions

The outcome of the climage change conference in Bali doesn’t exactly pave the way for huge cuts in carbon emissions.

Little wonder.

The government has made no hoo-haa about the offshore outsourcing of

Cadbury’s

The firm also plans to restructure its Bournville plant in Birmingham, leading to a further 200 job losses.

An estimated 500 jobs are set to be cut at Keynsham under proposals to move production to Poland.

Rolls-Royce

Workers at Rolls-Royce sites across the UK have joined a national protest in support of colleagues fighting to save its plant on Merseyside.
The public solidarity comes after Rolls-Royce bosses announced plans to close the factory on Dunningsbridge Road, Bootle, at a cost of 200 jobs.

More than 10,000 workers have signed a petition. Short protests were held at eight separate sites.

The plant is due to close next year, and production move to the US.

and Electrolux.

Production at the Electrolux site in Spennymoor, a major employer in the town, will be moved to Poland.

The plant has been making a loss for the past few years and is too uncompetitive, said the company.

It is the worst possible outcome for workers, who had hoped that up to 300 jobs could be saved following meetings with management earlier this week.

How can you cut pollution in the economy if manufacturing is being shifted out of the country?

Transportation adds to carbon emissions, but the profit gained from outsourcing to low-wage economies is what matters to the capitalist class, not the future of life on the planet…

Proof that factory closure is driven by Cadbury’s greed

A follow up on a story about the closure of the Cadbury’s factory in Keynsham, which I have mentioned before.

Unite workers voted to strike over plans to shift production to Poland where labour costs are lower.

Here’s the latest:

Leaked email reveals greed behind closure of Cadbury’s factory (Monday 03 December 2007)
INDUSTRY union Unite stepped up its campaign to save Cadbury’s Keynsham factory on Sunday after publishing an internal memo that exposed the company’s corporate greed.

Unite said that the message from managing director Trevor Bond showed a 15 per cent increase in sales in October, which the union said proved that it was “unnecessary” to close the factory near Bristol.

Mr Bond described the figures as “nothing short of staggering” and pointed out that Cadbury’s competitors were “underperforming compared to the market.”

He also gloated about the success of the Gorilla advertising campaign, which featured a song by Tory rocker Phil Collins and has meant that Cadbury had the “highest branded recognition of all category campaigns tracked this year.”

National officer for food and agriculture Brian Revell said that the Cadbury email was “dynamite” which blew apart the justifications for the planned closure of the Keynsham factory.

“This memo reinforces our belief that Cadbury is acting like a private equity company and pandering to shareholder greed,” he said.

“There is no case to close Keynsham and move to Poland. It is wrong on business and environmental grounds.

“The Polish unions don’t agree with it, the workforce doesn’t agree and neither do the local communities.”

Unite leaders met the company last week and remain unconvinced of the need to close Keynsham, even before the revelations from the memo.

Mr Revell added that the board had “clearly taken a knee-jerk decision after the failure of the Schweppes sale based on inadequate information and poor advice.

“There has been no convincing case put forward based on how the products will change in taste by being made in Poland nor has there has been a proper environmental assessment of the millions of food miles which will be added to Cadbury products,” he said.