Monday, 19 January 2009

Stop the job losses: open the company books!

[A letter sent to The Argus, by Sean Figg, South East Regional Secretary]

The report in The Argus on Saturday 17 January of 65 job losses in Brighton at NatWest is tragic for those directly affected and will be a massive worry for workers and their families across the city. It is a worrying harbinger of things to come. The Argus has previously reported on estimates of 7,400 job losses across Brighton over the next year. The NatWest workers loosing their jobs will not be the fat cats that ran the banks into the ground but ordinary people doing their best to get by.

The Labour government has no real interest in saving jobs. On one hand they announce half-hearted job creation measures; on the other a bank that has absorbed billions of £s of taxpayers money and which the government has a major stake in is allowed to shed jobs. Labour, echoed by the Tories, continues to insist on failed free-market policies by saying that these banks should be run on ‘commercial principles’. Isn’t that what caused the economic crisis in the first place?

Green Party Councillor Kennedy’s exhortation to the NatWest workers to "keep their fingers crossed that they can gain replacement employment" is woefully inadequate. We need job creation schemes that provide useful employment, on socially necessary work, paying a living wage. The banks should be fully nationalised, placed under democratic control, and made to offer cheap credit to individual and small businesses and halt all job cuts.

Trade unions should demand that companies that are sacking workers and attacking conditions should open their books for scrutiny. We should be able to see where all the bumper profits of the boom years have gone. When workers are facing redundancies unions should demand a 35-hour week to share out work with no loss of pay. Any company that refuses to cooperate with these demands should be nationalised under democratic workers' control with compensation to shareholders given only on the basis of proven need.