American Express, Brighton's largest private sector employer with about 2,900 staff, is planning to shed up to 250 members of staff, including permanent and temporary positions. In order to 'drive the brand forward' Amex is moving some functions to either Buenos Aires in Argentina or to India.
A few weeks ago affected staff were divided into two groups and led into separate buildings where their names were placed onto one of two lists. Those who had not lost their jobs were then prevented from discussing with those who had by a senior manager patrolling the offices. These callous methods will only be the tip of the iceberg. During the 90 day consultation period which ends on 21st May staff will be invited to demonstrate why their jobs should be kept and others cut.
In 2008 Amex shed 10% of its staff globally, but made assurances that hundreds would be brought to Brighton. Construction on the Amex extension opposite Tillbury Place was met by opposition from local residents, at this time Amex also made assurances that hundreds of jobs would be created with the new extension. These promises were clearly empty.
Agency staff, provided by the employment agency Manpower, are treated as even more expendable. Call centre staff have been treated poorly over the years in Brighton, with Telegen workers arriving for work only to be told they had no jobs (click here for an interview with one of the workers), and Lloyd's shedding hundreds of workers despite those workers contributing to the Lloyd's bail-out along with every other working-class person in Britain when the government out Lloyds!
One week after the announcements all staff received an email from Amex informing them that the Telegraph had ranked American Express as number 7 in the top corporations to work for in the world!
Amex moved to Brighton to exploit the cheap labour of a large transient, student and graduate population. Some offices were transferred from Sweden to Brighton in the same way that part of Amex's staff will now be moved to either Argentina or India. In short, this is part of a constant drive to employ workers as cheaply as possible, with fewer rights and work benefits. If workers are not organised in strong, democratic trade unions they are more vulnerable to the insatiable demand of companies to raise profits by reducing staff and other costs. This race to the bottom will continue until workers organise to put a stop to it.
However it would be a mistake to blame the workers from other countries. They face even lower wages for often harder jobs, simply to do what British workers are trying to do; get by. They are only one point in a spiral of worse wages and conditions, in the same way that Brighton was only one point after Sweden.
The way to oppose this hopping from country to country is to fight for a united struggle of all workers for decent wages and conditions at work. Saying no to the race to the bottom must be linked to the struggle for real job creation within society. Instead of waiting for investment to be made (always on the terms of the bosses) workers and communities should be able to decide what jobs and services are needed. This would mean replacing capitalist society with a socialist one, run democratically in the interests of the millions, not the millionaires.
Workers at Amex should join a trade union as quickly as possible, and encourage their workmates to do the same (click here for link). Protests could be held by the staff to oppose the job losses. Recently, attempts by construction employers to cut 35% of staff wages was met with a mass campaign of protests. After months of campaigning the employers backed down, showing what this kind of action can do. Youth Fight for Jobs has been campaigning since 2009 highlighting the issue of unemployment and the race to the bottom, YFJ could hold a protest at Amex to highlight the loss of jobs?
Most of all, if you agree with what we have to say and want to build a movement that can bring an end to capitalism and replace it with a democratic socialist society, join the Socialist Party (by clicking here).