Defend today to win a different tomorrow

BIFAB BATTLE: 2017's successful outcome of the battle to protect the green jobs and skills at the BiFab engineering yards was a rare and highly welcome victory for workers and their unions. Photo: Craig Maclean

by Ken Ferguson

· The soothing slogan of last summer of “we’re all in it together” is an increasingly fading memory as the bosses offensive of fire and rehire, pay cuts, inferior conditions all at the point of the “sign or sack” threats, gathers pace.

As we have reported in previous editions and again in this Voice this is not some aberration by some back street sweat shops but the policy of some of the UK’s blue chip firms including British Airways, BT and British Gas.

Where these industrial giants tread it is as sure as eggs is eggs that the others will follow in an approach which links short term gains at workers expense to a bosses’ “new normal” in which, aided by a growing jobless toll they will hold the whip hand.

In passing this development should surely sound the death knell of any residual belief in the misnamed “social partnership” claim that workers and employers share the same interests. They do not.

Amidst the optimism based on the stunning scientific achievement of vaccines the employers are moving fast to shape their agenda even as the virus crises rages on and, as we have seen since Xmas, the danger of more menacing variants is ever present.

Indeed there is a real danger that, backed by the hard right of the Tory party, that we will be sold the false tale that its all under control thanks to the wonders of being British and we can all relax.

Of course this shameless portrayal of the vaccines as an all conquering silver bullet is simply not true, as the Voice has reported extensively, but leaves us undefended from new viruses with limited controls on travel a less than Rolls Royce track and trace service and, perhaps most importantly, totally inadequate support for those urged to self isolate.

Future viruses
Only such a system can prevent future emergencies such as we currently face and this must go hand in hand with the recognition that the links between industrial farming and human encroachment into the natural world are an ongoing pathway for future viruses.

In this murky situation the virus serves as a warning to us all of the urgent impact that human activity plays in the burgeoning climate crisis.

It is vital that defending the wages, jobs and conditions of today are therefore linked to a vision which rejects the bosses profit driven greed and pursues an approach putting the needs of both people and planet front and centre of the “different normal” we need.

This is not just a theoretical demand but, as recent events have shown, there needs to a radical break with the current world of market led economics which creams profits off developments such as wind farms with little benefit to the local economy.

The current development of wind farms is a clear example of the consequences of leaving the so called “free” market to develop, exploit, control and profit from natural resources with no real need to deliver jobs and development as a result.

So we have the outrage of two major wind farm developments within 20 miles of the BiFab yards in Fife awarding the vast majority of the work on structures to yards as far away as Indonesia.

Not only does this approach deprive local communities of jobs and much needed wages to boost under pressure shops and businesses it blocks opportunities for skills training and stable, non precarious work.

The wreckage of this approach—willingly pursued by UK and Scottish governments, Tory, Labour and SNP—lies about us in closed engineering works, shipyards steel making, vehicle building and trains.

It has in effect delivered super profits for a few companies—often based of formerly public assets sold at fire sale prices from bus companies to power stations while workers were thrown to the zero hours poverty paying wolves.

That is what underpins the dashed promises of a decade ago about a jobs bonanza making Scotland the Saudi Arabia of renewables which remain just a mirage and it will continue to be so unless the dominance of the profit driven free market is de-throned.

Real change
What is needed to achieve real change is a large scale move to public ownership as an essential to planning based on the needs of people and planet.

The Voice is and always has been a supporter of independence but, despite the opinion polls, if this is to won it will need to be linked with an economic approach which doesn’t impose pro-employer austerity as proposed by the SNP’s so called Growth Commission but uses our skills and resources to meet needs not make fat cat profits.

All around these needs demand action from a National Care Service, through public ownership of trains and buses, building new council homes for rent, axing the PFI vultures from the NHS—the list goes on—lie unmet.

That’s why any campaign for a Yes vote can’t hope to win if it simply transfer the running of the existing poverty ridden, landlord dominated, low waged anti-union world of today from Westminster to Holyrood.

Our campaigns on wages, jobs, houses and health must form a key part of any progressive Yes campaign not just appeals to patriotism and and an uncritical all together “independence first demand.

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