Fight job losses with industrial action

With a serious economic downturn on the agenda many companies have begun to implement job cuts and plant closures in order to reduce costs and defend profits.

Companies across Australia in the manufacturing, aviation, media, finance and retail industries have already announced thousands of job losses. Car companies have led the charge this year with job losses at Mitsubishi, General Motors, Ford and Kenworth Trucks.

These cuts have flowed on to dozens of component manufacturers. Australian Bureau of Statistics figures showed that 12,000 Victorian manufacturing jobs were lost in June alone!

Australian Reserve Bank Governor, Glenn Stevens said in early September that he expected “a fall off in jobs growth” which will add another 100,000 people to the unemployment queue over the next 12 months. In other words, the worst is yet to come.

What we are seeing is that when the global economy moves into downturn working people pay the price. While the rich scramble to hold onto their already massive profits, ordinary people are forced in to the dole queue or into low-skilled and low-paid jobs.

This trend should be resisted by the trade union movement at all costs. It was the bosses who created this economic mess, they can not expect working people to bail them out of it. As The Socialist has said before: “It’s their system so make the bosses pay!”

Workers in companies facing closures or job losses should demand that the firm open its accounts so that the public can see where the profits of the past years have gone. We can not just accept the boss’s arguments of cost cutting.

At the moment in Australia most union leaders do not have a fighting approach to job losses. In manufacturing the unions generally support economic protection in the form of tariffs or import controls as a way of protecting local jobs. They also call for corporate subsidies to the big employers. Protectionism is no solution to the loss of jobs.

These arguments only lead to nationalist demands and promote the idea that workers should join with ‘their’ government or local bosses to save Aussie jobs. The impression is given that bosses and workers have joint interests when clearly they don’t.

These arguments also give the impression that job losses should be blamed on workers in low waged countries, thereby dividing workers internationally and playing into the hands of the bosses. For socialists neither the ‘free-market’ nor protectionism is a way out for the working class.

Trade unions need to develop a fighting and internationalist approach to job losses. Genuine links should be made with unions in other countries to ensure companies are not shifting off shore to take advantage of cheaper wages.

We also need a plan of industrial action to defend every job under attack. Such a plan should be organised by mass shop stewards meetings in every major town and city.

If companies can’t guarantee jobs on decent terms and conditions then these businesses must be taken into public ownership and used for the public good, not to line the pockets of the employers.

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