Not poverty and unemployment!

By Daniel Waldron

The end of 2015 saw a raft of manufacturing job losses, the biggest blow being the announcement of Michelin’s plans to close their Ballymena plant with the loss of 860 jobs, coming in the wake of the closure of the Gallagher’s tobacco factory. This will have a devastating impact on the local economy. Ieffects will be felt well into the future, with the skills base being lost as young people have no jobs to train for. Despite the much lauded “economic recovery”, around one in four young people remain without employment, education or training.March for a Future

Local politicians have had plenty of words of commiseration for the people of the area but concrete answers about how these jobs can be replaced and a future provided for young people are much harder to come by. Instead, the so-called ‘Fresh Start’ deal saw the politicians reaffirm their commitment to ongoing austerity, including plans to wipe out around 20,000 public sector jobs. This will further undermine the economy and the public services we all rely upon.

Corporate handouts not the answer

The Stormont politicians remain convinced – contrary to all the evidence – that the solution to our economic woes is ever more corporate handouts. They plan to slash corporation tax in the hope it will stimulate investment, transferring hundreds of millions from public services to the profits of big business in the process. Corporate welfare has only even attracted fly-by-night investment, delivering overwhelmingly low-paid, precarious jobs. JP Gallagher’s made it clear that corporation tax didn’t enter their mind when they shifted production to Poland. They wanted to be able to pay their workers half what they got in Ballymena!

Public ownership, not private greed

The Rally for a Future called by Unite activists in Ballymena (see page 3) is an important development. Profitable firms should not simply be allowed to up sticks and desert communities which have given them their labour for years in order to make even more profit off the backs of workers elsewhere. The trade union movement should demand that the company’s accounts are made public so bosses’ cries of poverty and crisis can be thoroughly examined. If greedy bosses try to throw workers on the scrap heap, we should demand that government take factories into public ownership to secure the jobs and skills.

Nationalisation is not a fanciful demand, although it is very out of fashion with the capitalist political elite. In the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, many banks were effectively nationalised, only to be handed back to private vultures for a song when they became profitable again. There is plenty of wealth to invest in publicly-owned manufacturing with decent jobs, wages and apprenticeships. While we are told there is no money for public services, there is always plenty available when it comes to war. While real pay for workers fell by 5%, the UK’s billionaires quadrupled their wealth in the last seven years! It is time the super-rich and big business paid their share, not working class people.

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