The Assembly Executive must Nationalise to Save Jobs

In the past 12 months over half a million workers have been sacked across Northern Ireland and Britain. In the North, over 102,000 people are unable to find work – more than double the official unemployment statistics. The rise of unemployment has become an emergency. The ‘green shoots of recovery’ which many capitalist economists predicted earlier this year have shown to be nothing more than wishful thinking. Most economists now admit that any recovery will be very weak, and it is ruled out that sufficient jobs will be created in the next year to absorb the hundreds of thousands of people joining the dole queues. Workers who face losing their jobs and the galling prospect of having to survive on paltry benefits though are beginning to resist job losses.

 

Vestas workers occupation
The recent campaign by workers at the Vestas wind turbine factory on the Isle of Wight is one such example. The announced closure of the Vestas plant, the only factory in Britain that produces blades for wind turbines, is completely at odds with New Labour’s aim of creating 400,000 ‘green jobs’ by 2015. Workers in the factory knew they had to take a stand and despite not belonging to a union occupied their factory. Very quickly, the workers threw banners over the building calling on Gordon Brown to nationalise the factory. This call has resonated amongst workers throughout Britain and internationally. Given the scale and urgency of the climate change crisis, it is crazy that the government is prepared to stand back and allow the only wind turbine factory in Britain to close and see hundreds of jobs disappear. By taking the company into public ownership, under democratic workers control and management, a top class facility could be created which could efficiently produce much needed wind turbines to produce environmentally friendly energy.

Bosses put profits first
The fat cats who are closing down factories locally are using the world economic recession to shift production to cheap labour countries, such as India and China, to boost their profits. This must not be allowed to continue.

If it is possible to nationalise banks at the stroke of a pen to bail-out the rich, then why can’t the government nationalise factories facing closure in order to save jobs which would boost the economy? 

The call for nationalisation should not be limited to just Gordon Brown – it also needs to be demanded from the Assembly Executive. Northern Ireland cannot afford anymore job losses. The Executive has done nothing to stop the haemorrhaging of jobs. Thousands of jobs are being lost every month. The Assembly’s ‘strategy’ of supporting business is not working. On the contrary, the Executive’s cuts to public services will lead to thousands of public sector jobs being lost – putting more pressure on social services and less revenue in rates. The political parties in the Executive are making the economic crisis worse and it is working class people, Catholic & Protestant, who are suffering. The right-wing neo-liberal policies of the Assembly Executive must now be abandoned.

The trade union movement needs to build pressure on the Assembly Executive to intervene to save jobs. It should also support all groups of workers who decide to occupy their plants in the case of threatened closure by raising support in the wider labour movement and raising the demand for nationalisation. The trade union leaders should also walk away from their cosy relationship with the Assembly Executive and support steps to create a working class political alternative to the right-wing policies of the sectarian parties. The building of a new mass party which unites all workers against job losses and stands for a socialist alternative to the failure of capitalism also needs to be put on the agenda. Such a development would enormously strengthen workers to resist the jobs slaughter and the fight for a socialist alternative.

Paddy Meehan, 11 August 2009

 

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