Unions must fight to defend every job

At the end of January, Arlene Foster, the Minister responsible for job creation, bickered about the devolution of policing and justice powers to Stormont while 350 manufacturing job losses in Belfast were announced. This was just another demonstration of the complete inability of the main parties to deal with the crisis facing working-class people. Hughes Christensen, a drill-bit manufacturer which has been based in East Belfast for over 50 years, announced that it would be closing its doors with the loss of 210 jobs. This firm is hugely profitable, with $47 million handed over to shareholders in the last quarter of 2009. The company also received handouts worth over £5million from taxpayers’ pockets through Invest NI.

The next day, only a month after taking over the enterprise section of Nortel in a deal lauded by the Minister for Enterprise, telecommunications firm Avaya indicated they would be axing 140 jobs in Monkstown and leaving Northern Ireland. A few days later Reg Empey, Minister for Employment and Learning, blustered that he “cannot generate jobs or employment” – for once we would agree with him.

Meanwhile, research has indicated that the collapse in the property market and the subsequent slump in construction have had a more dramatic impact than previously thought. It is estimated that 28,000 construction workers have been left unemployed in the North, more than double the number included in official unemployment statistics. This demonstrates how inaccurate the official figures really are, and how meaningless the small reported decrease in unemployment at the start of the year was.

Job creation strategy has failed
The Executive’s strategy of enticing American big business into Northern Ireland with subsidies through Invest NI has failed. Despite all the conferences and visits to the US by delegations from the Assembly, this investment has not and will not materialise. Multinationals which have set up shop here are now leaving in search of greater profits elsewhere. The Executive’s agenda will only succeed in increasing unemployment, with £367 million cuts in the public sector being pushed through this year alone.

Unfortunately, the trade-union leaders’ only response has been to appeal to the people who are destroying jobs, namely the Executive and the bosses, to create a “Task Force” to deal with unemployment. Instead, the unions’ members should be mobilised to defend every job, opposing all attacks on the public sector and demand that firms which threaten large-scale job losses, many of which are profitable, are taken into public ownership under democratic control and management of working people.

 

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