Thousands of jobs are on the line as bosses in the shipbuilding, manufacturing and aviation industries plan huge layoffs.
BAE Systems plans to axe nearly 2,000 jobs by closing, or significantly reducing, sites in Glasgow and Portsmouth, ending shipbuilding entirely in the southern English city. The Polimeri chemical refinery in Southampton plans to close, threatening 300 jobs, and the Flybe airline, based in Exeter, plans to cut 500 jobs.
Unions organising workers at the BAE shipyards and the Polimeri plant, plan a demonstration outside the filming of BBC’s “Question Time”, which takes place on 14 November in Portsmouth.
The unions are in talks with BAE management over its cuts plan, but activists and officers say that the bottom-line negotiating position from all unions will be to resist job cuts entirely. Unite, GMB, Prospect, and UCATT all have members at the BAE plants under threat.
Union activists have also described the media presentation of the BAE job losses as a conflict between English and Scottish workers as “a red herring”.
The BAE, Polimeri, and Flybe job cuts would represent a huge blow to workers in southern England particularly, with many thousands more jobs in the supply chains of all three companies threatened by the cuts and closures.
A united response from all unions involved is necessary, led by shop stewards and convenors in each workplace and mobilising local labour movement bodies and working-class community campaigns.
In BAE’s case, socialists in the workplace and local community should pose the question of “transition”, as Lucas Aerospace workers did in the 1970s, developing a workers’ plan to repurpose their workplace towards producing socially-necessary goods rather than military hardware. Workers will understandably want to focus on saving their jobs before discussing questions of transition and conversion, but if the long-term future of manufacturing jobs is to be secured, questions of the control of industry, and what workers’ skills are being put to use to make, must be posed.
The campaign against job losses launched by Portsmouth TUC, which held a rally on 10 November, must centrally involve convenors and shop stewards from the effected workplaces.
If BAE refuses to pull back from its cuts plan, workers should discuss work-ins, occupations, and the demand to take job-cutting employers into public ownership.
BAE relies on British government contracts for work — the state, as well as BAE bosses, should be held to account.