By Heather Shaw
February 14 is synonymous with slushy cards and expensive gifts but this year it has been declared as an International Day Against Burberry.
The prestigious clothing and accessories company have come under fire because of their plan to move their South Wales factory to China, axing 310 jobs. The film awards people BAFTA severed ties with its high profile sponsor under the threat of a black-tie protest outside its annual reception event. Mervyn Burnett, GMB Officer dealing with Burberry in South Wales said;
"GMB are pleased that BAFTA will not now be associated with Burberry. The GMB ruling Central Executive Council meeting in London on February 13 will consider how to step up and intensify the campaign against the Burberry decision to move these jobs to China".
The GMB campaign has already won a significant success by pushing Burberry to keep the factory open until March but that is not the end of the fight; GMB have vowed to fight to keep production on the site permanently. Burberry's vast profits will increase if the move goes ahead, as the current production cost of £11 for a polo shirt will fall to only £4 when made by super-exploited workers in China. At home the story is far more grim with the redundancy offer made to the workers at Treorchy standing at £1000; not even enough to buy this season's hottest catwalk accessory, the Beaton handbag, priced at a lucrative £1095.
* A protest has been organised for February 14 in Central London at the Regent Street store from 5-6pm. For more information contact Mick on 07904 431 959.
Burberry offers "white elephant"
Following Burberry's decision to close its plant in Treorchy the company offered to hand over the abandoned factory to the local "community".
This is a PR stunt to make Burberry look socially responsible and help justify its decision to throw hundreds of workers on the scrap heap.
Socialists support workers taking control of their workplace and running it themselves without bosses. Although, to transform society, cooperative production has to be established collectively on a national and international scale through revolution, that does not exclude specific instances of individual take-overs by workers in struggle. That is why Solidarity has celebrated and promoted the example of Zanón in Argentina, where workers at a ceramics factory took over the enterprise and now run it democratically under workers' control.
What is happening here is something very different. Rather than workers forcibly taking control of productive property away from an employer who wants to keep hold of it, the Burberry bosses are simultaneously attempting to improve their image and offload a factory they no longer want. It is not clear if the plant will even be in a state where production can be restarted.
In contrast to Zanón, where workers used the wealth produced by the factory to help the local working-class community (for instance, by giving free tiles to local schools and hospitals, helping to develop public services and reducing unemployment by creating new jobs), it is quite possible that local people will end up in effect subsidising the company's decomissioning costs.
Furthermore, the plan is not for workers' control or even a more limited form of cooperative, but for a "committee of local people", presumably local capitalists and bourgeois politicians, to decide what will happen to the factory.
No wonder that the Burberry workers and their union, the GMB, have described the factory as a "white elephant". What the workers want is not the shell of their old workplace, but their jobs back; according to the local press, only 77 of the sacked employees have found work.
We should not be fooled by Burberry's cynical stunt.