Ireland: Fight the job cuts!

Nationalise to save jobs at Dell and Waterford Crystal!

“This is not about a company that’s in trouble. This is about greed, corporate greed. They’re going to Poland because apparently they can make an extra 3%.”

This comment, from a Dell worker, hits the nail on the head. And it is not only Dell that is motivated by greed and profit. The cutting of wages and imposition of harsher working conditions by Aer Lingus, Aviance and many other companies is simply bosses using the recession as an excuse to increase their profits, at the expense of their employees.

The Irish Department of Finance has predicted that unemployment will rise to 540,000 by the end of 2010, an increase equivalent to 125 redundancy announcements on a similar scale to Dell. This will have truly horrendous consequences for working class people and, on top of this, the government are planning to implement €12 billion worth of public spending cuts, between now and 2011!

Many capitalist governments are, desperately, trying to stimulate their economies with public expenditure packages. Yet, the remedy for the crisis put forward by the cretin running IBEC (Irish Business and Employers Confederation), Turlough O’Sullivan, is that the government should sack 70,000 public sector workers! Brian Lenihan, the minister for Finance, thinks the best way to stimulate the economy would be to cut public sector workers’ pay, by between five and 10%!

This is the stark reality of what capitalism has in store for working class people in Ireland – mass unemployment, poverty wages and a devastation of public services, like health and education.

Fighting programme of action needed to save jobs

The attacks on jobs, wages and conditions must be met with an organised fightback. Working class people should completely reject the arguments of the bosses and the establishment parties; that we have to suffer "painful changes", in order to get through the recession. The working class didn’t create this crisis, the rich did and they should be made to pay.

Trade unions should demand that companies who are sacking workers and attacking conditions should open their books for scrutiny. We should be able to see where all the bumper profits of the boom years have gone. The hundreds of billions in profits were made from the labour of working class people. This wealth should be used now, to maintain jobs, protect wages, and to fund public services.

Fianna Fail has used billions of our money to bail out the super rich banks. The banks should be nationalized, and the billions they are making in profits should be used to fund public services. Workers should demand that the government steps in and nationalises Dell and Waterford Crystal, and that these companies should be democratically run by their highly skilled and experienced workforces, so that all of these jobs are saved, along with the thousands of others threatened in the Waterford and Limerick regions, as a result of these companies’ decisions.

David Begg, ICTU general secretary, has, correctly, warned that the government’s plans for the public sector will deepen the recession. SIPTU’s president,Jack O’Connor, has said that the government’s plans will be met with "stout resistance from trade union members…[we] will do everything possible to mobilise such resistance.” Fine words. Unfortunately, for workers facing the dole and wage cuts, we can have no faith in these leaders to oppose the bosses or the government.

Workers, in Calcast in Derry and Swissco in Cork, occupied their factories and successfully won better redundancy payments. Workers, in Waterford Crystal and Dell, should also occupy their factories, not to win better redundancy payments, but to force the government to step in and save all of their jobs, by nationalising these companies. Capitalism in Ireland has failed, spectacularly. We need to fight for a democratic socialist society to put an end to the cycle of boom and bust, poverty and inequality and to provide a decent future for all.

Interview with a Dell worker

The following interview was conducted by The Socialist, paper of the Socialist Party (CWI in Ireland) with Alan, a Dell worker, among those affected by the company’s announcement that it is to cut 1,900 jobs at its Limerick plant, threatening up to 15,000 other related jobs in the wider Mid-Western region.

The Socialist (TS): How do you respond to claims from Dell that the workers in the Limerick plant are uncompetitive and that’s why they had to move to Poland?

Alan: It is a sickening insult. The vast majority of workers in Dell are paid a pittance. I’ve worked here for five years, with top marks in the audits of my work and met all targets, so I am one of the better paid – but that is still only €19,000 a year basic. That is a low wage as far as I am concerned – obviously not low enough for Dell though. And the Limerick workers are the most efficient of all the Dell plants by Dell’s own admission. They make hundreds of millions a year from us, and billions over the years. This isn’t about overpaid workers, it’s about Dell’s greed.

TS: What have the different local politicians said or done about this decision?

Alan: Not much. They’ve all come out and said what a sad day it is for Limerick. But not a single one of them has called a spade a spade and said that this is all about Dell’s greed – they all basically accept Dell’s argument that their profit is more important than our lives. Willie O’Dea has said there will be a task force to find jobs – but in this economic climate that’s pretty useless.

TS: What do you think workers in Dell should do?

Alan: Well, we can’t rely on anybody else to do anything – we have to try to fight it. If we don’t, the whole region will be decimated. I think workers should come together and organise to fight this. Dell can’t be allowed to slip out the back door, leaving us with only a terrible redundancy package. We should protest, shame them and, if needs be, occupy the factory to stop them taking the machinery and equipment.

TS: What do you think of the idea the government should be forced to step in and nationalise Dell?

Alan: Well, if Dell won’t keep the jobs then the government have to do it. If they help out their buddies in the banks, why shouldn’t they be forced to save our jobs, and the thousands of others at stake? What sense does it make to just let us sit on the dole and have the factory rot?

The Socialist Party says:

  • Workers in Dell, and throughout Limerick, must get organized, to demand that Dell reverses its decision.
  • Workers should occupy the factory, to ensure that no equipment or resources are removed by management.
  • If Dell won’t reverse its decision, workers and the unions must demand that the government take the plant, all equipment and assets, and nationalise the company in Ireland to safeguard all jobs.

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January 2009