Logistics firm DHL has notified unions that 2,200 workers, around 40 percent of those currently employed on its JLR contract, will be laid off. This comes as a further blow after 1,100 agency workers were told in June by JLR that they would be sacked.
The Workers Party of Britain and our members in the north west and the Midlands are ready to support workers and unions who fight any of the cuts planned at Castle Bromwich, Solihull, Ellesmere Port and Halewood.
Workers must resist attempts by JLR and owners Tata, as well as by subsidiary companies, to present job losses as merely a response to Covid-19. It was only a year ago that socialists were pointing out that JLR and others in the automotive industry were cynically trying to label job cuts as being ‘in response to Brexit’.
According to Unite the Union, DHL has indicated that around half the redundancies would be “efficiency savings”, rather than having been brought about by the decline in car production. Despite that open admission, most commentators, including union officials, are referring to the pandemic as the cause of lay-offs, with no mention of the wider economic crisis engulfing capitalism.
In a research paper entitled the ‘Digitalisation of the automotive industry’ in 2016, KPMG [i] and the Society for Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) pointed out that “By fully embracing digitalisation, the automotive sector stands to gain £6.9bn every year by 2035. The cumulative total benefit to the economy could be £74bn by 2035. This is a significant prize.” [ii]
Digitisation, robotisation and other advances in technology and production processes are being used under capitalism to the detriment of workers.
The export of capital; of machinery, factories and production out of the country to the EU countries and elsewhere, ensures that profits are maximised by enabling the capitalists to benefit from low wages, low land costs and other benefits.
If hugely important firms cannot protect skills and jobs that are vital to the British economy then they should be taken into public ownership.
The vast, intricate and integrated system of supply is a wonder to behold, and if people could only apply themselves to producing with such efficiency the things they need for a healthy and enjoyable life, rather than whatever will enrich a handful of shareholders, then the world would be veritable Garden of Eden.
What can be done?
The Workers Party of Britain will back any fight to save jobs; don’t blame covid, don’t blame Brexit.
The Workers Party of Britain demands that measures should be taken to reduce the impact of US tariffs on British exports.
The ‘just in time’ delivery of components from the EU, which brings £35m of car parts into Britain each day on 1,100 lorries should be replaced by a saner, greener system that creates jobs in Britain.
Trade unions and socialists must plan for the repurposing of car manufacturing facilities that are under threat. There is a global crisis in car manufacturing which cannot be ignored if we are to protect workers’ jobs and welfare.
[i] Auditors whose job is to drive down labour costs and increase capitalist profits.
[ii] According to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), 186,000 workers are directly engaged in manufacturing jobs in the British car industry, with 856,000 workers to be found in the wider industry, from sales executives to garage mechanics. It’s an industry worth a whopping £82bn (turnover).