On April 29, the AGM of British-Dutch steel group Corus will see the
replacement of its chief executive Tony Pedder, by Philippe Varin, a senior
executive of the French company Pechiney. Also the Chairman Brian Moffat will
step down and will be succeeded by the deputy chairman Jim Leng. The
"strategy" for getting Corus out of its multimillion pound debts is,
yet again, to slash steel production with the consequent loss of jobs. There is
talk of one to three thousand additional jobs being destroyed. This figure comes
on top of more than six thousand jobs that have been destroyed in the last two
and a half years.
On the announcement of the changes in management (and the job cuts) shares in
Corus went up to 12p from a low of 4p a month ago. This level is still well down
from a record peak of 190p.
As always "sacrifices" are only demanded on the part of the
workforce, thus despite the fact that the workers have seen a wage freeze for
the last 12 months, the company’s financial director received a 39% wage
increase. The salary of the new chief executive will be in the range of £1.7
Faced with this reality, the unions’ campaign has been very mild. Two weeks
ago they organized a “red card day of action,” which involved no industrial
action, just the workers symbolically showing the red card to management.
Unfortunately the unions campaign was based on demanding the replacement of Tony
Pedder. But in reality the company’s troubles cannot be reduced to management
personnel and cannot be solved with a management change. In fact the announced
plans of the new Chief Executive are also based on job cuts and sacrifices on
the part of the workforce.
The union leadership has wrongly taken the view that job losses are
acceptable as long as there are no compulsory redundancies. The problem with
this approach is that if a good offer is made then many workers might accept
voluntary redundancies and the jobs will be gone forever. The union movement
should take the view that workers are just occupying a particular job, which in
fact belongs to the labour movement as a whole and as such must be defended as
part of the future of our communities.
Steel making is a vital sector of industry that has been dying a slow death
for some time. The government should intervene with re-nationalisation,
particularly since the private sector has proven completely unable to run the
industry at all.
Not safe in private hands
By Mike Gaskell, Amicus-AEEU Shop Steward Scottish
The privatisation of the electricity supply industry has proven to be the
disaster for both the workers in the industry and the country as a whole widely
predicted at the time by the trade unions. The industry is regulated by OFGEM.
The regulator exists solely in order to introduce competition into as much of
the industry as possible and the system means all former nationalised companies
have what is called a regulatory review every five years. Regulation has not
stopped massive profits being made by all of the former nationalised companies.
It has led to many jobs being created for city spivs who buy and sell
electricity and their friends who advise other spivs on the buying, asset
stripping and subsequent resale of whole companies.
The combination of
regulation and this city free-for-all has seen the previously unthinkable happen
with electricity companies starting to go bust. TXU Europe went under recently
and sent shockwaves through the industry. At the same time nuclear generation
experienced commercial difficulties and only survives with the granting of
government loans. In other words regulation has achieved its aim of introducing
the anarchy and greed of the market system into the electricity supply industry.
On the other hand regulation has seen the slashing of the in-house workforce
and the increasing introduction of contractors. That is the removal of secure
steady employment with decent basic terms and conditions, a final salary pension
scheme, pay when you are sick or injured, reasonable holiday provision and so
on. They have been replaced with casual labour hired for the duration of the
contract on worse terms and conditions. Privatisation has led to the number of
apprentices falling dramatically and will mean an acute shortage of skilled
labour in the future if nothing is done quickly to remedy the problem. Of course
the workers in the industry have also had to endure every fad and gimmick that
is designed to increase productivity or cut costs, flexible working, annualised
hours and the like. In other words the price of privatisation is paid for by the
Last October much of the southern half of Britain was hit by a storm and the
privatisation chickens came home to roost with many thousands of homes without
electricity, some for many days. A more widespread or severe storm could have
had much more serious consequences and led to generalised power cuts.
In short Privatisation, Regulation and the market do not work. The nations
electricity generation, distribution and supply network and infrastructure is
not safe in the hands of profiteers.
What can we do about it? Amicus-AEEU should campaign for minimum standards
(not less than the best already achieved) in the industry to apply to all
in-house, contract and agency labour for a common rate of pay.
– Continuation of the final salary pension scheme for all workers in the
industry and extended to contract labour.
– Decent holiday provision.
– Oppose all redundancies.
– Defend job security by opposing TUPE transfers.
We should insist that massive investment is made in the training of the
workforce of the future, apprenticeships, clerical/admin trainees, engineering
This should be coupled with an energy plan to manage the nation’s energy
needs into the future. Planning can end the short termism of privatisation most
graphically displayed in the dash for gas generation that has led to the
problems now being faced. It goes without saying that you can’t plan what you
don’t own. The campaign to renationalise the entire industry should begin now.
Don’t let bosses get away with murder!
by Phil Willis, Amicus-AEEU Construction section
April 28th is Workers Memorial day, the international day when union members
around the world, remember those workers who have lost their lives by simply
going to work, the huge number killed in work related incidents and through
It’s a pity that Tony Blair and his government don’t remember the promise
they made, when in June 2000 they launched ‘Revitalising Health & Safety’ to
co-incide with revamping the Health and Safety Bill, but as usual nothing has
As a steel erector and shop steward within the construction industry my
colleagues and I have at one time or another witnessed a fatality, or life
threatening accident during our working lives. Those who have know that the
scene replays in your mind time and time again like a reccurring nightmare. The
horror that you have witnessed never goes away, it stays with you for the rest
of your life. It leaves you with the very bitter taste that in many cases the
fatality or accident could have been avoided.
Unions have played a particularly active role in bringing about major
improvements to Health and Safety on sites and in workplaces around the country.
Shop stewards and safety reps have worked tirelessly to assist in those
improvements. Many workers today put their lives at risk on a daily basis simply
by going to work. There is patently more emphasis placed on business progression
and profit than the value of a man’s life. The only way in which we can make all
employers sit up and take notice is by the enforcement of the proposed
legislation in the Corporate Manslaughter Bill.
The current system of fining an employer is totally ineffective. Statistics
show that the paltry sum of £18,200 is the average settlement achieved, a
pittance in exchange for a human life, small change to most companies, the cost
of two Saville Row suits to most company directors. The current system holds no
fear for negligent companies and is absolutely no deterrent against future
Workers in conjunction with their shop stewards and safety reps should be
organising and supporting campaigns to bring about legislative change to make
Corporate Manslaughter a crime. My union, Amicus, have been running a campaign
for several weeks on this subject and at a recent seminar in London the level of
empathy and support for the campaign was very prominent. Fed up with the lack of
progress on the part of the government, delegates sported slogans such as ‘the
wait is killing us’.
The mood is changing, workers are no longer willing to accept whatever fate
happens along at their workplace. Bad employers should be punished severely with
much heavier fines and imprisonment, only then will the killing stop. Tony Blair
and his government should realise that we have been waiting for a long time now
and that this issue is just not going to go away.
So, not just this year but every year on Workers Memorial Day we should
remember the dead, but continue to fight for the living.
See Britain: Amicus left on the
march By Kris Lawrie, Amicus member (May 20, 2003)