I went to the Bombardier demonstration through Derby last Saturday.
Around 6,000 people marched through the town in protest at the loss of 1,400 jobs at Britain’s last train manufacturer. Speaking at the rally, Bob Crow of the RMT made the point that he was on the side of German workers as well as English and this was not about “British Jobs for British Workers”.
Derby has links to the train industry for over 150 years. The bogies made at the plant are renowned as the world’s most environmentally friendly construction of their type, being light and strong – the two contradictory goals of any transport designer. However, the government awarded the contract for the expansion of rolling stock for the new Thameslink extension to Siemens, who are trying to poach skills from the Derby plant.
The reason for the decision? Siemens are more expensive than the British option and do not offer the same efficiency of rolling stock, but they can borrow money at a lower rate than Bombardier, having been given a huge contract by Deutschebahn. They also do not recognise trade unions, so this is an attack on workers’ terms and conditions, just to make a more attractive offer on the balance sheet. If you look at the state owned French SNCF, they award their contracts overwhelmingly to French firms, and likewise, perfectly reasonably, in other countries. Why can we not ensure the survival of manufacturing in this country?
Since the demonstration, the government has also been slammed by Bob Crow for lying, saying that it could not alter the contract, which was drawn up by Labour. In fact, Theresa Villiers was looking to cut jobs by awarding the contract to Siemens as a cost-cutting exercise. Siemens is only cheaper on paper, because it does not recognise unions and because it can pay the money up front, but there have also been questions asked about corruption within Siemens itself.
Click here for speeches made at the NSSN public meeting, after the demo – recorded by Dan Fahey.
The Socialist Party stands for the renationalisation of the train network and bus network, with subsidised fares to really tackle global warming. We would provide secure jobs, which could not be taken away on the whim of a government because some company is fiddling the books. We are calling on the government for nationalisation of the rail industry on the basis of workers’ control.
As I was walking round Derby, I saw this inspiring mural of the Derby Silk Mill Lockout of 1833-34. It reminded me of the ethos behind Workers’ Memorial Day – we need to remember the past, but fight for our future!
In October Youth Fight for Jobs will be recreating the Jarrow March against unemployment. It is scandalous that, 75 years since unemployed workers had to walk the hundreds of miles from the North East to London in order to present a petition to the King, we are still campaigning and marching against unemployment in the 21st century.
How can the empty words of the Fib-Dems, Tories, or the rhetoric of the Labour Party be believed? The Murdochgate scandal shows that the party of government and the party of opposition, both wined and dined in an attempt to curry favour with the press. We need to kick both of them out and build a real alternative to represent the interests of the vast majority of people struggling to get by, not a tiny elite. I support the Trade Union and Socialist Coalition, which is making an important start in this direction.