The government has announced plans to cut the length of time employers are obliged to conduct redundancy talks. Employers with a hundred or more staff on the payroll will only be required to consult for 45 days, instead of 90 days as at present.
Whilst unions are right to denounce this move, along with all the other chiselling attacks on workers’ rights, there is no sign that they are actually prepared to lead a counter-offensive. But the struggle needs to progress beyond a rearguard defence of rights that have already been diluted beyond recognition.
So long as unions are just talking about preserving the period of grace during which jobs can be bartered for marginal temporary improvements in conditions for the remaining staff, or slightly better redundancy deals for those departing, there is not a hope in hell of them leading any kind of resistance worthy of the name.
Whilst Unison assistant general secretary Bronwyn McKenna tries to appeal to the bourgeois conscience, pleading that “Any worker facing redundancy needs time to plan, to mitigate the impact on them and their family finances. Making arrangements to cover mortgages or rent, sort out bills, retrain and apply for new jobs all takes time and this cut will leave families facing financial hardship,” the overproduction crisis grinds on, with more and more workers either thrown into unemployment or forced into low-wage, part-time or casualised labour.
And this pattern will continue unless and until the proletariat is ready to move onto the offensive and fight all redundancies, challenging the sacred bourgeois ‘right’ to hire and fire wage slaves as profit dictates.
The 900 steel workers whose jobs are to be cut by Tata when it closes 12 of its British plants (including 500 jobs in Port Talbot alone) will derive little consolation from the pledge from their union, Community, to fight for “our principle of no compulsory redundancies”.
When the labour market conditions so hugely favour the buyer of labour power over the seller, the days of trading jobs for golden handshakes, perks and promises are going fast.