In October, management at Cammell Laird shipyard in Birkenhead announced that by March next year they planned to wipe out 291 jobs, amounting to nearly 40 percent of the workforce.
Workers suspect that the plan is to casualise the workforce, parachuting in agency workers to take the place of permanent staff. Members of both Unite and GMB have responded with mass industrial action in November and December.
The Merseyside shipyard has been in and out of public and private ownership over the years, closing against bitter resistance in 1993 and subsequently reborn in various diminishing guises as the historic Cammell Laird brand passed from hand to hand.
What has remained constant throughout has been its close ties with the defence industry. Shortly before the bombshell announcement of redundancies in October, news came through that the government had awarded the company contracts worth £619m in support of the MoD’s Royal Fleet Auxiliary, prematurely hailed as a decisive boost for the company.
With global overproduction affecting the shipyard industry (like every other industry), what remains of British shipbuilding after the long decline of the last century is increasingly out-competed by China, South Korea and Japan.
As in all such cases, workers falling victim to capitalist overproduction must demand the nationalisation of their workplaces. If there really is no call for the commodities they are producing, then their factories must be converted to produce something useful, and the workers retrained to make it.
The insanity of a system that throws workers on the scrapheap when there is plenty of useful work that society stands in need of is being ever more clearly exposed.
If the capitalists are unable to provide decent jobs that allow people to fulfil their basic needs, then workers must take control of the productive levers of society and run them themselves, planning production to meet the real needs of the masses, rather than for the enrichment of a tiny handful of parasitic billionaires.