Greedy Aussie Bosses Like to Blame Overseas Producers for Their Job Slashing. Don’t Buy Their Lies! Force Them to Retain Their Workforces & Accept Lower Profits!
1 May 2017 – Over the last five years, Australia’s biggest steel corporation, Bluescope Steel, has retrenched 2,000 workers. They said that they had no choice because of competition from overseas steel producers. They cried poor. What a load of horse manure! Three months ago, Bluescope Steel announced a profit, for just half a year, of over 600 million dollars! Meanwhile, the company share’s price is six times what it was just five years ago. That means, with- out doing any work for it, the company’s rich owners have increased their wealth held in it by six times while cruelly throwing out of work 2,000 of the workers who made them this fortune.
So who owns this corporate giant? Mainly, very rich local Australians who own shares in it through secretive bank nominee arrangements and through wealth management firms. Among the big shareholders are its executives. Filthy rich, Aussie CEO, Paul O’Malley owns nearly nine million dollars of shares. Another director is Daniel Grollo with an approaching half a million dollar holding. He is also the owner of developer Grocon – notorious for its obsession with suing the CFMEU union in the bosses’ courts and for its callous disregard for the safety of workers and bystanders. These Bluescope Steel executives sure do make sure that they are lavishly looked after … to put it mildly! In the previous financial year, when they threw out of work 500 workers, CEO O’Malley was given a $7.5 million pay package! That was actually $3 million more than the previous year. It’s almost like they get a bonus for sacking workers!
So Bluescope did not lay off thousands of workers ultimately because of competition from overseas. It’s simply that the owners and executives of this company wanted to make even more of a killing than they were already making. It’s the same reason why sly billionaire Andrew Forrest, a couple of years ago, cried poor that his Fortescue Metals Group “only” made a 400 million dollar profit and used that as a pretext to throw onto the scrapheap hundreds of the workers that made him his fortune. It is the same reason why the bosses of the big banks, IBM and Toll Group have been slashing jobs in the recent period left, right and centre. For these capitalist bigwigs, having three luxury holiday homes and two spare Porsches are not enough. They want more and are prepared to crush the lives of workers to get it.
A year and a half ago, Bluescope bosses held a gun to workers’ heads saying that if they did not accept job cuts and a pay freeze, they would stop steelmaking and 4,500 jobs in the Illawara would be lost. The pro-ALP leaders of the AWU trade union buckled and recommended that workers bow to these demands. They should have, instead, insisted that any attempt to shut down production would result in workers occupying the plants and the big shareholders would, thus, lose all their investments. Bluescope’s mates in the NSW Liberal government, meanwhile, granted them $60 million. Now, three million dollars of that had to go straight away to cover the CEO’s pay rise (no wage freeze for him!) and the rest has gone into boosting the owners’ huge profits. Yet, while handing over sacks of money to job-slashing millionaires, the government cries it is short of funds and must slash public housing in the Illawara and Millers Point!
Bluescope’s argument that it needed to cut jobs and freeze wages was a bunch of lies! In the year before they were still making over $136 million in profit and in the year of the big sackings they made over $353 million. In other words, if we assume that Bluescope’s average annual wages bill per worker is around $90,000, we will find that if Bluescope had not slashed those 500 jobs and even if those workers contributed zero to total revenue (which would, of course, not be the case), the company would still only have lost some 13% of its current profit.
So next time a capitalist boss tells you that they need to cut jobs because of overseas competition you know what to do! Workers interests lie not in trying to make big business owners more profits but in actually forcing them to accept lower profits by compelling them to retain and, in fact, increase their workforces. The way we can force them to do this is through the methods that have won working class people all the rights that we have: industrial action and mass struggle. Of course, the capitalists will scream that forcing them to hire more workers at the expense of their profits will “kill investment” and make their operations “unfeasible”. To this we will respond: if it is unfeasible for you capitalists to run the economy in a way that provides for and utilises the labour and skills of all workers then we working class people will rip the ownership of the economy out of your hands and put it into our able collective hands.
Every Day Should Be International Workers Day!
The dominance of Laborite politics within our unions means that, currently, the struggle for jobs is not focussed on forcing bosses to increase hiring. Instead, our union leaders are pushing for measures to help local bosses do better against overseas rivals. However, such protectionism never works. Just as the workers movement here can call on the government to take measures to favour local firms, workers movements abroad can do the same. The only net result is that the workers of different countries are left divided leaving the bosses everywhere laughing all the way to their respective banks. Note that when Bluescope sacked hundreds of workers and froze wages, it screamed about “unfair” competition and “dumping” from overseas as an excuse. As we have shown that was just a diversion! Protectionist demands to favour local bosses simply plays into the hands of the capitalist exploiters. Of course, sometimes capitalists sing the tune of “free trade” too so that they can use the existence of competition to justify cutting wages and jobs. That is why we should be neither advocating protectionist measures nor free trade, just uniting workers to fight against the capitalists. What we must do, however, is to oppose protectionist appeals – as they serve to divert workers from fighting against their exploiters.
The capitalists and the various political parties that serve them are always blaming someone else for the, job slashing. Most recently, Liberal prime minister Turnbull, aping Donald Trump and extreme racist bigot Pauline Hanson, sought to blame guest workers. Ranting “Australians first,” he put additional restrictions on the entry of guest workers. The ALP and many union leaders have responded by saying the changes do not go far enough. Meanwhile, even while calling out the government and ALP for dog whistling to racism, the Greens propose their own additional “local workers first” measures which will, even when presented in a “nice”, liberal way, feed into poisonous nationalism too. The truth, however, is that guest workers can hardly be blamed for unemployment when they make up an absolutely tiny 0.7% of the workforce! Like all immigrants, a guest worker employed here not only works but spends money and pays taxes: both of which create jobs. It is true that bosses can especially exploit vulnerable guest workers and use that added level of exploitation to drive down the conditions for all workers. However, we should respond to this not with divisive slogans to “keep out guest workers” but by demanding equal wages and extra protections for guest workers and, most importantly, by demanding that our guest worker comrades have the rights of citizens so that bosses cannot threaten them with deportation if they resist.
To be as powerful a force as possible, local workers must unite as one with our guest worker and overseas worker comrades; and must unite as one across racial and ethnic lines. However, we can only build such a genuine unity if we positively mobilise against every method used by the exploiting class to divide and divert the masses with racism and nationalism. The workers movement must oppose Turnbull’s insulting scheme to force new citizenship applicants to accept “Australian values” (as if migrants have a much greater propensity to commit violence against women than existing citizens), must demand freedom for refugees and full citizenship rights for everyone who lives here and must stand by Aboriginal people in their struggle against their ongoing brutal racist oppression.
As the 100th Anniversary of the World’s First Socialist Revolution Draws Near Never Forget Its Lessons
If we can orient our unions onto the path of forcing capitalists to retain more workers than is most profitable for them, we can make headway in the struggle for jobs for all. However, we would eventually come up against the very essence of the capitalist system whose existence depends on big business owners being able to maximise profits. That is why our struggle must culminate in the working class seizure of the means of production from the capitalist class. Nearly 100 years ago, the working class and allied toiling peoples proved for all time that this is possible when they made the October 1917 Socialist Revolution in Russia. That revolution brought great gains for the masses – not least guaranteed jobs for all and a significantly improved social position for women. If the resulting workers state later became deformed and eventually in 1991-92 destroyed, it was because our side was not strong enough to defeat the revolution’s external and internal threats. However, the world’s most populous country remains under socialistic rule – despite being weakened by capitalist inroads and bureaucratic deformation. The continued dominance of socialistic state-owned enterprises in the Chinese economy has allowed that country to spectacularly bring hundreds of millions of people out of poverty. Even in North Korea where socialistic rule has been quite deformed under immense hostile capitalist pressure, the masses continue to endure the hardships caused by sanctions to defend their workers state against incessant U.S./Australian imperialist threats in the same way that striking workers on a picket line will accept the hardships of struggle in order to fight for a better future. The North Korean masses have indeed been on the picket line in this way for over 70 years! They and those Chinese, Cuban, Vietnamese and Laotian people standing by socialistic rule in their countries need our support. This is part of our fight to complete the work that the October 1917 Revolution began – to bring the working class to power throughout the world.
Let’s never forget what made the October Revolution possible. One key factor was that the working class was led by a party that fought tooth and nail to defeat every attempt of the capitalist enemy to divide its ranks with racism and national-chauvinism. We, too, here need to build a workers party that will in Lenin’s words “declare war to the death on dominant nation chauvinism.” A key part of the fight to ensure that such a program guides the workers movement today – especially in this time of rising protectionism worldwide – is to oppose “Aussie First” economic nationalism and to ensure that the fight to defend jobs is a fight against the capitalist bosses and their relentless drive to minimise labour “costs.”