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The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain

Redundant workers

by New Worker correspondent

THE PRESENT strike wave has largely been about workers seeking long overdue wage increases from both highly profitable private companies and the public sector. One notable exception are the struggles by transport unions RMT and TSSA whose present action is partly to defend jobs, particularly from plans to close ticket offices and introduce driver only operations. Government promises of a wage rise depend on accepting unacceptable cuts.

There are a growing number of redundancy situations in Britain. Redundancies can be important battlegrounds to save services or industries. Sometimes they highlight the rottenness of capitalism when workers lose their jobs when due to takeovers by financial companies interested only in the short-term extraction of profits rather than its long-term activities.

There are many occasions when redundancies are tamely accepted. Older workers can be happy to take a lump sum to depart and take early retirement with a reduced occupational pension. Younger workers might do the same if they sense that their company or even industry has no real future. The example of the Upper Clyde Shipbuilders who took over the yards in 1971 to prevent closure does not seem to inspire many workers today, despite it increasing morale in later years.

Ever since the 1965 Redundancy Payments Act 1965, British workers have the right to a severance payment if their jobs become economically unnecessary to the employer. This Act made employers think more carefully about laying-off workers. In the event of an employer going bankrupt, or simply running off with all their assets, it is the taxpayer who picks up the tab via the Redundancy Payment Service.

Many on the left, and not just ultra-left sectarians, hold that redundancy payments have made the working class soft and unwilling to fight for their jobs. Amongst those holding such views are industrial relations academics with tenure in universities and who have boiler-plated redundancy agreements themselves. There may be some truth in this, but a redundancy payment in hand for workers of all ages is often better than a long fight with unpredictable results.

The effects on the local community of factory closures are of course more long lasting, and redundancy payments do not last long and are often counted against benefit claims. Of course, not all jobs can be saved, but trade unions ought to encourage their members to put up more of a fight.

squaring up

At present there are a large number workers squaring up for battles over redundancy. The accounting and advisory firm BDO recently said that with inflation and supply-chain problems mounting, bosses are reducing recruitment plans and considering redundancies to deal with rising costs. Kaley Crossthwaite, a partner at BDO, offered more detail by saying: “Although output and confidence levels grew slightly in December, the marginal upticks will do little to calm the nerves of UK businesses. Inflation and supply chain pressures are clearly being felt across the board, as employers pause recruitment plans and consider redundancies to manage rising costs.” In other words, the working class are in for a hard time as if we did not already know.