All workers & young people should upport the De Beers workers in their fight
Element Six/De Beers’ plan to shut their Shannon plant, sacking 370 workers, and move production elsewhere is a disgusting stab in the back of the workers whose hard work has made them billions in profits over the years.
After huge sacrifices, including working part time on the promise that this would save jobs, the company now want to pack up and jump ship, with only a pittance of a redundancy. The entire cost of the redundancy scheme to the company is only €6.6m, about one week’s turnover for the factory, according to the Irish Independent!
Note: This article was written before managment started discussing an "alternative" proposal saving "some" jobs, probably only a stay of execution, and demaningd much reduced wages, terms and conditions. Therefore, the need for a fight still very much stands
These actions are motivated purely by greed. De Beers is a profitable company, making $3 million in the last year. The order books for many Element Six products are full. But they want more profit and don’t care if livelihoods have to be laid to waste in the process. They plan to throw hundreds of workers on the dole, in order to move elsewhere to pay slave wages of around €3 an hour.
With over 400,000 on the live register, and predictions that this will rise to 600,000 next year, job losses mean many workers face long term or even permanent unemployment. For some, there is no guarantee that they will work again. Just so Element Six can make more profits, workers face struggling with mortgages and loans, while living on a dole which faces cuts.
If they get away with this, more companies in the region and around the country will follow suit. If these jobs are let go they will not come back. There will be a legacy of unemployment in the region into the future. This is why as well as fighting for better redundancy, workers need to fight to save the jobs.
Action and occupation can get results
A strong fight, reaching out to workers across the region and the country, can put a stop to the company's plans. Element Six must be forced to open up its books, and show where the profits from the last 40 years have gone. The workers should demand that these profits are reinvested to safeguard jobs, and provide a decent redundancy package for those who want it.
The company will attempt to tie workers up in endless negotiations, and hope to deflate the anger and mood for action, in order to be able to sneak out the back door. Workers should not let this happen. In reality, it is the level of organisation of the workers on the ground, and their willingness to take firm action that will wring concessions out of management. As the recent electricians' strike shows – strong industrial action, not endless talks, gets results. In particular a struggle to save jobs would get huge support from ordinary people throughout the region and indeed the whole country, but even if it comes to redundancies, taking action can drastically improve redundancy terms.
Recently workers in Visteon (Ford) in Belfast and Waterford Crystal occupied their factories and successfully won better redundancy payments. Element Six workers should consider building on the sit-in protest of February, this time to establish a complete occupation of the factory. This would ensure the company removes no equipment, materials or finished products, and give the workers a real bargaining chip.
Demand the Government Act
The government cannot be allowed to sit idly by as jobs are axed, unemployment rises and factories gather dust. Element Six workers should organise to put pressure on the government to take action to stop the jobs massacre, and to actively create jobs. This is a vulnerable government, facing a referendum and elections. A strong campaign which reaches out and involves workers across the entire region in mass protests and other such actions., could force them to act.
If De Beers are not willing to safeguard jobs, then the factory and resources should be taken into democratic public ownership. If the government can spend billions bailing out corrupt bankers, then there is no reason why they cannot come up with the initial investment for research and development, and whatever retraining and retooling is needed to safeguard these jobs, or immediately provide alternative employment. The one thing that is both unviable and unthinkable is to allow any more jobs to disappear.