The recent Tory conference has seen the announcement of further rounds of welfare cuts and government job losses, to the tune of £16 billion. But that is not all they have in store for working people and wish workers to dance to another Tory tune.
They have also announced a change to the nature of capitalist form of wage-slavery. Wage-slavery is the term used to describe the situation that practically all working people are in, when they are forced by circumstances, to be employed by capital or to exist on handouts or starve. There are very few alternative sources of paid employment and certainly insufficient alternatives to absorb all those who need to work to survive.
The new twist is the proposal to get working people to voluntarily give up the hard-won terms and conditions achieved over the past 100 years of trade union and political struggle, in exchange for pieces of paper-promises known as ‘share certificates’. Legislation is being drawn up by the Tories, with Liberal Democrat approval, which will enable companies to offer share certificates in exchange for workers giving up the following: a) their entitlement to redundancy payments; b) their right to claim unfair dismissal; c) their rights to flexible working for family reasons; d) the rights to time off for training; and e) the rights to current maternity-leave entitlement.
In other words, workers will have to work harder, longer and more intensively in exchange for pieces of paper (share certificates) which in a period of capitalist downturn and crisis will be potentially worthless – as many became during the last collapse of the finance sector.
BACK TO THE FUTURE
Yet in many ways it is ‘back to the future. For those workers who agree to such a confidence trick, their new position will be the modern analogue of an agricultural worker and a tied cottage. Instead of being tied to the local agricultural Lord of the Manor, they will be tied to the success of a capitalist enterprise until the capitalist enterprise no longer needs them – and can then sack them without any penalties!
The workers can then walk away with their share certificates and see how long they can live off the proceeds when they sell them. Proceeds, which only rarely will equal redundancy or unfair dismissal entitlements they will have given away. And given the ongoing crisis, these shares are likely to take another nose-dive into oblivion, when a further financial crisis is triggered. So it is probable that workers who sign up for this – suicide pact with capital in melt-down – will walk away with little or nothing having given up the right to challenge what happens to them.
George Osborne at the Tory Conference announced triumphantly and shamelessly;
“Get shares and become owners of the company you work for – owners, workers and the taxman; all in it together. Workers of the World Unite!”
Yes indeed, we will all be in it together. Just like everybody was together in the Titanic when it went down and only the privileged survived. The lower-orders (the workers) were deliberately locked-in below decks to allow the privileged to escape the disaster.
Workers who sign up will be locked into a serf-like position. What is even worse is that this offer was not made when capitalism represented the latest, brand-new equivalent of an ocean liner, but is being offered now when capitalism is the equivalent of an obsolete leaking wreck, needing the scrap-yard, not sailing off on a challenging and perilous journey. The only bit Osborne got right was “workers of the world unite” but not has he, Cameron and Clegg advocate to unite in a collective kamikaze suicide pact, but unite in order to be rid of the capitalist system.
By Roy Ratcliffe [also at www.critical-mass.net