This morning I listened the Today program on Radio 4 and heard Tony Woodley, the joint secretary of the Unite union, discussing the recent take over of Vauxhall/Opal by a Canadian parts manufacturer named Magna. Obviously Mr. Woodley argued for retaining the jobs at Ellesmere Port and Luton.
The role of a Union is to represent the worker so it is right that Mr. Woodley argues for protecting the jobs of workers. In a Capitalist system, it is also right that the managers of the company protect the value of the company for shareholders. Ideally the two sides would meet to discuss the issues involved and reach some kind of compromise.
These days, corporations have become global and many are classed as multinationals and have shareholders from multiple nations. The managers of these corporations will naturally look to base their business in a location which provides the maximum Return On Investment (ROI) and in the case of Vauxhall/Opal this might mean that they may decide to close down Ellesmere Port or Luton in favour of continuing or expanding production in Germany.
You may not agree with Capitalism but this is how it works.
The response of trade unions has been pitiful. Mr. Woodley has merely argued that the British government should intervene to protect British jobs. This is an inadequate response.
Politically unions tend to be lean to the left and some are outright socialists emphasising the fraternity of workers world wide. Indeed the very purpose of a union is to unite workers so that they cannot be picked off individually by the employers.
“United we stand, divided we fall” is a common phrase within trade unionism yet when job cuts loom union leaders scurry to save their workers jobs at the cost of foreign jobs.
The corporate managers must love it. Governments of each country are badgered by their unions into supplying incentives to the multinationals. More often than not these incentives boil down to tax payers money and the tax payers are the same workers who’s jobs the government is trying to protect.
Dr. Johnson has been much in the news recently and it was he who said that patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel. I am not suggesting that union leaders are scoundrels but they show a woeful lack of imagination and principle when allowing corporations to play one nation off against another.
We have comparatively free markets within The European Union for goods and services. The unions within Europe should unite to protect the jobs and rights of workers throughout Europe.
Of course the argument is then that the jobs will go outside the European Union but as we do not have a global free trade area yet perhaps global union action can also wait.