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Sunday, 31 July 2011

Nationalise Bombardier to save jobs

Train manufacturer Bombardier has announced the loss of 1,400 jobs following the government decision to award the Thameslink rail project to German company, Siemens.

These cuts will devastate the area; for every job at Bombardier there are four in the supply chain. The existence of the last train manufacturer in Britain, employing 3,000 people in Derby, is under threat.

Around 10,000 marched against job cuts on Saturday 23 July in the biggest demonstration in Derby for decades. It was a protest of the working class, with Bombardier workers marching alongside supporters from all over Derby and beyond.

Large numbers of trade union banners from across both the public and private sectors mingled with homemade ones such as "Save my granddad's job". Workers came from far and wide to show solidarity, but it was Derby people who made up the bulk of the march.

Shoppers applauded the march through the city centre; workers came out of factories en route to signal support. The anger against the Con-Dem government is palpable.

They are blamed for awarding the contract on a basis that did not take into account of the costs of throwing up to 15,000 people in the Derby area out of work: lost tax, extra benefits to pay out and the knock on effect on the local economy.

At the closing rally a range of speakers including Bob Crow, RMT general secretary called for a reversal of the government decision to give 'preferred bidder status' to Siemens rather than Bombardier.

Various politicians were also keen to identify with the workers, including Labour MPs and even the Tory Council leader (although he is making hundreds of job cuts at the council himself!)

Thousands of leaflets were handed out by Socialist Party members and supporters of the National Shop Stewards Network (NSSN) calling for the re-nationalisation of Bombardier and the rail network in order to expand public transport and create a long term future for rail jobs.

On the Friday, the Derby Telegraph had a piece on the NSSN's call for nationalisation of Bombardier quoting Dave Gorton, Midlands co-ordinator: "In the 1970s, the then Conservative government nationalised Rolls Royce to save it.

"They can do the same again with Bombardier. In fact, the whole rail industry should be renationalised immediately".

That nationalisation call has gained an echo in Derby, where Rolls Royce established its first factory. Hundreds of copies of the Socialist were sold and our petitions calling for nationalisation were popular.

One example of how broad the support for that call is was the nun who offered to take some of the Socialist Party petitions back to her convent to get signed!

"I'm buzzing, I feel as though something can change"
Following the demo 100 people went straight to a meeting called by the NSSN on how the fight to defend jobs could go on.

Darren Barber, vice chair of the Bombardier trade union shop stewards committee, got proceedings off to a lively start with an enthusiastic and well received contribution, "I'm buzzing, I feel as though something can change because everyone has got together.

"The mood was dead when the announcement first came, but when the unions start getting involved we started to get some belief. It makes me proud to be a rep."

Alex Gordon, RMT president, in an excellent speech, spelt out his union's position on nationalisation and public ownership and that workers' jobs would never be safe while in the hands of private companies.

His remarks were welcome, coming only an hour after the chairman of Bombardier UK had been invited to speak at the main rally!

Alex congratulated the NSSN and went on to attack the government's economic policies: "The job the Shop Stewards Committee has done to turn round the mood, working with the unions, has turned this into a massive campaign, It couldn't have happened with just a newspaper editor or a couple of sympathetic local MPs who might be worried about how the blame is going to go in the next election.

"The existence of a shop stewards system of organisation is proving its worth."

"[Tory chancellor] Osborne says the 750,000 jobs going in the public sector will be replaced in private industry. What has happened over Bombardier gives the lie to the government's policies. Bombardier was cheaper on the design and build.

"Siemens was cheaper because they don't require credit as the German government has given them a massive loan. The other reason is that Siemens 30-year contact for maintenance of their nine maintenance depots in this country does not recognise a union, one of the worst employers in the train maintenance industry. It is about driving down pay and conditions.

"This contract decision needs to be reversed. But only when it returns to public ownership, benefiting all the people of this country will we be able to solve these problems."

Rob Williams, chair of the NSSN, said: "We fully support the Bombardier workers. It is in all workers interests, whether in the public or private sectors, for Bombardier workers to win. It is important we join up these battles.

"We stand for international solidarity, but that is no contradiction to defending the jobs in Derby. How can any government force a company to invest when it isn't owned by the government?

"Why can't the government nationalise Bombardier just like the banks? It was a Tory government that nationalised Rolls Royce in 1971 overnight to save that company - there is a precedent.

"Except that this time it should be with democratic workers' control and management."

Rob urged all in attendance to plan for the lobby of the TUC in September where we can urge the trade union leaders to call united action in defence of pensions and jobs across the public and private sectors.

Rob concluded: "This is a weak government. We are lobbying the TUC for a 24-hour public sector general strike in the autumn over the issues of pensions and job cuts in public services.

If we win on that will it make it easier or harder to win at Bombardier? We have to say no more 'heroic defeats', let's unite private and public sector workers and win a famous victory here in Derby."

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