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Posted on 18 July 2011 at 17:01 GMT

Renationalise Bombardier to save jobs

Thousands of people will march through Derby city centre on Saturday 23 July in protest at the threatened 1,400 job losses at the train building firm Bombardier.

There is overwhelming anger at the Con-Dem government that is primarily being blamed and that, only months ago, visited the city claiming to 'defend' manufacturing industry.

Workers who have given years of service and who have valuable skills and experience will be discarded!

For every job at Bombardier that goes, four more in the supply chain will disappear. The Canadian firm is reviewing its UK operations, which if shut down would result in a total of 3,000 jobs going at Bombardier with another 12,000 other jobs being wiped out in the region.

These figures of course do not include the 'multiplier effect' of lost business to other companies as so many people will have no money to spend. This is only the latest in a series of job losses in the city.

Bombardier is the last major train manufacturing company in the country, prior to privatisation it was called British Rail Engineering Ltd. At a time when David Cameron's government is making huge cuts in public services, resulting in the loss of hundreds of thousands of public sector jobs, he claims that private industry will 'expand to take up the slack'.

But by allowing these jobs to go, Cameron is doing the opposite: he says one thing and does another. Workers in the private sector and the public sector need to unite to fight all these job cuts.

One inevitably affects the other. In the bidding process for the 1.4 billion Thameslink rail contract the government has awarded 'preferred bidder status' to German firm Siemens, the immediate cause of the crisis.

Yet they have not taken into account the wider costs of massive unemployment - extra benefits paid out and lost taxes. We have also been given information that suggests the difference in costs between the two bids was the 30 year maintenance contract, and that in its UK maintenance facilities Siemens does not recognise unions.

Big business doesn't care about the wider costs, in its drive for profit it wants to make workers compete with each other internationally in a 'race to the bottom'.

The government's interpretation of the EU's rules only serves the interests of capitalism, no matter how short sighted. This is not in the interests of workers in any country.

The Con-Dems say the tendering process was set up by the previous Labour government, claiming that they had no choice. Of course, the last Labour government also had a neoliberal approach, but to say that an elected government cannot change things is nonsense.

The bids had to include the cost of financing the investment, which put Bombardier at a disadvantage compared to Siemens, as it has a poorer credit rating.

It would cost it hundreds of thousands of pounds more over 30 years. If it was government financed, the costs would have been a lot less.

Bombardier, like Siemens, is a multinational company whose motivation is only maximising profit. The Socialist Party says: Open the books to inspection by the unions and the workforce! We oppose all job cuts and call for the immediate renationalisation of Bombardier to save jobs, with democratic control involving the workforce.

If this was linked to the renationalisation of the railways and a plan for consistent reinvestment in, and expansion of, the rail system, then plenty of jobs could be provided.

This would have the benefit of aiding the fight against global climate change by taking traffic off the roads. Renationalisation is a realistic demand given the massive government bailouts to the banks to stop them collapsing.

Even a Tory government renationalised another major Derby employer, Rolls Royce, overnight in 1970 to stop it collapsing.

Steve Score, East Midlands Socialist Party

Steve Score interviewed a Bombardier worker:

"The mood is pretty bad. It's a dire situation.

"I work for a company which is owned by Bombardier but in the main Litchurch lane works. Although these redundancies don't affect me directly, our biggest fear is that Bombardier will pull out of the UK altogether.

"There is a lot of anger: Everyone is first and foremost blaming the government. Others who look into things a bit deeper are suspicious of Bombardier's intentions.

"It is a global company: did it plan to pull out of the UK anyway?

"Cameron's lot came to Derby only a few months ago. He told us that they were going to stand up for manufacturing.

"He commented on how the rail industry was at the forefront of industry in Derby and praised the Bombardier works. Then he pulled the rug from under our feet.

"We thought that we had the contract, and everyone was astounded by the announcement that we hadn't. We have been waiting for it for a long time.

"The decision was originally meant to be in 2009, but it was delayed, possibly deliberately by the last government until after the general election. Now Cameron refuses to talk to us, saying it's not his job, telling us to speak to Vince Cable instead.

"He is sticking two fingers up to us!

"The government comes out with this rubbish that the decision is in the taxpayers' interest. How can it be when they are now going to have to pay people to be on the dole? The internet bank Egg is closing in Derby with 650 jobs going, there's 180 going in the Post Office, and the Celanese factory has just been demolished.

"All these people are going to be fighting for the same jobs. People see the job cuts at Bombardier as possibly meaning the end of the rail industry here, a big thing for a very long time here in Derby.

"Every other main country has its own train-making capacity, if we are left without one what does it say about the British economy?

"There has been massive support from Derby people, I have helped out with the unions' petitioning in town and everyone has supported us.

"Even Tory councillors have had to come out in support with hollow words, but they know if they don't they will be out on their ear in the next elections!

"Bombardier doesn't really tell us much at all. I agree they should 'open the books'.

"They are always telling us how well they are doing abroad; they are a massive global company. Yet since the announcement on job cuts there has been no feedback.

"As workers we make all this huge amount of money for them, and then our reward is to be thrown on the dole!

"Since privatisation - it was originally British Rail Engineering Ltd (BREL) - the company has been taken over several times by people who were really asset strippers.

"I get the feeling Bombardier took us on to get into the UK market, with the full order books at the time, but now want out. Since the privatisation of the railways the work has come in huge contracts every now and then, resulting in a dependency on agency workers who are taken on then got rid of when not needed.

"It would be better if rail was nationalised, had consistent investment and the work came as a steady flow."


This version of this article was first posted on the Socialist Party website on 18 July 2011 and may vary slightly from the version subsequently printed in The Socialist.

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