The boss exploiting China (and Britain)

TV review

The boss exploiting China (and Britain)

Alec Price

Tony Caldeira is a businessman in the textiles industry, manufacturing cushions in China and the UK. A two-part BBC documentary The Town Taking on China, follows Caldeira’s plan to move jobs back from China to Kirkby, Merseyside. The documentary’s style shows Caldeira to be on a one-man mission, a ‘crusade’ even, to create jobs in Britain by ‘stealing’ them from China.

Although Caldeira started his business in Liverpool he decided to move to China. The reason for this was that labour costs in China were so low that even when you add on the transport costs etc, you could still make a bigger profit having a factory in China than you could in the UK.

Caldeira’s decisions have been good ones for business and he has received numerous awards and sales in excess of £20 million.

It’s been a different story for his workers who until recently slaved for 20p an hour and slept in the factory. However, a young ‘cockier’ generation in China are now ‘holding a gun’ to Caldiera’s head for better wages. This has seen wages rise to a whopping £1 an hour!

Most people would see this as a small but progressive step forward but it created a problem for Caldeira as a businessman. Distressed at this situation he wants to see if he is able to move back to Britain where if people ask for wages rises “they’d be on the next bus back to Kirkby because… there’s 200, 300 people waiting to take their place.”

The workers in Caldeira’s UK factory are on minimum wage and expected to make 50 cushions an hour in an attempt to earn a bonus. To keep afloat some of them take a second job, which makes one of the workers view the week as ‘one long day that ends on Friday’.

The programme shows in quite a clear way how capitalism operates. The business owners search for the cheapest labour costs to maximise profits. How the labour force have to live is irrelevant as profits come first.

The second part, shown on 15 May (available on BBC iPlayer) finishes with a decision from Caldeira as to whether he will concentrate in China or the UK.

Despite Caldeira’s ‘success’ in the business world he has had less success in politics. Standing as the Tory candidate for mayor of Liverpool he was visibly gutted to have finished behind the socialist policies advocated by Tony Mulhearn and the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC).