Nov 14, 2011
Despite dividend levels that once again reached 110 billion dollars, that is, the same as before the recession, large British companies continue to announce wage cuts and other attacks.
The eight largest companies dominating the construction industry, for example, want to impose a wage cut for electricians between 14 and 37%.
The workers of the British subsidiary of Ford Motor have discovered a hidden clause in the contract that will reduce wages of new hires by 20% beginning in April of 2012 and kick them out of the pension plan beginning in 2013.
Other companies have found sneaky ways to cut workers’ wages. The railroad company East Coast, a spin off from a state enterprise to the private sector, employs temp-agency workers, whose wages are 37% lower than workers already working there. A new European Union agreement says temporary workers must be paid the same wage for the same work after 12 weeks. So East Coast will use new job classifications to put one group of workers next to another, doing exactly the same work – at 37% lower wages. It will be no surprise when East Coast decides to keep only the lower paid workers.
Jaguar Land Rover employs 800 temp-agency workers at the minimum wage in its Halewood factory. (The regular workers don’t get all that much more.) Jaguar has proposed that the temp workers voluntarily renounce benefits from the new European agreement, for which they promise to give the first 300 volunteers a guarantee of five days work each week. Others only get part-time work. And at least 200 temp workers will be out the door immediately!
There have been many other such attacks from 2008 to the present, but now we may be seeing a reaction. In London, the electricians in the construction industry organize to block one large work site each week. And at Ford, where the vote is taking place on the new contract, three factories out of seven have already voted against the contract by large majorities.
The chief executive of Barclays Bank, the second largest bank in Britain, expressed concern that increasing social inequality could create social troubles. He may be right!