On a charitable interpretation Broon may have been saying that workers in Britain need education and training so they can compete for the jobs of the future. Only thing is, most people took it at face value. And at face value it reads like a BNP slogan.
Now that employers are laying off workers and construction sites have contracts with European companies there's a clamour to give those jobs to Broon's "British workers". This is now becoming a campaign, and recruiting, point for the BNP.
Now I read an SWP article, and stand back in amazement, I almost agree with it.
But these strikes are based around the wrong slogans and target the wrong peopleDo people really stand back and wait for a lead from unions? But that's not the point. The point is to change the strategy of the strikes to an inclusive one of attacking the employers and the practices of sub-contracting and low-wages.
It’s right to fight for jobs and against wage-cutting. It’s right to take on the poisonous system of sub-contracting that is used to make workers compete against each other.
It’s right to demand that everyone is paid the proper rate for the job and that there’s no undercutting of national agreements. And we need militant action, including unofficial action, to win these demands.
But these strikes are not doing that – whatever some of those involved believe.
The slogan accepted by many of the strikers is “British jobs for British workers”. That comes directly from Gordon Brown’s speech to the Labour Party conference in 2007. And it has been encouraged by many in the higher levels of the Unite union. Derek Simpson and others at the top of Unite have done nothing to encourage resistance to job losses, or a fightback against repossessions or against the anti-union laws. Instead they go along with a campaign that can divide workers.
But it lets the bosses off the hook and it threatens murderous division at a time when we need unity in action to fight back.
It’s not Italians or Poles or Portuguese workers who are to blame for the attacks on British workers’ conditions.
Construction workers have always been forced to move far from home for jobs, whether inside a country or between countries. How many British workers (or their fathers or brothers) have been forced to work abroad from Dubai to Dusseldorf?
When workers are divided it’s the bosses who gain. Total Oil, who manage the Immingham refinery, make £5 billion every three months! Jacobs, the main contractor which has then sub-contracted to an Italian firm, made £250 million in 2007.
These are the people workers should be hitting, not turning on one another.
Those who urge on these strikes are playing with fire. Once the argument is raised it can open the door to racism against individuals. Already in some supermarket warehouses the racists are calling for action against workers from abroad.
We all know what will happen if the idea spreads that it’s foreigners, or immigrants or black or Asian people who are to blame for the crisis. It will be a disaster for the whole working class, will encourage every racist and fascist and make it easier for the bosses to ram through pay and job cuts. Already the BNP are pumping out racist propaganda supporting the strikes.
Everyone should ask themselves why Tory papers like the Express and the Sun and Mail – which hate union power and urge on privatisation – are sympathetic to the strikes
Right wing ideas gain a hold among workers when they see their lives being torn apart and the unions offer no lead. No doubt some in Unite think it’s easier to get a fight around a slogan like “British jobs for British workers” which sets people apart than one that brings people together like “Workers should not pay for the bosses’ crisis”. That’s a doomed strategy.