Standing up

Written By: - Date published: 1:30 pm, March 28th, 2009 - 7 comments
Categories: workers' rights - Tags: ,

This week Sealord confirmed it would lay off 130 staff to improve its already healthy return on capital. The other 400 have been threatened with the sack if they don’t accept pay cuts.

The Service and Food Workers Union has put together a youtube clip about community resistance to corporate greed, focusing on the rally in Nelson last weekend. It’s bloody well done:

As Neville Donaldson says in the clip, “if ever there was a time to get into a collective mode, this is it”.

7 comments on “Standing up”

  1. rave 1

    Great song. At least they are saying “standup”. If you leave it to the union bosses it will be the “collectivism” of mass prayer on one’s knees. That happens in church already.
    Standing up means fighting for workers control of Sealords. Expropriate Nissui and put the workers in control and make sure that iwi people actually control the other 50% owned in their name, not corporate Maori in partnership with a giant multinational that wants a free trade zone on board their ships where they can ruthlessly exploit workers in shitty conditions.

    • Bill 1.1

      These are the sentiments I wish I was hearing more of. Sorry for the lengthy cut and paste, but I think it’s worth it. The entire article “Demand, Don’t Succumb” covering much more besides employment is here. .

      “What about employment? Demand has already dropped and is dropping further. To deal with needing to produce less output due to facing reduced demand, firms fire workers. We don’t want that, so we need another law. There will be no firing until the crisis is passed. None. We don’t want firing, so we outlaw firing. The owners won’t like that. Tough. They are the masters of the old universe, not of the one we want to live in.

      But how can owners keep just as many workers, yet produce less output? They can cut back hours for each worker. That way they keep all their workers employed but they can also have a total output at whatever level is needed. But wait – unless we make another rule, cutting back work hours would reduce overall incomes the same as just some people getting pink slips would. It would reduce overall demand and continue the spiraling problem of less demand inducing less production causing less demand, further reducing production, etc. Well, we can just adapt our new law.

      Firms can and should cut hours in order to not overproduce when output must be reduced to avoid waste. That’s fair enough. However firms cannot cut their total wage bill. Worker income cannot suffer due to the shortening of work time. If a workers’ hours drop from 40 to 30, say, or more likely from 60 or 50 to 40, he or she still gets paid the total that he or she was earning at the greater number of hours. This means we are raising hourly wages. If you get the same income for 30 hours as you got for 40 hours and you were earning $10 an hour before, now you must be earning $13.33. With this approach, the total wage bill does not drop. Demand does not drop. Workers are working fewer hours, but with no cut in their total incomes. Additionally, we can impose that hourly wages cannot be cut during the crisis – at all. So be careful owners. If you unwisely cut back production, you will have to raise hourly wages. If you later increase production back up, increasing hours for everyone, you will have to maintain wages at their elevated level! It is probably better to drop your prices a bit and sell more, than to cut production when purchasing power declines.
      These are the sentiments I wish I was hearing more of
      Let’s suppose those hearing this program are really relentless about pursuing justice. They say, hold on, what about the millions of currently unemployed? Why should they continue to suffer? So let’s deal with that too. How about, right off, all firms must reduce the work week of all staff by 10%. Then, to keep producing at current levels, they must immediately hire new employees to make up the ensuing loss in output. At that point, if the firm wants/needs to reduce hours further for everyone, so be it – wages stay up – as described above. But then someone points out that all this extra wage burden will decimate profits. But our reply is: so what? You bet it will. That’s the point. For at least the duration of the crisis – and we can hope this kind of thinking will catch on and persist forever – owners will have to operate pretty much without profits, and even taking losses, which means we are finally redistributing in the ethically and economically right direction.”

  2. RedLogix 2

    a giant multinational that wants a free trade zone on board their ships where they can ruthlessly exploit workers in shitty conditions.

    These floating processing factories are the new slave-trade hulks. Shame on Sealord for having anything to do with them at all.

  3. Tom M 3

    To be honest, I’m a little bit bewildered by the outrage at this. Obviously it’s a terrible thing for anyone to lose their job, but we are in a recession. To expect employment to be stable and for the firms to just ‘absorb’ it into their profits somehow is dreaming. It’s a truism that they wouldn’t be laying off workers if they didn’t have less money than before. I personally would prefer that Sealord continues to employ less people than no people at all because it’s closed down, and I think its workers would as well.

    A more productive angle might be to campaign for higher unemployment benefits and packages to help unemployed people get back into work, rather than trying to make firms conjure money out of thin air.

    • Bill 3.1

      The problem with the approach you take is that profit is seen as sacrosanct. While that is probably the preferred viewpoint of those that benefit from profit, why should it be ours? Capitalism always tends to overproduction and lesser profits. Bosses benefit most from Capitalism’s upswings and so it is only right and proper that they should suffer the most in it’s downturns.

      It’s not even as though Sealord are going bust, they are making money. Why accept that workers must always pay for a drop in profits? It’s bloody unconscionable behaviour on the part of bosses.

      Even if Sealords was now operating at a loss, it would take some years for the losses to accumulate to even one years worth of previous profit.

      Don’t know if you read the Albert link I provided, but the attitude more than the details of his argument, interesting as they are, was a breath of fresh air.

      Why do even radicals call for variations of “People First. Profits Second” rather than “People First. Profits Never”?

      captcha 17 708 000 Tombs…….oh, how capitalism rocks!

  4. charlie 4

    If you don’t mind clicking through the “donate now” page this, from ‘the sods’ favourite, Exiled On Line, is a sobering read.

    • Bill 4.1

      You think JK might be persuaded on the $5000 front? Or should he be denied the escape option? Hmm

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