Members of the Socialist Party in Limerick went out to the Element Six plant in Shannon Industrial Estate on 28 July, to express our solidarity with the workers’ struggle against the companies job massacre, and terrible redundancy package. Here we reproduce the solidarity statement distributed
Last week, Element Six/De Beers announced plans to shut the Shannon plant and move production to lower wage economies, paying around €3 an hour. They also offered an abysmal redundancy package of one weeks wages for every year of service, compared with the company standard of six weeks, which the workers are demanding as a minimum.
Below is the Socialist Party solidarity statement distributed amongst the workers, in which we express our solidarity with their struggle, raise the need for a fighting strategy, and a fight to defend jobs.— — — — — —
Time to take a stand against Element Six’s Greed
The Socialist Party, and our MEP Joe Higgins, would like to express our solidarity with the workers in Element Six in your fight against the companies job massacre and insulting redundancy deal. A strong stand must be taken against this vicious greed.
Element Six/De Beers’ plan to shut the plant and move production elsewhere is a disgusting stab in the back of the workers whose hard work has made them billions in profits over the years. After huge sacrifices, including working part time on the promise that this would save jobs, the company now want to pack up and jump ship, with only a pittance of a redundancy. The entire cost of the redundancy scheme to the company is only €6.6m, about one week’s turnover for the factory, according to the Irish Independent!
Fight for jobs needed
These actions are motivated purely by greed. De Beers is a profitable company, making $3 million in the last year. The order books for many Element Six products are full. But they want more profit and don’t care if livelihoods have to be laid waste in the process. They plan to throw hundreds of workers on the dole, in order to move elsewhere to pay slave wages of around €3 an hour.
With over 400,000 on the live register, and predictions that this will raise to 600,000 next year, if jobs at Element Six are lost, will all the workers be able to find other employment? The answer is no. The mid west in particular faces a long term crisis of unemployment, flowing partly from the thousands of jobs lost at Dell. In this climate, job losses mean many workers face long term or even permanent unemployment. For some, there is no guarantee that they will work again. Just so Element Six can make more profits, workers face struggling with mortgages and loans, while living on a dole which faces cuts.
If they get away with this, more companies in the region and around the country will follow suit. If these jobs are let go they will not come back. There will be a legacy of unemployment in the region into the future. This is why as well as fighting for better redundancy; workers need to fight to save the jobs.
Action and occupation can get results
A strong fight, reaching out to workers across the region and the country, can put a stop to the companies plans. Element Six must be forced to open up its books, and show where the profits from the last 40 years have gone. The workers should demand that these profits are reinvested to safeguard jobs, and provide a decent redundancy package for those who want it.
The company will attempt to tie workers up in endless negotiations, and hope to deflate the anger and mood for action, in order to be able to sneak out the back door. Workers should not let this happen. In reality, it is the level of organisation of the workers on the ground, and their willingness to take firm action that will wring concessions out of management. As the recent electrician’s strike shows – strong industrial action, not endless talks, gets results. In particular a struggle to save jobs would get huge support from ordinary people throughout the region and indeed the whole country, but even if it comes to redundancies, taking action can drastically improve redundancy terms.
Recently workers in Visteon (Ford) in Belfast, and Waterford Crystal occupied their factories and successfully won better redundancy payments. Element Six workers should consider building on the sit-in protest of February, to this time establish a complete occupation of the factory. This would ensure the company remove no equipment, materials or finished products, and give the workers a real bargaining chip.
Demand the Government Act
The government cannot be allowed to sit idly by as jobs are axed, unemployment rises and factories gather dust. Element Six workers should organise to put pressure on the government to take action to stop the jobs massacre, and to actively create jobs. This is a vulnerable government, facing a referendum and elections. A strong campaign which reaches out and involves workers across the entire region in mass protests etc., could force them to act.
If De Beers are not willing to safeguard jobs, then the factory and resources should be taken into democratic public ownership. If the government can spend billions bailing out corrupt bankers, then there is no reason why they cannot come up with the initial investment for research and development, and whatever retraining and retooling is needed, to safeguard these jobs, or immediately provide alternative employment. The one thing that is both unviable and unthinkable is to allow any more jobs to disappear.
Support from the Socialist Party
The Socialist Party, and our MEP, Joe Higgins, have a record of assisting workers in fighting for their rights. For example we worked with workers in Waterford Crystal, Visteon and GAMA Construction, who stood up and won major concessions from their employers. We think workers in Element Six should discuss these examples, and ensure that the best fighting strategy is used in your struggle. We would like to help in whatever way we can in those discussions and that fight.
Please feel free to contact us on 086-8064801 if you would like to discuss these issues further.