Workers action can defeat bosses jobs cuts
“We have to look at our cost base on a global basis."
This was the cynical defence used by multibillion pound drinks company Diageo to justify their intention to axe over 900 jobs in the west of Scotland. Unless these proposals are defeated the hammer blow will be felt hardest at the Johnnie Walker bottling plant in Kilmarnock which faces closure and the loss of 700 jobs. 200 more will go at the Port Dundas distillery in Glasgow.
Diageo, whose business include Guinness and Smirnoff vodka among others, have provoked outrage and anger among the workforce and the wider community, especially in Kilmarnock where the closure of the Johnnie Walker plant after almost 200 years would make the area the No1 unemployment black spot in Scotland. This justified anger is fuelled by the colossal profits made globally by Diageo and by its operations in Scotland. Not even this profit-hungry corporation is claiming to be losing money. In fact their profits up to the end of 2008 were more than £1.6 billion for 6 months - an increase of 17%.
No, their concern is not becoming loss making company, instead their fear is that instead of making a 7-9% operating profit it may only be a 4-6% profit as a result of the recession. They therefore intend to devastate a local community like Kilmarnock and see over 900 workers lose their livelihoods – many of whom will struggle to find another job – like sacrificial lambs slaughtered at the alter of corporate greed.
This cost cutting wont apply to to the top bosses. Diageo cheif executive, Paul Walsh, pocketed £2.27 million in 2008. If taht were not enough Walsh also holds a number of other posts including a non-executive director of Centrica, a governor of Henley Management College, chairman of the Scotsh Whisky Association and a noe-executive director of FedEx Corporation in the USA.
Workers action can win
Len McLuskey, the assistant general secretary of Unite said at the mass demonstration in Kilmarnock, "People power and organised labour can change Daiageo's mind it, and we intend to change it." But these words need to turned into action.
A mass campaign, including strike action, to defend the jobs by workers and the trade unions at Johnnie Walkers with an appeal for support and solidarity to workers in the other plants and distilleries run by Diageo in Scotland is the only way forward. This should include an international appeal among workers who work in other Diageo run brands like Guinness for solidarity and to help expose the scandalous action of the bosses.
In the world of capitalist greed it’s the workers who create the wealth in the first place for bosses like Walsh and Diageo who are expected to pay the price. This scandal cannot not be allowed to pass. Many workers facing the prospect of such devastating job cuts may ask what can be done to stop a corporation like Diageo from riding rough shod over lives and communities. But working class people and trade unionists have won important victories recently when faced with the actions of unscrupulous bosses.
- 600 Workers at Lindsey Oil refinery who were sacked for taking strike action won reinstatement at the end of June when construction sites across Britain walked out in solidarity.
- The Visteon car workers occupied and protested at their closure threatened plants and won massively improved compensation and redundancy deals
- Sacked convener Rob Williams at Linamar car plant in Wales was reinstated after workers voted to take all out strike action unless he got his job back.
- Workers at the Vestas Wind Turbine factory on the Isle of Wight are currnetly occupying their factory to try and save 600 jobs.
An appeal to the better nature of Diageo management for a change of heart will not work. Unfortunately this is the approach being taken by the SNP and the rest of the political establishment in Scotland. In reponse Diageo are already hinting that perhaps a spectacular offer from the Scottish government could allow them to change their plans – in other words a bribe from the public purse. Even if this did happen however, this will almost certainly come at the cost of hundreds of job cuts. And why should public money be used to bail out a profitable company? If Diageo refuse to change their plans better to bring Johnnie Walker into public ownership to save jobs rather than subsidise the private greed of Diageo.
No job losses at Johnnie Walker operations in Scotland.
Open the books of Diageo for inspection by the workforce to prove the profitability of the industry and the case for keeping the jobs.
If the company go ahead with their plans Johnnie Walker should be brought into public ownership under the democratic control of the workforce.
Support workers in Kilmarnock and Glasgow in building a mass campaign to save their jobs