Workers' Weekly On-Line
Volume 50 Number 20, May 30, 2020 ARCHIVE HOME JBCENTRE SUBSCRIBE

Workers' Forum

Who Is GKN Trying to Kid with its Voluntary Redundancy Scheme?

GKN is creating an "open voluntary" redundancy scheme on the Isle of Wight. In other words, anyone currently a permanent employee can volunteer to be sacked. That is very democratic; even the most skilled can go if they choose! Some choice! No compensation package can compensate for the permanent loss of a reasonable livelihood. The right to which can never be taken for granted or guaranteed under this climate of "business as usual".

A spokesman for GKN told local news blog, OnTheWight: "Voluntary resignation is one of a range of sensible measures - including furlough, an external hiring freeze, reducing agency workers and early retirement - that GKN Aerospace has implemented in many sites to mitigate the short-term impact during this unprecedented and uncertain time."

The norm is being returned to in terms of neo-liberal market forces dictating demand. The market goes down in a crisis and the productive forces become expendable. So, lay-off is the decision-makers' choice.

The blame, of course, is the pandemic and the lockdown. The fact that the airline industry is going through massive re-organisation, which has reduced demand, is part and parcel of and hides the same systemic problem. Yet facts are stubborn, the airline industry and suppliers of aircraft and parts are going through the same mistaken process.

Already airlines have cut back on workforces they see as a "cost" even though workers are the producers of new value. Cost-cutting has always been the default but usual method of improving productivity.

There is a kidology involved in the message of volunteer redundancy. It is supposed to be "light", but everyone knows it can turn heavy with compulsory redundancy if the company does not get its way.

The package is supposed to alleviate the pain and mitigate the circumstances, but the truth is usually different in the long term. It does nothing for the dignity of labour. A package is a deal, but it is also a concession and concessions are never solutions. There must be a better way of solving the problem that cause such crises. In that way of looking at things, it can't be "business as usual".

Why do they want volunteers? It is not because they treat islanders any different to anyone else at GKN as they have already indicated. GKN do not want any disruption in their overall business.

Not only do they produce for civilian aircraft, but they also produce for their partners in crime, BAE, next door. This of course is the military-industrial complex and produces for military aircraft and war production for, for example, Saudi Arabia and Yemen, to preserve anachronistic imperialist control over the Middle East.

A division in production, where the entire workforce is organised in their trade unions, is a workforce that must be placated with minimum disruption. Hence the "buy off" and compensation terms. GKN have never been philanthropic or considerate in their dealings.

Workers at GKN know that the company cannot be trusted. Recent years have seen threats to their jobs. Not so long ago they threatened to up sticks and move production to Hungary. The workers lost jobs with the Rolls-Royce problem. Workers have had to bring in their regional trade union officers to negotiate against productivity measures and changes in conditions in the past.

There is a conflict of interests between the employers and the workers. Workers need to have more say over their conditions and employment. The current decision-makers make poor choices over the way productivity is measured and controlled. Treating labour as a "cost" is an incorrect method, and is is intended to serve the narrow private interests of the employer. The workers are the producers of the wealth in any business and cutting does not compensate for losses in trade. In reality it does nothing but reduce capacity for the future.

How decision-making is carried out and control over production would be far better if workers were to have more say over their destiny.

A shift in emphasis from unstable military production is a decision that could also be taken.

Technological development, engines and composite wings are already giving lighter weight greener methods of flight for the future of civil air travel. New innovations in cabin atmosphere control are necessary to prevent transmission of disease. The skills have proven to be transferable in the production of ventilators for the NHS during the pandemic. The skills and labour should not be lost to GKN productive forces.

It is where the dignity of labour lies.


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