There is plenty of work," says Kvaerner worker Tommy Mulgrew who has worked in the shipyards all his life
"IF THEY shut the shipyard they might as well bulldoze Govan flat." That was how one worker summed up the impact of the threatened closure of the Kvaerner shipyard in Govan, Glasgow, this week. Multinational Kvaerner announced it is "pulling out" of Govan because it is not making enough profit. Some 2,000 jobs could go if the shipyard and the company's engineering plant close. Thousands more jobs would go in the local area as a result. Jamie Webster, union convenor at the yard, says, "If they shut this yard down everyone knows that Govan will become like a dilapidated old mining town once the pit has gone." New Labour Scottish industry minister Gus Macdonald visited Kvaerner Govan on Tuesday.
Macdonald used to be a shipyard worker and a socialist. Now he is a millionaire and talks of "enterprise" and "the market". He and Kvaerner bosses say they might find a buyer to take over the Govan yard. Even if that happens it could mean job cuts and attacks on workers' wages and conditions. New Labour is terrified that the closure of the yard could affect its performance in the 6 May Scottish Parliament elections. Workers need to step up the pressure and demand the government acts to save jobs. Every election candidate and every visiting minister should be confronted by workers demanding, "What are you going to do about the jobs at Kvaerner?" Jobs and the future of the local community in Govan should come before the priorities of the market and multinational, profit chasing companies.
In the 1970s shipyard workers at the UCS yard on the Clyde occupied and forced the then Tory government to do a U-turn and intervene to save jobs. A similar fight now could win. Pat Clark is a former Clydeside shipyard worker. He is standing as a Socialist Worker candidate in the Port Glasgow area of the Clyde in the Scottish Parliament elections. He says, "The Kvaerner workers should occupy and demand the nationalisation of all Kvaerner facilities in Britain. We are told that taxpayers' money cannot be used to bail out 'lame ducks'. But this is from the same New Labour government which is happy to rain cruise missiles down on the Balkans."
Glasgow's New Labour council is planning to privatise all its 100,000 council homes. That will see a £300 million profit boost for the private companies involved, according to a report by academics at Glasgow and Caledonian universities. That privatisation should be stopped. Kvaerner should be nationalised and public money used to invest and provide work in the yard. There is plenty of work that needs doing. The Govan workers have built, and could still build, roll-on, roll-off type ferries. Britain's ferries are ageing and unsafe. If the government ordered the ferry companies to modify their ships this would boost safety for passengers and it would keep Govan workers busy for years. "I don't want to see any more yards closing.
WORKERS at Kvaerner were not alone in facing the dole this week.
THE RICH in Scotland and across Britain continue to rake in even more wealth while workers fear for their jobs. Seven years ago there were 6,600 millionaires across Britain. Now there are 47,000. Sir Tom Farmer, boss of Kwik-Fit, sold the Edinburgh based company to Ford for £1 billion this week. Farmer pocketed £20 million overnight as a result. His personal fortune is now £95 million. He is amongst the 100 richest people in Scotland. So too is David Murray, head of Murray International Holdings. Murray has a personal wealth of £200 million. He and other bosses have the cheek to fund an advert complaining about the Scottish National Party's opposition to Labour's 1p tax cut.
But the SNP also boasts that it has backing from fat cats. Gold mining tycoon Dennis MacLeodestimated fortune £50 milliondonated £50,000 to the SNP's funds last week. Brian Souter, head of the Stagecoach transport giant, has also backed the SNP. Souter and his sister Ann Gloag top the list of Scotland's richest 100 people with a personal fortune of £850 million.
The director of Barclays Private Bank Ltd, Richard Green, sums up the attitudes of these people. Incredibly, he says that "£1 million is not what it was. If you're hoping to retire and live on the interest, it won't be enough."