Friday, February 27, 2009

The wrong target

There was an incredible, heated argument over the 'British jobs for British workers' strikes. This largely centred on how much that slogan really characterized the strike, and how much that was a media myth. When the strike was resolved, I suggested that given that the basis of the strike was the idea that British and Italian workers were in competition, and given that trade unionists than promised to target other refineries employing 'foreign workers', starting with Staythorpe in Newark, the Left shouldn't complacently claim a victory. Well, look at this:

Workers marching in Staythorpe, with a prominent chant being: "What do we want? Foreigners Out!" This is poison for the labour movement. To their credit, both Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the PCS union, and Tony Woodley, joint general secretary of Unite, have signed a statement opposing the British jobs for British workers slogan. Not all union leaders are being so principled. In this next video, Derek Simpson addresses the workers and - partly because he has been so useless to his members for so much of the time - has a rough time. But he still defends the slogan 'British jobs for British workers' while pretending that this in no way implies an attack on 'foreign workers':

Simpson might think that by pandering to the government on the one hand and to nationalist arguments on the other, he will get some improvement in labour rights. But that isn't what is happening here. Once more, instead of demanding more employment, the union is demanding that Polish and Spanish workers are replaced by British workers. How can this strategy not end terribly? How is it not a grubby disgrace to the working class movement?