Workers from factories, car plants and steel mills threatened by the economic crisis are descending on Birmingham today for a mass demonstration to defend jobs.
Unite’s March for Jobs protest is part of a fightback across Europe by workers determined to resist bosses’ attempts to make them pay for the recession and comes at the end of a grim week that saw unemployment in Britain soar to over 2.2 million.
Almost a quarter of a million workers have lost their jobs since January – the steepest quarterly rise since the 1981 recession.
Manufacturing industry, especially in the West Midlands industrial heartland, is threatened with decimation after the number of skilled factory workers thrown on the dole in the last three months hit 67,000.
The Birmingham area now has the highest unemployment rate in Britain, with nearly one in 10 workers on the streets as local big-name factories such as Jaguar Land Rover, GKN and LDV Vans make sweeping redundancies.
As workers from these factories prepared to join the march, Unite joint general secretary Tony Woodley insisted that ‘the nightmare of the 1980s, where there was misery for millions of our people and whole communities were wrecked, must not be replayed.
‘With this demonstration, we are serving notice on all politicians to make saving jobs the priority.’
Fellow Unite leader Derek Simpson added that ‘the bosses think that making redundancies is the answer to the problems they caused.
‘They’ve taken food from the mouths of our families, threatened our jobs and homes and we are supposed to accept this. But the answer is a simple one, the answer is No,’ he insisted.
Birmingham Respect councillor Salma Yaqoob pointed out that ‘there is hardly a family in the country which has not been affected by the recession, while huge sums of money have been used to bail out the banks.
‘The government has its priorities wrong, but this march will be a strong message to the government that protecting jobs must be its first priority.’
Unite is demanding that the government introduce a short-time working subsidy to keep skilled workers in their jobs and take ‘rapid action’ to ensure that the state-owned banks provide easier credit to manufacturing bosses to stop them threatening redundancies to save cash.
Local manufacturing workers are being joined by workers from across Britain, including steelworkers from the Corus plant on Teeside.
Unite steelworkers’ national officer Terry Pye explained that 2,000 workers at the plant were at risk of losing their jobs because a consortium has pulled out of an agreement to buy most of the plant’s production and he urged the company to prevent this ‘vital plant from becoming a relic.’
And TUC general secretary Brendan Barber urged ministers to listen to the voices of such workers, declaring that the recession was now becoming a ‘national emergency.’
He emphasised: ‘What grates most is that ordinary working people are paying the price for the mistakes of an elite few who have laid the system to waste and still walked away with their millions.’
And he warned the government that, if it failed to stem the tide of job losses, ‘the misery that this will cause to millions could lead to social unrest.’
The march begins at 11am and will lead from Highfield Road to Birmingham’s Centenary Square in the city centre.