For a real summit

Don Franks

The worth of the recent Jobs Summit can be summed up in one word – Sealord.

The first major employment incident after the government sponsored summit was an announcement of imminent job losses from the aptly feudally titled company.

Sealord, owned jointly by Nippon Suisan Kaisha of Japan and Maori tribes via Aotearoa Fisheries, intends to cut 180 land-based jobs in Nelson and is not ruling out the closure of its plant there.

The Service & Food Workers Union (SFWU) said the company wanted to cut the pay of remaining workers by $70 a week.

Prime Minister John Key said:

“I think in the case of Sealords they’re actually restructuring their business.

“One thing we have to be realistic about is the recession will ultimately drive some of those changes, it’s not to say we’re not hugely sympathetic to those who have lost their job, we understand that there will be change,” Mr Key told TV3’s Sunrise.

In other words, when it comes to day to day business decisions, the summit means zilch.

The summit can only do summit things. There may be some cheese paring wage trimming  with 9 day fortnights, some provision of pointless unnecessary “training” to experienced workers and the provision of value we’ve created to prop up banks. There can even be a gigantic bike track the length of the land to tempt tourists. But when it comes to employers’ decisions, the summit will stand back and keep a respectful distance. After all, business is business.

But isn’t that the way it’s always been and always will be?

Capitalist politicians and business leaders would have you believe that. Many – probably most – workers currently believe that when it comes to the crunch, there can be no stopping the cruel power of the market.

It’s the job of socialists to point out two things:

Capitalism has not existed forever and it can be removed and placed with a rational, humane social system.

A step towards such a system is building the power of our side by mounting defence of every job by the trade union movement. This means workplace occupations where were have the will to do so,pickets and visible anger at every indication of plant closure. At the moment it looks like a very long uphill struggle, and it is. The real summit is socialism.

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