‘It’s not that they’ve made any losses, it’s just that they haven’t made big enough profits’.
The Albanian taxi driver tells me. He is half in and half out of his car outside Dover Priory station. Another driver stands by the car in the sun. We’re talking about the news that P&O Ferries has just sacked 800 workers without any warning.
‘It’s all about cheap labour. My wife is a classroom assistant and she doesn’t even earn £1,000 a month. And I’m a taxi driver and have to work 24/7. How much cheaper do they think people can go?’
‘All those people, teachers, teaching assistants, doctors, care workers, the police should earn a lot more’
I momentarily interrupt his flow, ‘Not the police’, I say, ‘they’ re useless’
‘Ok, maybe not the police’, we all laugh.
‘But all those people, teachers, teaching assistants…they’re bringing up the next generation, helping children to grow, they should be paid the most’.
‘DP World has got plenty of money’, I add.
You don’t need to study the figures. Of course they have. The owners are part of the oligarch class, the same oligarch class which try to look like human beings as they stand behind Putin as he orders missile strikes on orphanages and theatres sheltering refugees.
Some of these oligarchs are blinking in the stage lights as a wider global audience looks to them for answers. Why are you killing people all the time? School kids, elderly people queuing for bread, pregnant women, workers who go about their business doing all the work. Why do you have so many enemies?
The growing global audience is looking too at Yemen, Syria, Palestine and so many other places. Why do you rain bombs and missiles down on people all the time, turning homes and schools and hospitals into rubble, talking vain nonsense to try and excuse the growing piles of corpses.
Let’s drag the owners of DP World into the light. Let’s ask questions of them and of what their morals and ethical beliefs are. Or do they only act as ciphers for profit, greed and money? Who are they and what’s their connection with all this death and evil?
It’s not their statements to the press which are of any interest. Anyone can write a list of lies and propaganda. What interests us is who actually owns the company, how much money lies in their bank accounts, how many properties they own in London and New York, how many jets and yachts, the number of unworn shoes and suits, the weight of the pure gold toilets. What’s the weekly bill for lawyers, press agents and media-massage consultations; how many luxury cars, what’s the value of all those jewels and art works they hide from public view?
We cannot have a clue as to the financial state of the company until all the accounting books are opened up, the shell companies revealed and the amounts stashed away in secret off-shore bank accounts are there for all to see.
This is modern capitalism. Digital capitalism. Capitalism with a song which all oligarchs can sing. ‘Money makes the world go round’. It’s a global song, anyone can sing the chorus. That is, until you can’t, because you’ve just lost your job via a pre-recorded Zoom call.
In the harbour seafarers are refusing to leave the ferries. This is the immediate move in this particular battle of the class war. If they are able, I would suggest they not only refuse to leave the ferries but move them away from the quays as this will make it much harder for bailiffs, management stooges and goons and the police to board. In fact the ferries could be moved into the middle of the channel to create a blockade which could stop all the shipping in the busiest shipping lane in the world.
I talk to a man on the seafront. He’s trying to catch my eye, I engage. Immediately he launches into ‘it’s illegal. How can they just sack people like that? Surely you can only make people redundant if there isn’t a job any more’. He’s furious. We keep talking.
‘Finished work at four o’clock’ he tells me, ‘went home and had a shower and now I’ve got a can of Stella and I’m going up there to sit down and drink it’. What ever job he does they certainly make him work by the look of things.
We talk more about the sacking of the seafarers. The ferries have been moved to the Western Docks. He points to the two harbour entrances and says, like a real strategist:
‘They should put one ferry there’, pointing to the eastern entrance, ‘and another one there’, pointing to the western entrance. ‘And then nothing will get in or out the port’.
I wish him well and I hope he enjoyed his beer.
The seafarers could get support and solidarity. There are about 1.5 million out there on the oceans and many are badly paid and badly treated and know all about sharp management tricks and double-dealing and relentless efforts to cut their pay, conditions and working practices. Attacks on workers at Dover and Hull could quickly spread to Rotterdam and Hamburg. But so too might solidarity spread across the ports and seas.
It is not lost on anyone that ships are fabulously expensive capital-goods with immensely valuable cargoes. These ships and cargoes are intimately linked to stock exchanges and currency trading and debt management and hedge fund growth. The ships must never stop, crews working to nerve-shattering schedules to maintain profits, but the profits are never enough, the ships must go faster, the labour be paid less and less.
Perhaps the government could step in? They can always find money for their friends and families and the pursuit of their anti-personnel ideologies. Let’s look at some recent bills. The £38 billion on a track and trace system that has never worked properly, the estimated £15 billion in Covid fraud payments which are unlikely to ever be recovered.
The £600 million given to a firm called Randox for Covid contracts. Nice and sleazy with the Tory party, gives them large donations, has an MP or two being paid to give them advice. Now we learn that all the important papers setting out the deal are missing. It is collective irresponsibility and it seeps all the way through the so-called anti-establishment would-be populists.They are not anti-establishment at all; they are nothing more than establishment-antis. And they are particularly anti-unions and anti-working class. Corruption, corruption, corruption. Can we say it loudly and often enough?
It’s unclear what the RMT might do. A couple of railway workers told me they’ve received an email today about ‘changes’ – I can’t remember the exact words but anyone who has spent five minutes working in most industries and services will know the language and the tone. There is talk of new possibilities, of the need for change, of reaching out and going forward. It is all vacuous nonsense and everyone knows it including those who make it up.
But workers speak in hidden transcripts, through a secret integration criticism and critiques emerge. There is an understanding of a line, and a bottom line and an agenda, and hidden agendas. Don’t trust this stuff, don’t trust what P&O are saying, don’t trust the government, be careful how you read the press (and it’s not all bad).
The class of critical workers – both in the importance of their labour and their ideas – is a much bigger group than many people might imagine. Improving the organisation would sharpen the criticism even further, and a critical tool can be quite a weapon, as are solidarity and united worker’s actions.
A person walks up to the taxi and our conversation ends and we part. As I made to leave the taxi driver said the words that all workers know, ‘the rich get richer and the poor get poorer’.
The world is politicising, polarising. To the right, the oligarchs and their stooges, mightily armed and full of money power. Venal and corrupt, lying and hypocritical, untrustworthy, willing to kill at a moment’s notice.
To the left, an inchoate mass of workers, some ok, getting by, but an increasing number with suppressed fury, seething discontent, pressure from above, below, from each direction, wages frozen or losing value, gas, electric, food, housing costs increasing, job security eroding, democratic rights undermined, worker’s skills undervalued, the dignity of labour unsung.
Tyger Tyger, burning bright,
In the forests of the night;
What immortal hand or eye,
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?