Wednesday 28 September 2011

But where's the ploughshare factory?

Many of the jobs being lost as a result of the cutbacks at BAE systems are the sort of skilled engineering jobs which are key to maintaining a manufacturing capacity at a time when so many manufacturing jobs have been exported to the Far East as a result of untrammelled globalisation.  And the job losses will be a heavy blow for the individuals and communities concerned.
The losses are, however, an inevitable result of cutbacks in military expenditure, which underlines two important points.
The first is that cuts in public expenditure don’t only affect jobs in the public sector.  Listening to some members of the government, one would believe that it’s only the ‘bloated’ (one of their favourite words) public sector with its ‘gold-plated’ (another favourite term) pensions and conditions which is being cut, and that cuts to the public sector are entirely necessary to restore the public finances.  In practice, there is a much higher degree of interdependency between the sectors than that.
And the second is that it is not possible to cut back on military spending without there being an impact on jobs and the economy – and I say that as one who has regularly and consistently called for a scaling down of the UK’s military expenditure.  ‘Swords into ploughshares’ is a two-part process; the second part is as important as the first, but is completely missing from government strategy.
I can understand the reaction from trades unionists and politicians, which has been to criticise the cutbacks and seek protection for the jobs, but it’s the wrong reaction.  What we need isn’t protection of jobs producing military hardware, but a planned and managed switch of those jobs into peaceful manufacturing.  Looking only at one side of the equation is short-sighted.

1 comment:

Britnot said...

I totally agree with you John. Personally I think it is a source of deep shame that the UK is the second largest exporter of weapons of "offence" as opposed to defence. It is a sad indictment of the mindset of consecutive Unionist governments that they have subsidised the "defence" industry and refused to do the same for less harmful sections of manufacturing.

However as you so rightly point out the people losing their jobs have the vital transferable skills that can be utilised by other industries. These skills should be utilised but I fear the people being thrown onto the dole will be viewed as nothing more than acceptable "collateral damage" by a government more interested in political dogma than helping ordinary people to survive.