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Andrew Price

Welsh TUC face jobs crisis

(April 1977)

From Militant, No. 352, 22 April 1977, p. 12.
Transcribed by Iain Dalton.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The Annual Conference on the Welsh TUC takes place at a time of sharp crisis for the Welsh economy. The seriousness of the crisis is spelt out in the report of the General Council for the Conference.

This report shows the appalling levels of unemployment in Wales, and the sharp increase in the level of unemployment since the last conference. In keeping the British economy as a whole it is working class youth who have suffered most in relation to unemployment. As the General Council report shows between July 1975 and July 1976 youth unemployment increased by over 50% for males and 107% for females. Despite enormous handouts of £100 million in financial inducements to firms between 1964 and 1970 and the offer of £22 million selective assistance, since July 1975, unemployment has spiralled to over 83,000 or 8% of the working population.

Equally the report shows just how hollow the promises for planned new jobs were. In Ebbw Vale government spokesmen promised an extra 2,118 jobs to compensate for the 1,394 redundancies in the steel industry. To date 480 jobs have been provided!

This scandalous situation is reflected in the resolutions submitted to this year’s conference. Not one attempt to rally support for the continuance of the government’s present economic strategy.

The beginning of a fighting programme to defeat unemployment is spelt out in certain resolutions. The AUEW Engineering Section for example calls for earlier retirement, a shorter working week and a reduction in overtime. The important qualification to add here is the need to provide much more than the miserable £23 a week offered to workers to retire early, and to qualify the demands on working hours with the demand for no loss in pay. Otherwise it would be asking workers to accept a further cut in living standards.

In keeping with the mood of their brothers and sisters in the rest of the movement, only two resolutions calls for the continuation of the Social Contract. NUPE couples the demand here with a demand for better treatment of the low paid. The experience of the last two years should have shown them, that the worse sufferers from pay restraint have been precisely the low paid.

A once and for all remedy for these workers should be a £60 a week minimum wage tied to a genuine cost of living index drawn up by the trade union movement. In place of the demand for yet more wage restraint, conference should unconditionally support the clear demands of the NUM and the South Glamorgan Trades Council to reject the swindle of wage restraint once and for all.

A number of resolutions call for selective import controls as a solution to the problems facing Welsh workers. Conference should oppose this parochial solution. The protected firms would be given a blank cheque to jack-up prices, while the loss of markets by foreign firms would cause loss of jobs, with the subsequent decline in purchasing power of foreign workers and the trade recession would deepen and ultimately produce greater unemployment on a world scale.

Equally the demand for more money to be injected into the economy misses the point. Despite millions of pounds swallowed up by big business, industrial production in Wales is still below that of the 3 day week of 1974, and only slightly caught up on 1970 figures. As Jim Callaghan put it ”you can take a horse to water but you cannot force him to drink”.

In the struggle for many of the worthwhile reforms called for on this Conference agenda, Welsh trade unionists will have to draw the conclusion that only an extension of public ownership to the 200 or so firms that dominate the British economy and the drawing up of a socialist plan of production controlled by working people can solve the problems of workers in Wales or elsewhere in Britain.

The Welsh TUC should take up the demand of Swansea Trades Council for industrial action against unemployment, but use such action as the beginning of a socialist campaign to end the misery of unemployment and inflation for ever.

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Last updated: 6 November 2016