Today Rolls Royce announced that, in order to concentrate on manufacturing engines and power systems for the aviation, defence and energy industries, they would slash 4,600 jobs. This restructuring is despite pretax profits of £4.9 billion being reported at the end of March this year. The majority of these jobs will be in Derby, where unemployment is slowly rising and 30.9% of people claiming job seekers' allowance have been unemployed for over a year. The jobs will be cut from the 33,000 management and support workforce. If you were in any doubt about the conflict of interests between workers and the capitalist system, shares in Rolls Royce rose by more than 2% at the news that 4,600 people will lose their jobs.
There have been a swathe of job cuts this year, some to do with Brexit and some to do with the dire state of the high street, which in turn has much to do with online shopping giants like Amazon and people having little to no disposable income. The collapse of Poundworld this week has put 5,100 jobs at risk, House of Fraser are to close more than half of it's stores resulting in over 6,000 job losses, 500 jobs are at risk with the closure of Tesco Direct, 626 jobs are at risk with Marks & Spencer closing over 100 stores, hundreds of jobs will go when Mothercare closes 50 stores, BT is cutting staff by 13,000 two thirds of which will be because of their move out of central London, Virgin Media is cutting 800 jobs in Wales, RBS is cutting 792 jobs, CarpetRight is cutting 300 jobs, the closure of Toys R Us will result in the loss of 3,000 jobs, New Look is planning to close stores with the result of nearly 1,000 job losses and so it goes on.
But all we hear from the Tories is that the economy is stronger than it was under Labour and employment is at a record high. It is important to remember therefore, the definition of employment used to calculate the figures.
The number of people in employment in the UK is measured by the Labour Force Survey (LFS) and consists of people aged 16 and over who did one hour or more of paid work per week (as an employee or self-employed), those who had a job that they were temporarily away from, those on government-supported training and employment programmes, and those doing unpaid family work. Employment levels and rates are published each month in the labour market statistical bulletin.
This is from The Office for National Statistics: A guide to labour market statistics. This "one hour or more" is now more likely than ever to be insecure employment such as zero hours contracts or as part of the gig economy. The number of zero hours employment contracts rose by 100,00 in 2017 to 1.8 million. It's hard to calculate how many are in the gig economy but since 2001 self employment has risen by 45%. In 2017 more than 15% of the UK workforce were classed as self employed and the number of non-employer businesses in the UK private sector has increased by 25% since 2010. While not all these self employed people will be part of the gig economy, it is a pretty clear marker that it is on the rise. Yesterday's Pimlico Plumbers hearing at the Supreme Court, where it was decided that the claimant Gary Smith should have been classed as an employee, might put the brake on it temporarily while companies reassess what the ruling means for them. However, much of the legal discourse was around the fact that the government would eventually legislate this case law away and give companies more protections to use self employed contractors without the danger of having to class them as employees.
What this means for employment is that it is increasingly insecure and low paid. Wages are still below pre 2008 crash levels. Many people are working two jobs or more just to make ends meet. The cost of living is rising and will rise further with Brexit, eating into already low wages. Brexit will almost definitely mean a slashing of workers' rights and wages in order that the elite can still make money out of workers' labour. So when you listen to Theresa May at PMQs going on about record levels of employment, remember what that means. "ONE HOUR OR MORE EACH WEEK". No job security wanted or necessary.