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The threat to Britain’s train building jobs and industry

BILL GREENSHIELDS warns of impending cuts at the Alstom train works in Derby and says the spirit of the successful 2011 fight over Bombardier needs to be rekindled

THE situation at Alstom train works in Derby is now critical, with all production halted and closure imminent.

Three thousand on-site jobs are to go, and 15,000 more in the supply chain — the end of train making in Britain, a 150-year-old industry and vital for an integrated and green transport and industry strategy.

Derby North MP Amanda Solloway states the government position clearly — the future of the train works is “an Alstom business decision.”

Alstom’s business decision was detailed in a Bloomberg UK interview with Alstom world CEO Henri Poupart-Lafarge last November, when he revealed that Alstom has debts of €2.13 billion, and that the company has decided to offload €1bn of assets — factories and plant — by the end of 2024 in what it calls an “asset disposal programme” to reduce this debt.

Alstom operates in 68 countries with 80,000 workers, and is looking to dispose of “assets” that are “non-core” to its global operations. Could it mean us?

Isn’t it likely that the Derby works will be the victim of a combination of an incompetent, lame-duck government with no integrated transport or industrial strategy and Alstom’s “business decision” to asset-strip its operations to reduce huge debt?

Doesn’t this explain why, in the face of the government/Alstom contracts lost as a result of the HS2 debacle, an apparently simple matter of bringing forward other government contracts for Alstom has proved to be beyond the grasp of the company, government and unions, who have been in “serious discussions” for 11 months?

So the future of jobs and a vital historic industry in Britain will be decided by the board of a profit-driven, debt-crisis ridden multinational monopoly based in France. 

Alstom should be nationalised immediately, and its massively skilled workforce should run it for the good of the community and the whole nation — not for the profit of shareholders. But, of course, that is anathema to the Tory government. It would have to be forced to do it — and it would take a lot of force, the combined force of all the unions and a united community.

You can help: sign and share the petition launched by Derby People’s Assembly last November — and then be prepared for a fight similar to that Derby saw in 2011, when there were similar threats faced the train works when they were owned by a Canadian transnational, Bombardier.

A huge, successful united front campaign of unions, local politicians and community built up to a march through the town of 10,000 local people.

At the rally the then leader of RMT union Bob Crow told the cheering crowd: “If you fight, you won’t always win. But if you don’t fight, you will always lose! Unite and ignite the people.” 

We took his advice — and won! It can, and must, be done again.

Bill Greenshields of Derby People’s Assembly.


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