New BHP boss bad news for workers
By Geoff Payne
NEWCASTLE — The appointment of Paul Anderson as the new face at the top of Australia's largest company adds a new element of insecurity for BHP's workers.
Anderson says he wants to "increase shareholder value" and "increase efficiency" — i.e. increase profits. Workers need to ask: Will BHP decide to get out of steel altogether? Will it introduce Rio Tinto-type employment contracts?
Graham Roberts, the national president of the Australian Workers Union, told the November 3 Australian Financial Review that he hopes Anderson will adopt a cooperative approach to bring "mutual benefits" for shareholders and workers.
This is the approach favoured by the Labor Party. It assumes that bosses and workers have basic interests in common. However, the global financial crisis makes the capitalist class even less willing to be "cooperative".
Increasing profits can be done only at the expense of the workers — through lay-offs, plant closures and reduced wages and conditions.
The approach favoured by BHP in recent years has been to get the unions to agree to increased profits, albeit accompanied by loud whingeing from nervous union officials.
Workers should be wary of Anderson's claim that he comes from a pro-union family. He will be paid $4 million a year, so whatever his origins, it's clear whose class interests he will serve.
The capitalist system buys the loyalty of its top managers, bureaucrats, judges and politicians with high salaries and superannuation.
The Democratic Socialists think that workers shouldn't go along with whatever BHP demands. This would weaken and demoralise the workers and encourage the bosses to adopt the Rio Tinto approach. Rio Tinto has decided that profits rise faster if you bypass the unions, so it has sacked just about all the union delegates at its Hunter Valley No. 1 coal mine.
The federal Coalition government favours this approach and, unless workers resist like the wharfies and their allies did earlier this year, all workers' wages and conditions will be under threat.
Furthermore, the likes of Pauline Hanson are out to divert the workers from blaming the capitalist system into blaming their fellow workers.
We need to counter not only the pro-boss ideology of the Labor Party but also its theoretical cousin, the racist economic nationalism of Hansonism.
Workers need socialist solutions, such as the 35-hour week and the nationalisation of BHP. This would make the rich, and not the workers, pay for the crisis of their system.
[Geoff Payne, a rigger at the BHP steelworks, is the Democratic Socialist candidate in the November 21 federal by-election for the seat of Newcastle. To help his campaign or obtain more information, ring (02)4926 5328.]