More jobs or higher profits?

April 25, 2009

Telstra has once again started to sack staff. The communications union fears up to 2000 workers will be "let go" by mid-year. This makes a total of close to 12,000 job losses over the four years since CEO Sol Trujillo took the helm.

On top of his extremely excessive $13.4 million annual salary, Trujillo will get a "golden handshake" estimated at $30 million when he leaves the company in June.

If Telstra can afford such a huge payout to its departing CEO, why can't it afford to keep on these 12,000 workers?

Telstra made a yearly net profit of $3.73 billion for the 2007-08 financial year. Based on these figures, it could actually employ a further 37,300 workers (based on a salary of $50,000 and another $50,000 for associated costs). Trujillo's "golden handshake" alone could employ 300 workers.

But Telstra isn't alone in sacking of workers despite huge profits. Qantas has just shafted about 1750 staff. Qantas analysts have downgraded next year's profit forecast to $100-$200 million. On those figures it could employ 1000 people at least, or at best keep the 1800 sacked workers and employ a further 200.

Pacific Brands is also sacking 1850 workers. CEO Sue Morphett justified the cuts as getting "rid of the distractions and much of the clutter that exists in this company". Further, Pacific Brands's net profits in the last six months of 2008 were $57.6 million — 576 jobs.

It can't be all that bad for Pacific Brands either, because it has enough money to give the CEO a pay rise of about $1.2 million, making her total salary $1.9 million — that would employ at least 19 permanent staff.

Obviously Kevin Rudd has got his priorities right, for big business that is! Big business, as usual, can still shaft employees and make profits at the expense of the community and workers.

Socialist Alliance says companies that want to sack workers should have to open the books and prove they can't afford to keep people employed. A better option again would be a round of nationalisations. Nationalising these big three companies alone would save thousands of jobs.

One option for Rudd, if he actually wanted to create more jobs, would be to disband the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC).

The projected total cost for this union busting secret police force is $33 million. At an average wage of $50,000, $33 million could employ 330 workers; or provide six months' paid maternity leave for 660. The government values jobs and maternity leave much less than the need to knock off a few "bad" unions.

So far, Rudd's stimulus package has benefited only big business owners and shareholders. After all, a lot of the money that has been handed over to parents, pensioners and so on, has been spent at electronics goods retail shops such as Dick Smith or Harvey Norman.

Lots of extra jobs have not been created. Going by what we are now seeing, there have just been huge job losses!

The only solution for a failed economic system is to create a new system where workers have control over the economy and their own jobs, a socialist system.

While we rely on an oppressive and unfair capitalist system, the outcome will always be the same — oppression and exploitation of workers (particularly women), destruction of the environment, job insecurity and job losses, and a rising cost of living.

I'll fight for the alternative, thanks very much.

[Gregory Rowell is the convenor of the Western Suburbs (Sydney) branch of the Socialist Alliance].

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