Tuesday, September 25, 2007


At the annual conferences of the Labour, Conservative and Liberal Parties we hear fine words about full employment and prosperity but what is the reality? "Danny Wilde collected his last pay cheque from the Tulip pork factory in Norfolk on Friday before joining the dole queue. His wife, Melissa, was made redundant from her job at the same Thetford plant earlier this month. They both joined the meat processing lines from school and have put in 20 years at the company between them, taking turns on early and late shifts so that they could look after their two children. There have been jobs cuts here before: in 2003 more than 170 full-time employees were made redundant and replaced immediately with agency staff, most of them migrants on poorer terms - lower rates of pay, mostly just the minimum wage, less overtime money, less holiday, more antisocial shift patterns, uncertain hours. The full-time employees had no pay rise for three years and watched as their incomes were eroded by inflation. Now the rest of the work has gone, most of it relocated to another subsidiary of the trans-national Danish Crown group in Cornwall. The Wildes feel badly let down after years of loyal work. As Melissa puts it: "That's business today, isn't it. It doesn't care." Tulip has been Thetford's largest employer since Thermos closed its factory on the same industrial estate five years ago and shifted to China where the labour is cheaper. Up to 700 people who have worked at Tulip regularly will now have to look for jobs elsewhere." (Guardian, 25 September) RD

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