K. Michaels

Control of Hiring and Firing

(July 1954)

From Socialist Review, Vol. 3 No. 11, July 1954, pp. 7–8.
Transcribed by Ian Birchall, Nina Kidron & Richard Kuper.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

This is the fifth of a series of articles devoted to elaborating the points featured on the back page of the Socialist Review. The article will deal with point 6.

A Comet jet plane blows up over the Isle of Elba, so over six hundred workers on the production line are given notice of redundancy; a monopolistic merger in the car industry – a threat of redundancy in the Oxford Morris works. Nothing happens in the market, in the world almost, but it affects production; nothing happens in production without affecting the producers, the workers. There can be no security in a job, no guarantee that the workers won’t have to carry the can of “adjustments’’ in the form of redundancy, lockouts, reduced wages, unless we can control the number of jobs and unless we ourselves control the disciplinary machinery inside the factory. We cannot allow our lives to be determined by the arbitrary fluctuations of the market, nor allow our jobs to be at the mercy of the arbitrary discipline of the bosses. Hiring and firing affect the worker, they are our business, they must be run by us.

One of the great arguments used by the bosses, and sometimes to our sorrow, by the unions themselves, is that workers lack the skill, the administrative knowhow to be able to control industry or even to control working conditions in a single plant. This is the excuse used to justify the continued functioning of the old, private administration within the top ranks of the nationalized industries; this is what brings the A.E.U. leadership, for example, to appoint non-union “experts ” to represent the union on Joint Productivity Boards and on the other panels for class collaboration. Instead of training a body of workers in the job, now, in the factory, so that the experience so gained in controlling working conditions in the separate plant can be used as the thin edge of the wedge in gaining full workers’ control of industry when we force the socialization of British industry, nationalized and otherwise, the bosses throw up their arms and say, “impossible, no training!” and some of the union big-wigs throw up their arms and sigh, “impossible, unfortunately no training.”

Can we ever expect to remove the constant threat of unemployment even if it’s only what the economists like to label as “frictional,” unless we take the allocation of jobs, the hiring and firing, into our own hands? Can we expect to do away with the more general threat of “deeper,” “chronic” unemployment if we don’t control industry in its entirety, if we don’t socialize all industry? And how are we expected to control industry if we aren’t even allowed to have a say in the running of the separate workshop ?

We, in trade-union branch and factory, must press for workers’ committees to control hiring and firing and working conditions. We must compel our lethargic union leadership to force the hands of the bosses instead of confining itself to good intentions and bad action. We must follow the railwaymen and give them a much-needed hand in showing the bosses that we won’t have working conditions thrown at us for any reason whatsoever, least of all in order to pay ex-owners £32 million a year. Jobs and all that’s connected with them is our business. We, the workers, can
handle it.

“Workers’ committees to control hiring and firing and working conditions!”

Last updated on 16 February 2017