Tuesday, 15 May 2018

FOR A MAXIMUM INCOME - initially 10 times the Minimum Wage

UK's richest capitalist, union-busting, fracking Jim Ratcliffe

We may as well live on two entirely different planets here on Earth, given the grotesque and growing gap in wealth and power between the rich and the rest of us.

Just 61 billionaires now own more wealth than the poorest half of the world's population - 3.8 billion people.
The richest 0.1% of the human species - about seven million people - grabbed as much combined wealth as the poorest 3.8 billion since 1980. And the infamous '1%' robbed 27% of the world's newly created wealth over the same period of 1980-2016.

Stinking Rich List 
Closer to home, the Sunday Times' 30th annual Rich List is enough to make you vomit at the nauseating greed on parade by the 1,000 richest people in Britain. You need to be 'worth' a minimum of £115million to gain entrance to this exclusive club. 

Between them, the richest 1,000 now sit atop a Himalayan pile of wealth totalling £724billion. Yes, that's an average of £724million each! 

And amidst this gathering of the stinking rich, Britain's 145 billionaires are greedily clinging onto £480billion - exactly two-thirds of the total. 

Publication of this latest parade of obscene wealth was trumpeted by cries of joy, in the Sunday Times and other capitalist media, that inherited wealth has been replaced by 'self-made entrepreneurs'. Far from being 'self-made', these are people who've crawled to the top by exploiting workers - robbing the unpaid labour of the working class they employ - or speculating on the upper-class casinos known as Stock Markets, hedge funds and banking. 

Jim RATcliffe - 'Worth' £21billion? 
The media odes of joy were especially triggered by the man who climbed to the top of the money mountain, Jim Ratcliffe, 60% owner of petrochemical giant INEOS, the biggest private company in the UK. He's now officially 'worth' £21.05billion... and figures from INEOS insiders suggest he could even possess as much as £27billion.
This creature should be all too familiar to workers in Scotland - especially those at Grangemouth petrochemical plant and oil refinery.

Back in 2010, Ratcliffe moved INEOS headquarters to Switzerland to dodge taxes in Britain. The Grangemouth petrochemical plant made operating profits of £31m in 2011 and £49m in 2012 - as part of global profits exceeding £2bn. Not content with these gargantuan profits, Ratcliffe consciously planned a showdown with the Grangemouth workforce and their powerfully organised trade unions in 2013. 

He demanded cuts to pay, pensions, shift allowances and bonuses that robbed workers of £10-15,000 each. He set out to smash the unions, victimizing the Unite union convener - aided and abetted by the witch-hunt against him by the Blairite UK Labour Party leadership. And he perversely exploited the fact Grangemouth accounts for 85% of Scotland's fuel supplies and 30% of England's to hold a bazooka to the heads of both Westminster and Holyrood, demanding £150m in subsidies for INEOS' profits. 
Grangemouth workers, 2013

Capitalist Dictator 
In an insult to language - 'INEOS' is Greek for 'bright new dawn' - Ratcliffe plunged the Grangemouth workforce and the whole of Scotland into darkness and despair by shutting down the petrochemical plant, putting it into liquidation, when the workers fought to resist his wholesale butchery of their conditions in pursuit of even greater profits. This poisonous cocktail of blackmail and bullying forced the unions to accept devastating cuts to conditions, a 3-year pay freeze, removal of union facilities and a 3-year no-strike agreement. And it wrung £9m in grants off the SNP Scottish government plus £125m loan guarantees from Westminster - to pursue a course of profiteering based largely on the use of the environmentally destructive fracking process.
This whole episode blows to smithereens the alleged fairy tale of the 'self-made man'; the 'rags to riches' tale we're peddled - not only to justify Ratcliffe's obscene personal wealth, but also to dupe us into thinking that, with a bit of graft, anyone can become a millionaire or billionaire. 

Fairy Tale from Hell 
This fairy tale has a monster at its core, a one-man capitalist dictatorship, who not only threatened to wreck 1,350 Grangemouth workers' livelihoods, and those of 2,000 contract workers, but held the elected government to ransom. Successfully! Now he is suing the Scottish government for banning fracking, and issuing legal threats to anti-fracking protestors in England. This truly is the dictatorship of capital, in the form of one multi-billionaire, robbing workers' families, trashing our environment, trampling democracy underfoot, but lauded by the sycophantic capitalist media as a success story.
Even if there were no other 'Jim Ratcliffes' on earth, this one story should be enough to motivate and mobilise for decisive action against the grotesque gap between the rich and the rest of us. But he's not alone. For starters, the other two shareholders in INEOS have joined him in the top 20 in the 2018 Rich List, at joint 16th.

Scotland's Eleven Billionaires 
Among the filthy rich with some residential link to Scotland itself, we now 'enjoy' the company of 11 billionaires - whose combined personal wealth totals £16.2billion. That's over half the entire annual budget of the Scottish government for the entire Scottish population in the hands of 11 billionaires.
And just looking at the top 3 alone, we see their personal wealth INCREASED last year by £920million!
Glenn Gordon and family guzzled a net increase of £202m from their whisky and gin empire.
John and Kiran Shaw made the Gordons look like paupers, with a wealth increase last year of £606m from their pharmaceutical company, making a sickening profit from the treatment of cancer, diabetes and autoimmune diseases.
Sir Ian Wood and family may have observed crises in both the oil and fishing industries in recent times, but managed to scrape together a mere £112m EXTRA in the past twelve months.

Grotesque Wealth Divide 
In the land of a million living below the poverty line, 52% of them working to stay poor, these figures are obscene.
In the state whose workers are enduring wages worth £24-a-week less than in 2008, a full 10% rise in the incomes of the richest 1,000 is an infuriating insult.
In the nation where the equivalent of the entire population of Dundee last year relied on emergency food parcels from food banks to avert hunger; where people on benefits can't exist and are driven to the edge; and where energy-rich Scotland condemns at least a million families to fuel poverty, these displays of wealth are grotesque.

Why does all this matter? When we're told there's not enough money in society to pay an immediate £10-an-hour minimum wage to all workers over 16 (rising to match inflation since that figure was unanimously agreed by the unions 43 long months ago!), it matters. When workers march and strike for equal pay for women, it matters. As we struggle to guarantee a living pension after a lifetime's contribution to society; for investment in free public transport, a modern NHS, top-class education or other services... when the rich government of and for the rich tell us it's unaffordable, don't forget the Rich List!

Maximum Income 
Alongside battling for an immediate £10 minimum wage, and some job and income stability through a legally guaranteed 16-hour minimum working week, we need to popularize the demand for a maximum income, to start to close the yawning gap between the billionaires and the billions, the plundering rich and the rest of us. 

Let's illustrate the advantages of an initial 10:1 ratio between the maximum allowable income and the national minimum wage; the policy which the SSP stands for, and which I proposed and won 58% support for at Usdaw union national conference last month.
If we use the current (miserly) £7.83 minimum wage for those aged over 25, that would make the maximum income £78.30 an hour - hardly penury! Assuming a maximum 35-hour week, it would allow the richest to earn up to £142,502 a year; not exactly making them scream in agony! 

Let the Rich Scream Blue Murder! 
Even looking at the tiny list of the UK's 1,000 richest, the overly-generous 10:1 formula for a maximum income would still permit them to roll around in combined incomes of £142million. How in hell could anyone object to that ceiling on their wealth? What on earth would anyone find to spend £142,000 a year on? And if (or when) the monstrously rich scream blue murder about a maximum income killing off incentive, we should laugh in their faces. Remind them that they have always argued and practised the policy that the best incentive to make the rest of us work is low pay; the whip of poverty to drive people to work. 

This policy of a maximum income initially set at ten times the national minimum wage is a powerful weapon in a necessary war on both poverty and inequality. Allowing the current crop of Rich List residents to possess £142m between them, as we've calculated above, would hand back well over £723billion to the rest of society this year alone. Imagine what that could mean for wages, NHS spending, education, public transport, job creation. 

A Modest Demand 
Of course, socialists don't just want to limit the size of the slice of cake grabbed by the rich minority; we want collective, public ownership of the entire bakery! That way society could democratically plan to meet social and environmental needs, rather than allow capitalist profit-hunting wreak havoc on both people and planet. 

But a 10:1 maximum compared to a legal minimum wage would be a great start. A very modest demand. But compared to the 183:1 gap between top company chief executives and their average workers - not the lowest paid employees, but average! - it's also a revolutionary change. One pioneered by the SSP, but now also adopted by the mass, 430,000-strong Usdaw union after a full debate at our recent national conference. 

Join the Battle! 
Join us in battling for a Charter of Workers' Rights that together could transform the lives of millions, including an immediate £10 minimum wage for all over 16, rising with inflation; a guaranteed minimum 16-hour contract for all workers who want it; and an initial maximum income set at 10 times the minimum wage, to combat inequality and win back some of the stolen wealth which workers create in the first place. 

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