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  • Published in Opinion
Photo: Pixabay

Photo: Pixabay

This can go one of two ways. Let's make sure it goes the way of the workers

The banks want the public to underwrite Carillion's losses and leave the corporate governance and privatisation/PFI setup in tact. Or the creditors say they will pull the plug.

That is a call for the kind of bank bailouts that took place post-2008. We get the losses, the corporate elite continues as before.

And it is one of those bailed out banks, RBS, which is demanding this kind of solution for Carillion.

The unions are saying that what must be guaranteed instead are the jobs, the pensions, the services that have been outsourced (and thus the further jobs down the supply chain).

Both Unite and the RMT are saying the best way to do that is to bring the contracts and work back "inhouse". That is to repudiate the contracts with a zombie, mismanaged corporation that greedily expanded even though it was heading into trouble.

That can mean nationalising the jobs and work done - which are all socially useful - and leaving the corporate mess and losses to the company, the shareholders and the banks.

The government is in the middle of crisis talks in Whitehall. All its instincts will be to preserve the corporate ownership structure and system of outsourcing and PFI it is committed to extending across the NHS and elsewhere.

And it is state intervention to that end which is promoted by the EU's state aid rules, which also cut against radical nationalisation that throws the burden onto corporations and enhances the genuine public sector.

The nature of Carillion, whose entire business model depended on the drive to privatise and outsource what were once public sector activities, brings into sharp relief what lies behind the word "nationalisation".

The private model has failed. The epitome of corporate capitalism, the banks, demands state action, but only for the public to take possession of debt and liabilities.

The alternative - modern, radical and setting a course for a new economic and industrial policy - is to take all that is useful into public hands, through repudiating these privatising and PFI contracts that have bled the public purse, and to leave the corporate capitalists to lie in the bed of debt and loss they have made.

It is not just generic "government action" to "save Carillion" we should fight for. Because the government is likely to come up with some three way-deal with the company and banks even if Carillion goes into administration, with all three refusing real guarantees for workers and service users.

It is the reversal of failed privatisation that is needed. Who will pay?

Answer: the banks and corporate shareholders - to the benefit of the workers, the jobs down the supply chain, and the services which should never have been taken from the public sector in the first place.

Kevin Ovenden

Kevin Ovenden

Kevin Ovenden is a progressive journalist who has followed politics and social movements for 25 years. He is a leading activist in solidarity with the Palestinian struggle, led five successful aid convoys to break the siege on Gaza, and was aboard the Mavi Marmara aid ship when Israeli commandoes boarded it killing 10 people in May 2010. He is author of Syriza: Inside the Labyrinth.

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