City Link: UKIP donor Jon Moulton shows his contempt for workers’ rights

City Link boss and UKIP supporter Jon Moulton sacked 2,727 of his workers on Christmas day. Brian Parkin looks at how UKIP wants to attack the rights of working people. This piece was originally published in Northern Star – email rs21leeds@gmail.com for more details. 

Citylink van

UKIP have risen to prominence on their anti-EU stance through which they have made a bid to hi-jack the Tory party and in the process drive politics in the UK further rightwards. In their crusade against the European Union they have obtained 24 cosy and lucrative MEP seats that have allowed them access to a wide range of Euro-xenophobes and racists.

But of late, and particularly since the Clacton and Rochester by-election wins, they have been toning down their more outrageous fantasies and instead have moderated their anti-EU arguments away from immigration and more towards the danger that the EU poses to the rights of ‘ordinary’ British citizens. One aspect of the EU that UKIP prattle on about is the amount or Euro-red tape that is strangling UK employers and suffocating initiative.

Employment law

UKIP have always pointed to the EU and its Social Chapter as burdening British business’s with excessive employment costs due to workers rights underwritten by Brussels. This was always a lie. When it came up for ratification in Lisbon, Tony Blair refused to sign up the UK to the Social Chapter and at no stage of Britain’s membership of the EU have regulations regarding bi-lateral Works Councils requiring union recognition been applied.

But Nigel Farage and his monied UKIP backers are never ones to let the truth get in the way of their version of reality. So when it came to UKIP propaganda for the May Euro and council elections they stated the EU inspired job security, redundancy pay and notice, maternity leave and pay as well as health and safety regulations were among their main targets.

In actual fact these minimal safe-guards and rights have nothing to do with EU legislation. UKIP knew this and what in reality they were arguing for was the scrapping of workers rights as a means of bosses maximising profits.

Enter UKIP’s vulture capitalists

The image of UKIP being a party of ‘establishment outsiders’ crusading for ‘ordinary people’ against the political establishments of Westminster and Brussels was always hogwash. Farage is a former stock-broker and his publicity funder is Paul Sykes, the immigration-obsessed tycoon who until recently owned the Meadowhall retail centre in Sheffield (recently disposed of for a cool £280 million), an employment hub for the sons and daughters of ‘immigrants’ who enjoy the luxury of the lowest minimum wages in the EU.

Now another UKIP rat has got out of the bag in the form of Jon Moulton, a venture capitalist and owner of Better Capital, who having acquired the City Link delivery company in 2013 for the sum of £1 then proceeded to sub-divide and asset strip the firm with a view to its closure and the realisation of a £20 million profit from the disposal of its assets.

UKIP’s Santa gives out the sack

In the course of City Links ‘restructuring’ most of the staff found themselves on casual contracts or as ‘self-employed’ contract labour. They were required to buy or hire their uniforms and most of the delivery drivers were told that they had to pay rental for the use of the company vans. ‘Unscheduled’ sickness was rewarded with a fine in the form of deductions from pay of £150 per day.

Promised an income of £43,000 with the new working arrangements, drivers found that after deductions for van hire, fuel and vehicle insurance, the actual annual pay packet was under £22,000. In addition to this workers were also required to pay their own tax and full NI contributions, as well as fund their own holiday and sick pay. On this Farage has said nothing other than to repeat the old Thatcher mantra about ‘managements’ right to manage’.

On Christmas day City Link workers learnt via the company website that they, 2,727 of them, were fired. Moulton in contriving an on-books loss had asset stripped, packaged the assets in preparation of a quick sell-off and was now sacking the workforce without any pretence of consultation despite the RMT union having recognised bargaining rights.

Farage and Moulton: Thatcher’s men

The sad truth is that Farage and UKIP have been able to fool people into voting for them with the pretence that life in a UKIP governed Britain free from Brussels red tape will be some kind of demi-paradise with God in his heaven and the rest of us in our allotted place. The real truth is that in or out of the EU and with the interests of big business forever served by governments in its pay, the rights of workers will always be trampled on.

Nigel Farage is keen of being filmed supping from a Thatcher tea mug. He says that unlike other politicians, he is Margaret Thatcher’s greatest admirer and natural heir. Well Jon Moulton is a great fan of Thatcher’s and here is what he says in her praise:

  • ‘Without Margaret Thatcher I probably would have stayed in the US, watching the UK decay rapidly’.
  • On Thatchers ideas: ‘(Like her) I don’t believe the UK economy will do well until the public sector shrinks’. And on austerity: ‘It’s the moral thing to do and it is the right thing to do’.

And on his job as an asset stripper and vulture capitalist:

  • Firing people is; ‘Cutting away unnecessaries’.
  • Redundancies; ‘You can never fire anyone too soon’.
  • Stripping companies; ‘Insolvency is great!’
  • Making a profit; ‘we come and make redundancies, close facilities, take costs out of a Profit and Loss and in a month or two profits come back’.
  • On his first bankruptcy task; ‘Firing people, selling factories, writing off stock. It was great fun’.

UKIP and working people: to be divided, ruled and fooled

UKIP will say anything in their bid to re-capture the Tory party as a vehicle for their xenophobic fantasies. But beneath the ideological double-speak there is an agenda for a bosses Britain in which the rights of City Link workers become the new normal for employment rights.

But Farage knows that in order to get more seats he must expand his voter base beyond the traditional Tory bigots. That means getting working class votes by pretending to defend workers interests by pointing at the ‘threat’ of immigration and the ‘swamping’ of our essential services. And in this process of mis-information they don’t give a damn about the consequences in the form of racist violence. In actual fact such divisions would help UKIP because like all bosses parties, the thing that UKIP fears most is a confident and united working class.

Jon Moulton strips bare the lie that UKIP is a party of ‘ordinary people’ that seeks to represent ‘ordinary people’. Moulton is so ordinary that prior to the 2010 general election he gave David Cameron £450,000 to the Tory party election effort. He is so ordinary that when he took over the Garnders company to fatten up for sale he could afford to ‘lend’ the now-disgraced Defence Secretary of State Liam Fox £50,000, which, of course, had nothing to do with Gardners bidding for defence contracts.

Moulton is so ordinary that he currently has a net personal wealth of over £170 million and is ranked 458 in the Financial News Rich List of the top 1000 financiers. And Moulton is such an ordinary and patriotic bloke that his Better Capital company is registered in Guernsey for tax avoidance purposes.

That is the kind of ‘ordinary’ person that UKIP really represents. The kind of ordinary bloke who sacks 2,727 workers via email on Christmas day with no heed to their employment rights. Which goes to show that if Farage and his fellow fantasists can’t bring back the glory of the British Empire they can still sanction the reintroduction of slavery.

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