A new page has been turned in the long history of problems at Bombardier. After more than $1 billion was invested in the CSeries program by the Quebec government in 2015, we learned early last week that Bombardier's top five executives, including the company's chairman, Pierre Beaudoin, saw their salaries increase by 50 per cent, reaching the tidy sum of $32 million USD for the 2016 fiscal year.
Considering the financial difficulties of the company, these outrageous salary increases were only possible due to the company receiving taxpayer money and laying off thousands of workers. In fact, Bombardier is expected to have eliminated around 14,500 jobs worldwide by the end of 2018 as part of its recovery plan.
Following this announcement, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was questioned about the $372.5 million loan recently given to Bombardier. Despite the obscene nature of these salary increases, Trudeau said that he respects the free market and the choice made by the the company and defended himself by underlining his responsibility to invest public money in order to create sustainable jobs. In a similar vein, Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard commented on Bombardier's decision to the press saying, “Basically, it is a decision that concerns the company and its shareholders.”
These statements reveal the true nature of the capitalist system: while workers suffer the consequences of austerity, Bombardier's bosses see their salaries dramatically rise as hundreds of millions of public dollars have been invested in the company. To add insult to injury, the chairman of Bombardier's Human Resources and Compensation committee, Jean C. Monty, added a justification at the end of his letter: “I am convinced that our compensation practices are healthy and reflect our need to attract and retain the best talent from here and around the world.” Knowing the company's poor track record, ranging from tax evasion in Luxembourg, to systematic delays in delivery, both for the CSeries and for the metro cars they produced for both the STM and TTC, it is all the more ridiculous that the incompetence of management is rewarded in this way.
It is when an incident like this takes place in the public spotlight that the real nature of the capitalist state becomes most obvious. When a large company through inept management has brought their business to the brink, they come begging to the state without being held responsible for their actions. When we need money for social services, the cupboards are bare, but for a private company, the government opens the coffers under threat that the company will pack up and leave.
Faced with the obvious obscenity of the salary increases for the Bombardier bosses, the population has clearly expressed its discontent. According to a recent poll, no less than 93 per cent of the population in Quebec is opposed to the salary increases! There was also a spontaneous demonstration held in front of Bombardier's headquarters last Sunday in which approximately 300 people participated. Confronted with the justifiable anger from the population, Bombardier's leaders were forced to back down. Pierre Beaudoin initially turned down his 37 per cent increase, returning to his starvation wage from 2015 of just $3.8 million USD. Following this, the rest of the leadership of Bombardier, being the reasonable people that they are, announced that they had agreed to postpone their salary increases that were originally planned for 2019....to 2020! Whether or not they do this, the fundamental problem remains the same.
Bombardier workers enjoy good jobs that thousands of families count on and they need to be protected. It is perfectly justifiable to be indignant at the fact that while job losses are accumulating, millions of dollars that are supposedly given to Bombardier to create jobs are instead finding their way into the bosses' pockets. Clearly, senior management plays a completely parasitic role in the company. This latest episode in this saga shows that the need to protect these jobs and develop industry is in fact hampered by the greed and the endless quest for greater profits for the CEOs. But what is to be done?
In the wake of these events, office workers at some of Bombardier's factories have expressed their intention to unionize. Employees deplored the setbacks with regards to their pension plans and group insurance plans, while the many job losses in recent years have contributed to increased workloads for the remaining employees. In addition, these monstrous salary increases for the CEOs have only increased the frustration of the workers. The unionization of non-unionized employees is certainly a step in the right direction. We must fully support this initiative!
Fundamentally, the saga surrounding Bombardier highlights the fact that you cannot control what you don't own. To truly protect jobs and industry, we must nationalize Bombardier and place it under the democratic control of the workers. Under these conditions, the real potential of this essential industry could be realized fully and meet the concrete needs of the population rather than the ever-increasing quest for private profit.
Although the present controversy involves only Bombardier, it is important to remember that these events that are shocking to Quebecers today are occurring all over the world, and will continue to take place as long as we allow private companies to blackmail the population by threatening to close factories and move them overseas.
Workers everywhere need to realize their full potential: not a light bulb shines, not a wheel turns, not a telephone rings without their permission!
It is only through the establishment of a democratically planned economy, only through socialism, that such absurd events as these will disappear and the development of society will be able to reach its true potential.