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No Bailouts for Billionaires

No Bailouts for Billionaires

UK citizens were once again left completely bewildered by the arrogance and grasping nature of multi-billionaire Richard Branson who is now using his long-suffering workforce as leverage in order to swindle another half a billion pounds of public money for his failing airline.

The tycoon made the ransom demand from his private Caribbean island, where he has been a tax exile since 1979, stating that if he does not receive government support Virgin Atlantic will collapse leaving over 8500 workers redundant. This is on top of imposing eight weeks unpaid leave on staff in the middle of a health crisis in order to “reduce costs”.

Of course, things aren’t all bad at Virgin, in 2019 they announced that female cabin crew would now be allowed to wear either trousers or red pencil skirts and could choose between continuing to follow the strict company guidelines on lipstick and foundation or simply not wear any makeup at all. How progressive. No mention was made of the compulsory high heels though despite the health and safety pleas and general sexist attitude of the policy.

The knighted mogul does have friends in the Tory Party though as the government appeared to rule out the industry wide bail out he was seeking, for now. An eyewatering seven and a half billion pounds in emergency credit. The Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak, no less, stated that he is prepared to negotiate with individual firms if funds cannot be raised through the usual channels.

He has already provided £600m of Treasury funding for fellow knighted billionaire Stelios Haji-Ioannou of Easy Jet. This is despite Sir Stelios refusing point blank to inject any of his own cash into the airline due to a dispute with management over an Airbus contract. These are the petty games the wealthy elite play while lives are being lost and livelihoods are destroyed.

Unfortunately for the taxpayer, the usual channels for Virgin is the public purse. In early 2017 Virgin Healthcare took legal proceedings against the NHS because they lost out in their eighty-two million pounds bid to run child services for Surrey County Council. They were awarded £328,000 in an out of court settlement.

Virgin Trains, the profiteering rail arm of the conglomerate, was stripped of two main line franchises last year and has been barred from future bids due to its unwillingness to pay the required payments into their workers’ pension pots. The funding gap was identified by the Pensions Regulator and in response Branson went straight to the usual channel of demanding the government fill their six billion shortfall. Stating that private companies cannot be expected to take on that type of recurring risk. They are more than happy though for the state to take on all the ‘financial risk’ of their workers pensions, which is actually deferred pay, while Virgin keeps all the profits. Nice try Richard but no cigar.

What is it exactly with these parasites I hear you ask? Enough never seems to be enough for their unquenchable thirst for yet more and more profits. Accumulating wealth like it’s going out of fashion, far more money than anyone could possibly ever spend in many lifetimes over. That’s capitalism folks. It must seek out new revenue streams in order to grow and exploit both human and natural resources regardless of the consequences for either. Continuous growth in a finite world is an impossibility but try they will to everyone else’s detriment including the planet.

Following the 2017 UK Labour party general election manifesto, nationalisation of the railways became extremely popular, alongside ending private markets within the NHS. Why shouldn’t the state take the airlines into public ownership as well? If they are struggling to the point of collapse, as their owners say they are, there is no reason not to take over control of otherwise profitable industries to safeguard jobs and be run for the benefit of all not just greedy billionaires.

Indeed, why stop there? There are thousands of businesses that can be saved from collapse in the same way. If hundreds of billions of public monies can be handed out to banks, as seen in the 2007 market crash, why shouldn’t the state and therefore the public receive the benefit rather than shoulder all the risk while the profiteers receive the reward. That’s socialism folks and never has it been needed more than now.

By Mike Hamilton

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