The three card trick: don’t ask, don’t hear

Simon Coveney, the Dublin TD, and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, was interviewed on RTÉ Radio 1 in late May about the loss of jobs at Meta, Facebook’s parent company, over the last few months.

True to form, tongue in cheek, he regretted the job losses and vowed to help those now unemployed. What he didn’t specify, needless to say, was how he would help those now left redundant. That’s the secret bit that us plebs are not allowed to hear. He did reference that Meta should ensure good severance packages. He knows well he is on safe ground there, as most of those big tech companies are so extravagantly wealthy that a few extra pence of redundancy pay is only a pin-prick to their overall incomes. Coveney wants to give the impression that he is behind helping those now unemployed, when in fact Meta is legally bound to pay redundancy.

When asked, not pressed, by the interviewer as to why Meta and many other tech companies in Ireland and world wide, were laying off hundreds of thousands of workers, he simply said it was a fact that they were. He rambled on about having met the heads of at least twenty tech companies while in the US as far back as March (probably on the annual Paddy’s Day junket) and these companies had told him that major lay-offs were happening. Sure we all know that! But what he didn’t say, nor was he asked, was why were these massive redundancies happening. He did venture to say that the companies concerned “hired too many people recently”. What? So the companies hired too many people? That’s justification for mass lay-offs of workers? The thought did not occur to him that workers are people who have mortgages and other bills that were based on the fact that they had a job? Did the RTÉ presenter pose that scenario to Simon Coveney? No, of course not.

Coveney went on to say that being dumped by these tech companies was not really a problem for those made redundant as they were highly skilled people and would get jobs in other tech areas. Right? He was creating the impression that these workers would simply walk from Meta and into an equivalent tech job. That they wouldn’t really be unemployed! Well, he knows that’s not true. Why? Because he had earlier stated that more than twenty tech companies in Ireland were now laying people off. So there would likely be no equivalent available jobs. But what he didn’t say, nor was it put to him, was that there would now be a large pool of unemployed skilled workers that all employers could now pick and choose from, while simultaneously bargaining wages downwards. Employers will now have a field day, with an increased number of employees competing with each other for less work. This area was not explored by the RTÉ presenter, either.

By way of unrelated mitigation Coveney then blurted out that his government had created 4,000 jobs in the last year. And what? How does that help the recently unemployed tech workers?

The sad thing about all of this is that the presenter cannot or will not ask the really relevant questions as to the reason why tech companies, and others, are making workers redundant at will. The areas of a failing capitalist system might well be exposed if they did. And the reality of what capitalism does to people’s lives would also come into focus. That could not be allowed by RTÉ or any other pro-system media outlets.

So the real questions are deliberately and strategically avoided in case the paymasters are offended and turn off the financial taps. Multinational companies and tech companies are the real power in Ireland. The government just manages their affairs.