Wednesday, 18 February 2009
The Funky Chicken
The news this week is that KFC is to create a few thousand new jobs; also one of the Pizza franchises will be expanding creating nearly two thousand jobs. This contrasts with the news that GKN and BMW are to lose about 1500 jobs between them.
I suppose that is good news; new jobs being created rather than jobs being lost. Except, can you equate KFC and pizza jobs with the heavy manufacturing jobs being lost? It depends what the new jobs are and the suspicion is that they’ll be low skilled and low paid. A fast food economy doesn’t export and you have to sell a lot of pizzas to compensate for the loss of sales of BMW Minis or GKN generators.
It’s not surprising that the fast food industry is doing well – the food’s cheap and at a time of financial constraint people will seek to cut costs.
It might make it difficult for the Council to resist a new KFC outlet or pizza parlour as part of it push to restrict the growth of fast food outlets in the borough. What’s more important; new jobs or a healthier borough?
Also, we’re supposed to be skilling up – providing our work force with the skills, knowledge and expertise to compete in an increasingly complex and competitive global market. KFC operatives don’t exactly match that aspiration. But, KFC and pizza bars might provide work for those who would otherwise be unemployed.
Frankly, I’m very cynical about all this. These new jobs are “in the pipe line”. At a time when people are losing their livelihoods left, right and centre the KFC announcement looks positively glowing – at least they’re doing something. Except – the jobs haven’t yet been created and what people are currently experiencing is job loss. The GKN and BMW jobs have gone. Also the manufacturing job losses are localised, 600 go in Oxford – one or two additional KFC outlets in that town won’t redress the balance.
What is the Government saying? I haven’t heard anything from Lord Mandleson. I suspect that given what he’s been banging on about – first class, export led recovery – the KFC jobs don’t exactly fit into the narrative the Government is trying to weave. So the less they say the better.
Walthamstow is in the national news again. This time it is claimed that a local firm is exporting toxic recycled waste to Nigeria. The company BJ Electronics (UK) buys up disused consumer electrical products from Council recycling sites. It filters out the stuff that is in working order which can legitimately and legally be sold on – usually to third world; the rest has to be disposed of safely ( electrical products waste is highly toxic) . Except, in this case a broken TV, which should have been set aside and disposed of found its way into a container at Tilbury and ended up in a Lagos dump. BJ Electronics say they test every item that goes through their hands and only exports working components.
The trouble is that this TV was a random item – why should their checking system fail in this case? This raises doubts about the effectiveness of their systems. Let’s hope they can explain this failure – otherwise Walthamstow is likely to lose another employer.