YESTERDAY, US carmaker Ford announced it will close the car engine plant in Bridgend, South Wales, throwing all 1,700 workers out of a job in September next year as part of a massive international drive to cut costs in the face of a motor industry that is in complete crisis.
Ford is just the latest in car companies closing down. In February, Honda announced it would be shutting its plant in Swindon in 2021, which employs 3,500 workers, while Nissan recently went back on a previous commitment to build its new X-Trail SUV at its plant in Sunderland putting the jobs of 6,700 workers in jeopardy. Jaguar Land Rover, owned by India’s Tata Motors, is also cutting 4,500 jobs by 2021.
In Germany, the motor industry is also in acute crisis with companies like Porsche posting profit warnings for the first time in history and Volkswagen (the world’s second largest car manufacturer) announcing in March that it would be slashing up to 7,000 jobs worldwide. In the US, GM is cutting 14,000 jobs and closing seven plants while Ford has cut 7,000 worldwide.
Despite the usual talk about ‘Brexit uncertainty’ being behind this massive crisis in British car manufacturing, the reality is that ever since the 2008 financial and banking crash, the motor industry internationally has faced a wipeout.
With new car sales falling dramatically in Britain, America, Europe and in China, the drive of these car companies is to restore profitability in the only way they can – by closing plants, slashing jobs and driving down pay by moving production to low wage economies.
This is the demand of the bosses and crucially of the speculators who own the shares and are demanding a return of the super-profits they believe are their right and it is the working class who will be made to pay through their jobs, wages and conditions.
The response of the car industry trade unions leaders has been, predictably, to express their ‘shock’ at Ford’s closure plans for Bridgend, just as they have been shocked by every other closure in the motor and steel industries, describing it as a ‘hammer blow’ for the community and a ‘grotesque act of economic betrayal’.
The GMB union released figures on the day Ford announced its closure plans showing that the UK has lost half a million manufacturing jobs in the past ten years! Despite this, the unions are still desperate to reach any agreement possible rather than lead a fight against closure.
Jeff Beck, GMB regional organiser, said yesterday: ‘Regardless of today’s announcement, GMB will continue to work with Ford, our sister unions and the Welsh government to find a solution to the issue and to mitigate the effects of this devastating news.’
The motor industry was bailed out after 2008 in the US, Britain and the EU and their profits and those of the bankers and shareholders were assured by central governments pumping in trillion of pounds, dollars and euros in the form of Quantitative Easing. Now they are demanding to be bailed out again, this time by the working class shouldering the full effects of the capitalist crisis on their backs.
Workers must demand that their unions stop begging for ‘mitigating’ the effects of being slung out of work and forced into Tory Universal Credit poverty and instead take action to defend every job and plant.
Every plant threatened must be immediately occupied to prevent closure and Councils of Action organised to support and defend these occupations.
Alongside occupations, workers must demand that the TUC call an immediate general strike to bring down this Tory government and bring in a workers government that will nationalise the entire car industry along with all the main manufacturing industries and the banks and place them under the management of the working class as part of a socialist planned economy.
This is the only way to defend jobs and fight closures.
The call must go out to workers throughout the EU and the US to take the same action and lead a campaign to expropriate the bosses and bankers as the only way forward for the working class internationally to defeat this bankrupt capitalist system and advance to a world socialist society.