YESTERDAY Unite leader McCluskey was at the Bridgend plant in south Wales to address the three shifts of workers at separate meetings on the issue of the defence of their jobs.
Unite said about his visit that he was to call on Ford ‘to end the agony of its Welsh workforce and commit at last to the Bridgend engine plant’. It added: ‘He demanded an end to the uncertainty and called for Ford to work alongside Unite and the Welsh government to ensure a sustainable future for the world class plant which has for decades been central to its global engine strategy.’
However even before the first meeting was due to start at 1.30pm, BBC Wales produced a leaked Ford document according to which the Ford Motor Company ‘is projecting a reduction of 1,160 workers by 2021’. This projection, would leave just 600 workers at the site, and prepare the way for the plant’s speedy closure.
The leaked document played the old game of attempting to pit one plant against another by suggesting that Bridgend is underperforming in comparison to similar sites, including Dagenham in Essex. The leak sought to point to overtime levels at Bridgend being more than double Dagenham’s rates, which allegedly adds 6% to the cost of the engines produced, and attributed this to absences, non-performance plus the payment of allowances that staff were not entitled to.
The leaked document adds that finding future work for Bridgend will be subject to productivity improvements. All this comes on top of the already made decisions to cut the investment into the new Dragon plant.
Meanwhile, the Unite union has called on Ford bosses to produce a five-year plan for the Bridgend factory, and said that meetings being held yesterday meant workers were ‘one step closer to strike action in defence of their jobs’.
Unite’s Welsh secretary Andy Richards told BBC Wales: ‘It’s our belief that Ford are going to have to confirm this morning that when the Jaguar engine finishes there in 2020 there is no future business plan for the plant. And we believe our concerns are going to be realised – that two-thirds of the plant, that’s at least 1,160 jobs – will be at risk.’
Meanwhile, the other US car giant GM is threatening to close down its plants in Luton and Ellesmere Port. GM is in talks with PSA for the French company to take over GM Europe’s Opel and Vauxhall plants, since the giant US company, the world’s third largest car maker, faces a continued slide into bankruptcy and is desperate to shed its least profitable parts.
Having milked the workforce and taxpayer dry, GM is getting out, flogging Vauxhall and Opel to PSA who will undoubtedly close the factories, having stripped them of their assets and taken over their valuable outlet facilities. The lesson from the 2001 Vauxhall Luton closure, and the post-crash 2009 wage cuts and pension cuts at Ellesmere Port, is that jobs cannot be ‘saved’ by conceding pay and conditions to an employer. Likewise, appeals to the Tories to somehow negotiate keeping jobs are a useless and dangerous diversion.
In 2001, the car plant in Luton was closed with the secret agreement of the leadership of the TGWU (forerunner of Unite) with the loss of thousands of jobs from a profitable plant. Similar treachery emerged when, following the complete bankruptcy of GM, saved by having their huge debts nationalised by the Obama administration in 2009, GM threatened to close Ellesmere Port. Rather than fight this closure, the union forced through a scab deal of wage cuts and a raid on the workers’ pension fund involving a two-year pay freeze, followed by years where wage rises were capped at 1%, while inferior pensions were introduced for the workforce. Now the same plant faces closure!
Trade unions must defend jobs. Unite must give a clear lead. It must organise to occupy the Bridgend Ford plant, and the GM plants in Ellesmere Port and Luton – if they don’t these plants will be closed, with thousands of jobs lost and communities devastated.
Occupations will mobilise the whole of the working class to defend every job, and rapidly lay the basis for a general strike to bring down the May government and bring in a workers’ government to nationalise the motor car industry and put it under workers’ management. This is the only way to defend jobs!