Mon, 17 Mar 1997 22:33:37 GMT

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FORD UNIONS WIN JOB SECURITY ? by Keith Scotcher (ITUSC activist,Ford, Dagenham)

The press releases and union journals trumpeted the official line, "Victory! Unions win job security at Ford."(AEEU circular). More than anyone else, the Ford workers in Britain knew the reality; nearly 1,000 jobs were to be destroyed at the Halewood plants, with Escort saloons, one of the top-selling cars in Britain, no longer to be produced there. In fact, little had changed from Ford's original declaration of 1,300 'redundancies' that had produced a nation-wide reaction in the Ford plants, with every plant giving backing for action against what they saw as the final straw in Ford's running down of UK operations. Alex Trotman, world chief of Ford, had announced on TV Ford's strategy of relocating production at low-wage sites in Poland, Russia, India etc. Every plant convenor correctly reported to mass meetings that it was not only a Halewood issue, but that every job was in danger. For the first time in over 10 years an estate-wide shop stewards meeting took place in Dagenham. There as elsewhere, stewards agreed that a job had to be done - to mobilise the workforce to defeat the company plan. Hundreds of workers travelled to London to lobby a meeting of the company with the union officials; mainly from Halewood, but with delegations from all plants. All were agreed, Escort production must remain in Britain. An anxious looking Tony Woodley (TGWU National Official), told the assembled workers that they must be ready to take action and that they, the union officials, would not rest until the jobs were secured. Halewood convenors contacted their counterparts in Ford's European plants and received promises of support. But, at a meeting on 6/7 February of union officials with Jac Nasser, Chairman of Ford Europe (known as 'Jac the Knife' for his destruction of jobs at Ford Australia), the deal was done before any action was taken. Job losses were reduced from 1,300 to 980, but other claimed 'gains' were in fact already known; the existing Escort van production would continue on one shift only until the year 2000, Escort estates currently produced in Spain would transfer to Halewood for just a few years, but all new model Escorts are to be produced elsewhere. A vague promise was made that a multi-activity vehicle (MAV) might be sited in Halewood, but as the union officials had previously pointed out, the MAV wasn't even on the drawing board yet, nor had Ford committed any investment to it. The agreement was rammed down the throats of Ford workers, who had just voted for mass action to defend jobs. An agreement that accepted 980 job losses was declared a victory. Convenors were refused permission to hold mass meetings to report back and were told by the company that Tony Woodley had insisted upon it! Shop Stewards and workers realised that they had been betrayed. Dagenham PTA stewards refused to meet Woodley out of disgust. The outcome was a betrayal, but the new readiness and spirit of the workforce to fight the company plans was revealed. ____________________________________________________________________________ _________ This is from the International Trade Union Solidarity Campaign (ITUSC) at:- e-mail: itusc@gn.apc.org website: http://www.itusc.org.uk 'snail' mail: PO Box 18, Epsom, Britain, KT18 7YR Tel/Fax ++44 (0) 1372 817 778 The ITUSC is an international and internationalist association of organised workers and communities, dedicated to rebuilding the workers' movement and to overcoming sectarianism and division in working class organisations. It was founded in 1991 on the following principles: 1) trade unions independent of the state and employers; 2) democracy within trade unions, and; 3) workers' internationalism. Any individuals or organisations that accept these principles and are prepared to work for them, are welcome within the ITUSC as comrades. _____________________________________________________________________


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