The postal strike ballot which the unions are now organising is mainly thanks to the rejection of Ford's offer by the Dagenham plants.
That gives us all a special responsibility in the fight to stop Ford getting away its plans to make such far-reaching and fundamental changes to our terms and conditions.
Voting for all-out strike action is the only way we can say NO to:
-The termination of final salary pensions for new starts, which would undermine the scheme for all!
-The 2-tier system in which all new recruits will have second class wages and pensions!
-Giving Ford a blank cheque to bring in "flexible working" for S&TO... and everywhere else!
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Ford's proposal to cut new starts' pensions and wages today is bad enough. But it is more than that - it's a weapon that the company hopes to use to drive a wedge into our ranks, in order to pull down everyone's conditions.
Ford's claim that its 2-tier is "necessary, in order to protect jobs" is a lie. Just ask US Ford workers. Their 2007 contract which introduced 2-tier at half the wages of 1st tier workers doing the same job, was supposed to "save" 10,000 jobs. 4 years later, 17,300 jobs have been lost. The 2nd tier makes up 40% of the workforce in some US car plants!
Ford's "flexibility" hides another lie. In the US it meant ending the 8-hour day and ending overtime payments. Workers (starting with skilled workers) were put into teams to work flexible shifts 10 hours long, but which wouldn't qualify for unsocial hours premiums, since the working week became the working fortnight and included weekends. Worse conditions for less pay!
As to Ford's window dressing - to help union officials sell the deal - it is an insult to intelligence. The 20% rise in pension commutation rate - on lump sum - cannot make up for the RPI to CPI pension cut and means nothing for current retirees. And the acclaimed 6% "above-inflation" pay increase is just 0.4% above official RPI inflation!
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These are major attacks on our pensions, wages and conditions, but also on our present and future ability to defend ourselves.
Ford's plan is to pull what's left of the carpet from under our feet - a carpet which was fought for by the generations of workers who are now pensioners. Yes, those same pensioners who were shafted by the NJNC when it agreed to pension cuts in return for that "goodwill bonus" bribe for the rest of us, without bothering to consult anyone, neither us, nor pensioners.
Today, we are the voice and resistance of these previous generations, against Ford's greed - just as we count on the fact that, tomorrow, by the time we retire, today's new starts will be our voice and resistance in the plant, standing up and fighting for their and our collective interests.
Unity and solidarity across generations has always been the corner-stone of workers' resistance to bosses' attacks. No way can we allow Ford to get away with breaking this unity and solidarity.
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Ford is one of the world's richest companies. Together with its biggest shareholders, it is sitting on billions (around £5bn in cash today) which they have piled up thanks to our sweat. But for them, the present crisis is a prime opportunity to squeeze even more profits from our labour, so they will have even more into the future. This is what these attacks are really about.
We have every reason and every right not to let them get away with it. Striking now to stop Ford's profit drive on our backs is the only way we can guarantee any kind of future for our jobs, wages, conditions and pensions. Ford needs our labour? Then Ford must pay for it - and keep its hands off jobs, pensions and working conditions!
Of course, Ford won't give in unless it feels real heat. This is why any form of token industrial action short of a strike is useless. It's only when profits are under real threat that the bosses start listening - that is, when they face our collective determination to do everything it takes to win.
All-out strike - i.e., everyone staying out until we get what we're fighting for - is the only effective response to Ford's attacks. But not just any all-out strike. It's time Ford bosses found out that they can't always deal with us through their cosy relationship with NJNC union officials - as they did with the RPI to CPI pension sell-out.
If we are to win, it's got to be our own strike - meaning that we all need to play an active role in it, by taking part in decision-making on a daily basis as well as in the actions which are decided - before, during and after. We have to become our own fighting "NJNC". Sure, winning comes at a price for everyone. But it's a price well worth paying!