Ford must not get away with these closures!

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29 October 2012

Last Thursday's announcement of the closure of Dagenham's Press Shop, Toolroom and Body Subassembly came as a shock to many of us, even if we knew Ford was running down S&TO.

The Press shop closure had been vaguely scheduled for the end of 2013, but even then, we weren't sure. For one thing, Ford tells lies and for another, it's been holding a sword over this plant for years.

It's the same for Southampton's Transit plant. In September, Ford bosses (again) promised S'hampton would become the lead European plant for the chassis cab variants of the next Transit model, after having cut the workforce year on year and allowed rumours to circulate about its closure for almost a decade!

But then mates at Genk in Belgium were also promised that they'd make the Mondeo replacement! Yet now Ford wants to close the plant in 2014! And there is no way that the 4,300 Genk workers will be "naturally" wasted. They'll be wasted, period! That's if Ford gets away with all of this.

And that's the question we must ask: should Ford be allowed to?

One Ford or many Fords?

The two plant closures here mean that on top of the 275 white collar job cuts at Warley announced on 26 September, Ford will be slashing an additional 1,400 jobs. The total for Europe is at least 6,275 jobs to go!

Ford blames "financial difficulties", saying it may "lose" £1bn ($1.5bn) "in Europe" over the next year. (It will post its global results for the third quarter of 2012 on the 30th - today, in fact). But why such a dramatic announcement?

Well, analysts said: "it's great to see such a comprehensive and definitive plan" - so Ford's share price rose 2+%, immediately!! Vince Cable let the other cat out of the bag: Ford, with "some help" (he now says it's "only" £10m) from the government's Regional Growth Fund, will now retain the Dagenham and Bridgend engine plants. But did Ford ever say that it wouldn't?

As for financial difficulties, the "One Ford" Mulally always boasts about, only this January 2012, published its second-highest total profit ever! 2011 marked the highest profit ($20.2bn) in 13 years! Even the "losses" from the crisis have been recovered. In December last year, Ford began paying dividends to shareholders for the first time in 5 years. Is it stopping dividends today? Not on your Nelly!

In "One Ford" £1bn or so "losses" on one continent are more than offset by the 7 times that sum, made altogether over the whole of Ford's global operations! And remember, Ford already stole £400m out of our pension pot! This isn't a company on its uppers, it's a company on the up! It wants to increase profit margins by squeezing yet more out of all of us through cuts in wages (2-tier), pensions (CPI and the end of the final salary scheme) and by sacking a large number of us from everywhere. And then it will recruit workers on lower wages and conditions to replace us.Let us remember: the billions in cash on which Ford sits today, was produced by the labour of its entire workforce over the years, including the labour of those whose jobs it now wants to cut in Europe. This is just daylight robbery - full stop!

We could win if we fought

On top of a no-strike bribe (the "continuity payment" for Southampton and S&TO mates) Ford claims it's offering "generous terms". And nobody needs to leave, they say. We can be "redeployed". But where would Southampton's workers be "redeployed"? This is not a serious option for most of us!

Take the closure of the Toolroom - we can remember when skilled mates, whose jobs had "disappeared", were put to work on the assembly lines in the PTA - for years and years, doing semi-skilled jobs, frustrated and losing their own skills.

There is a veiled threat, however, that if we fight the closures, DEP will not get the new Panther engine. Even if this was always subject to "efficiencies", passing gateways and is, anyway, only due to come on line in 2015. So even if we jump through all of Ford's hoops, there is still no guarantee!

The jobs which will be cut, the closed plants, the wasted facilities - all this won't be replaceable if we allow it to go. That we can be sure about!

But none of it needs to go: with all its billions, Ford can afford to keep us all on its payroll - and if there is much less work for months, or even years, then there is no reason why we should not share it out amongst ourselves - without loss in pay. If we won that, we would not only keep all the jobs at present under threat, but we would also end the serious health hazard of night shifts and 12-hour shifts for good - and we could all work reasonable hours at a pace which is tolerable, safe, and healthier!!

The option of fighting these closures may not be offered by the unions - even if they are talking about it right now. It's not by going to Cameron with a begging bowl, requesting more state subsidies for the bosses, as Unite's general secretary Len McCluskey does, that he's going to build a fightback! But fighting Ford is an option we can take on ourselves. It wasn't for nothing if Ford sent our ST&O mates home on Thursday and Friday. The bosses are afraid of our anger. If we were determined, we could win this fight - all of us, together.