Postscript: profits and pay, Ford and Fraud

Winter 2015

In the end, first tier Ford US workers were offered 3% pay rise in the first and third years of their 4-year contract and two 4% lump sum bonuses in years 2 and 4. They were also, in addition, offered a £6634 "signing bonus" which included £664 profit sharing. But despite CEO Mark Fields hailing "outstanding" third quarter profits of £1.2bn - almost double, compared to last year - Ford US is keeping 2-tier everywhere. And for new starts in the USA it will take 8 years to reach "equal pay for equal work".

The result of the vote was published on 21 November. The deal had been "narrowly accepted". Although at Dearborn Truck plant, 74% of the production workers voted for it, the national vote came to only 51%. However, skilled trades were 52% in favour and almost 92% of salaried workers voted yes.

The quote from UAW President Dennis Williams, shows how little spots change when faces change at the top the union: "The voice of the majority has secured a strong future that will provide job security and economic stability for themselves and their families."

He made no mention of the second-tier workers or the third-tier workers who are left pretty much high and dry - with breakable promises and little or no security into the future. The Detroit Free Press reported how the company was also "pleased". Naturally! "This agreement provides a good foundation for Ford Motor Company, our employees and our communities as we work together to create an even stronger business in the years ahead," said John Fleming, Ford's head of Global Manufacturing and Labour Affairs. Yes, they hope to be working together with the career officials of the UAW, in the interests of the shareholders and in opposition to the interest of the workers.

Meanwhile back in Britain...

Ford workers here in Britain (there are around 8,500 directly employed), just like the Ford workers in the USA, have just voted on a pay offer covering hourly-paid workers in all the plants, in the context of Ford's "outstanding" profits.

Of course, although Ford speaks of a "One Ford" strategy for its auto operations, for the purposes of pay negotiations, it regards its operations in different parts of the world as completely separate entities. Never mind that all of the value that workers produce in Ford factories (and many are employed by subcontractors) is all mixed into the overall profits that the company quotes. So Ford Europe and more specifically, Ford UK claim losses of £2.9bn since 2012, when the last pay negotiations took place, to deter union officials from asking for too much. But of course the union officials did not ask for specific amount on pay. They never do!

The "final" offer (for a 2-year deal) which Ford made on 5 November was a 3% increase in pay in year 1 and inflation plus 0.5% in year 2 (2% guaranteed). It was a bit more than the insulting 1.1% initially offered, but certainly will not cover cost of living increases. And worst of all, the temporary and 2-tier workforce were to remain, as well as the policy of outsourcing, meaning that the demand for "equal pay for equal work" was contemptuously ignored.

The last national all-out strike of Ford workers in Britain was in 1988, for 2 weeks, against a "derisory" 4.5% offer (recommended by the full time union officials!) in the context of Ford boasting of "record profits", just like today. Certainly this year workers expected a lot more for their blood, sweat and tears. However this offer was promptly recommended by the union side of the Ford National Joint Negotiating Committee (comprised almost overwhelmingly of full time officials, including each of the plant convenors). Mass meetings were held in which the local convenor read out the deal and told workers to vote for it in all the plants except Dagenham Engine Plant. At Dagenham, unlike at any of the other plants, the shop stewards' committee had voted against the deal and instructed the convenor to report this to the workforce at the mass meeting which he duly did. The votes probably speak for themselves:

Dagenham: 629 for, 1143 against the deal.

Bridgend: 1250 for, 260 against

Dunton: 301 for, 100 against

Halewood: 269 for, 39 against

Southampton: 99 for, 50 against

Bridgend fleet: 14 for 2 against

Liverpool Fleet: 156 for, 6 against

Daventry: 205 for, 43 against

So although Dagenham voted almost 2 to one against the deal (and the workers are proud of it!) the total against the deal among hourly paid (2932 out of 4575) was 36%. The 64% for acceptance was decisive, but certainly not overwhelming, which certainly gives room for hope..!

At Dagenham, many workers were angry about second-tier, and the fact that nothing was even mentioned about ending this in the deal, turned them against it. "It wasn't about the money, it was two-tier and temps that were the problem" as they said - permanent workers on second-tier pay and pensions and temp workers on even less working side by side with them, doing the same work. But as many say, too: "we can fight back against this any time... when we are ready!"

24 November 2015