Ford’s announcement last week that it intends to end engine production at Bridgend in 2020 was devastating news. But it was expected.
Over the past few years Ford has been deliberately vague about its precise plans for Bridgend’s Dragon engine. But Jaguar Land Rover’s intention to terminate its order for V8 engines was already clear.
So yes, it is a shock to be given a final date. But beyond this shock, the question is whether Ford should be allowed to cut and run once again, instead of being forced to stop in its tracks, by the combined Ford workforce, as it should!
Over and over again, the company has avoided any real confrontation by using threats and blackmail, which full-time union negotiators duly swallowed - and then surrendered our jobs and conditions, with or without a bribe, and without our agreement!
This began as far back as the shutting of Dagenham’s foundry in the early 1980s, and happened in 2013 again, when Ford closed Southampton Transit plant and Dagenham’s Toolroom and body subassembly. This is why cynics say that “Ford knows how to close a plant”!
Isn’t it high time to prove these cynics wrong?
All the bosses, worldwide, are doing it!
Ford’s latest cuts programme here in Britain is just a small part of Ford’s “global” restructuring under its “Sprint to 6 Reset and Redesign” slogan.
Whole plants have already been shut in Russia and as many as 7,000 direct Ford jobs in Europe are targeted, plus many more, when subcontractors are added.
In fact the whole car industry, not just Ford, is in the process of a competitive restructuring against rivals, to try to preserve profitability, in the face of an ongoing recession and shrinking markets.
This is the logic of today’s capitalist system in perpetual crisis. And it’s certainly not a question of whether the Dragon engine can be profitable or not, or whether Bridgend workers do a good job or not.
In fact, the more the bosses try to avoid the crisis of their own system (added to by Brexit), the more mayhem they create in the economy. The truth of the matter is that, ultimately, only the working class can offer society a future, but only once it takes this future into its own hands - and out of the hands of the capitalist class and their politicians!
So today, companies are merging and/or trying to re-invent themselves to compete for world market share. Ford teams up with VW. PSA acquired GM including Vauxhall. Honda is exiting back to Japan. Fiat-Chrysler and Renault-Nissan try to merge. And BMW teams up with Jaguar Land Rover to produce electric cars - with BMW already producing electric minis in Oxford.
Yes, underpinning all of this, is the transition to electric cars and maybe hydrogen engines - by 2050 at the latest - and perhaps even autonomous vehicles. But what cannot be forgotten is the on-going economic crisis in the background.
In Europe, Ford uses the alleged fall in profits to justify its huge cuts. In Britain, boss Armstrong uses Brexit uncertainty and the certain disruption it will cause, if it happens, to justify making workers pay. But in fact it is just the same old story: fewer of us doing more for less, to cut costs and grow profits.
An injury to one is an injury to all
In this process Ford is playing one section of workers against another. Literally! It says that Mexican workers can produce Dragon engines for $1960 compared to Welsh workers, who produce them for $2560! Or that a worker from Bridgend can only “relocate” (as if they could afford it!) to Dagenham, if a Dagenham worker vacates his or her job - despite the shortage of hands in Dagenham!
In the meantime, the bosses continue to play stop-and-start with different lines in Dagenham, to keep workers themselves “uncertain” of their own future, in the context of the question mark over the future of diesel.
Yes, Ford expects that Dagenham workers will keep their heads down and be “grateful” that they are not subjected to the same treatment as their brothers and sisters in Bridgend. But that’s precisely the trap. And there is no reason to fall into it!
Ford can “restructure” all that it wants - that is not the business of the workforce. But what is workers’ business is the defence of jobs and conditions, no matter what! If it comes to that, Ford can afford to share out a reduced amount of work between all hands, without loss in pay, or pay workers in full, up to retirement, for instance: there are plenty of ways to put to good use the profits it has accumulated over the past 100+ years, out of generations of workers’ sweat and blood!
So we say: hands off our jobs, wages and conditions! If Ford does anything against any of us, it should find our ranks united and all of us determined to deny it any right to disrupt our lives!