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From The Socialist newspaper, 25 September 2004

Workers Say -'We Won't Pay The Price'

THE TRADE unions are fighting to prevent Ford ending Jaguar car production in Coventry. If the car giant gets its way, 1,200 redundancies will be made. Ford, hoping to avoid an angry reaction, have said 400 jobs will go to Castle Bromwich in Birmingham. 300 will be offered work at Fords' Aston Martin plant. 300 will be kept on at Browns Lane working on wood veneer, but many question how long for.

The Whitley design and research centre with 2,000 workers, will still design Jaguar models say Ford. But it should be borne in mind that less than 15-20 miles away Ford has a huge design and engineering site at Gaydon, acquired when it took over Land Rover.

Jaguar performed strongly until earlier this year. So the trade unions rightly say that this is a short-term decision and "hardly a survival plan. It seriously threatens the future of Jaguar," says Amicus union leader, Derek Simpson.

The Ford bosses claim that falling American sales are responsible for the closure decision. While European sales are buoyant, US sales aren't. We're told that Jaguar is a car built with pounds but sold in dollars. As the dollar falls, so less Americans will buy them.

Ford claim last month's sales fell 38% from 6,200 to 3,850. But the year to date has seen only an 11% fall according to Ford's own figures (36,000 to 31,900). And only a few months ago, sales were "powering ahead in the USA" (Coventry Evening Telegraph, 18 September)

But currency fluctuations have hit Jaguar before, and for longer. That's why workers believe Ford is finding excuses to close the plant, and that this may be the thin end of the wedge. If there's a short-term problem then the work should be shared out throughout the company combine, without any loss in workers' pay.

One thing is for sure. It's not the workers' fault - who are producing twice as many cars with less workers - but they are always the people who pay the price when the bosses retrench.

"Cannon fodder"

An angry Tony Woodley - TGWU general secretary - used strong language saying British workers were being used "as cannon fodder to satisfy American shareholders."

But it's not the nationality of the shareholders, it's the very chaos of the capitalist market that means no stability for workers whatever efforts they make.

Improvements in productivity and quality are not enough for the Ford bosses in a globalised market where worker is pitted against worker in a race to the bottom. And this is not only happening to Ford workers but to workers particularly in the car industry and generally, to workers employed by giant corporations.

The only way to overcome this capitalist profit-driven 'anarchy' is by bringing the Ford's of this world under public ownership as part of a rational plan of production.

Where Have All The Profits Gone?

Earlier this year Ford's declared profits of $1.95 billion (1st quarter 2004), almost double that for the same period 12 months before.

In July they announced that the revenue from their global vehicle sales had increased to $36.7 billion compared to $34 billion a year earlier.

Their total worldwide income (including Ford's finance arm) in the 2nd quarter of 2004 was $42.8 billion, up from $40.7 billion in the same quarter in 2003.

At the same time their profits for the 2nd quarter 2004 had risen to $1.2 billion from $417 million in 2003.

Ford's has organised its European arm in such as way as to make it easier for them to transfer profits from company to company at the stroke of a computer keyboard. Jaguar has been coupled with LandRover and Volvo along with Aston Martin into a separate "premier auto group".

This makes it easier for Ford's to play off the European arm against the American arm and to play off Jaguar workers against LandRover workers. They do this primarily by "price transfer", whereby one arm of Ford's sell parts to another arm of Ford's at a discount price. It means the receiving plants can announce even bigger profits whilst the supplying plants announce losses. This is done mainly for tax purposes where one country's tax rates may be higher than another. But this "price transfer" can also be used to falsely reduce profits in a company like Jaguar to put pressure on the workers to increase productivity.

Multinational companies have a long record of fiddling the figures. That's why the unions should demand that the company accounts be investigated to establish the real situation.

New Labour - No Future

LOCAL MPs complain about the closure but seem paralysed when it comes to actually doing anything.

These New Labour MPs have no answer because they believe 'market forces' cannot be controlled. Coventry City Council and Jaguar are working to create a science and business park at Browns Lane.

It has already been given planning permission! But the Council should be putting its energy into fighting to save the plant before they bury it!

We hear much from Labour and now Tory council leaders that Coventry is rising like a phoenix from the "bombed, ugly buildings, declining car industry" "ghost town" years. Expensive developments for "wealthy, aspirational Warwickshire people" and turning Coventry into a commuter town for London are presented as the future.

Do the council and main parties imagine that a few hundred wannabe yuppies will save the situation with former skilled workers as their shoe-shines?

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The coronavirus crisis has laid bare the class character of society in numerous ways. It is making clear to many that it is the working class that keeps society running, not the CEOs of major corporations.

The results of austerity have been graphically demonstrated as public services strain to cope with the crisis.

The government has now ripped up its 'austerity' mantra and turned to policies that not long ago were denounced as socialist. But after the corona crisis, it will try to make the working class pay for it, by trying to claw back what has been given.

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In The Socialist 25 September 2004:

Strike Back At Jobs Massacre

Anger Grows At Job Cuts

Uniting To Fight New Labour's Cuts

Fight The Bosses' Closure Plan at Jaguar

Workers Say -'We Won't Pay The Price'

Wembley Workers - A Victory For The Trade Unions

New Labour - It's Big 'Business As Usual'

International socialist news and analysis

Iraq - A Brutal War, Whatever The Label

ESF - A Socialist World Is Possible

Biggest Public Sector Strike In South Africa's History

Socialist Party news and analysis

Don't Trust Government To Stop BNP

Young People Demand Proper Facilities

Lurid Headlines Hide The Facts of Fathers4Justice

Prostitution: The Debate Continues


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