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"Cheaper to hire, cheaper to fire"
Angry Ford workers demand action
TO CHANTS of "no closure" and "the workers united will never be defeated", hundreds of Ford workers marched through fashionable Bayswater, west London to lobby Ford UK's headquarters.
Manny Thain and Dave Carr
12 coaches of workers from Dagenham were joined by two coachloads from the Jaguar plant on Merseyside. There were workers from Ford's radiator plant in Basildon and from Johnson Controls, a component company from Dagenham.
The message was straightforward; Ford should stick to its 1997 agreement with the unions and keep Dagenham assembly plant open.
Faced with manufacturing overcapacity in Europe, Ford wants to end current Fiesta production at Dagenham in 2002, axing 4,500 assembly jobs. The new Fiesta will be produced in Cologne, Germany.
A Ford worker's banner proclaimed: "Dagenham worker: cheaper to hire, cheaper to fire". Productivity levels at Dagenham match Ford Cologne's and labour costs are £6 an hour less, but UK employment laws make it far easier to shed workers here.
Speaking to union members before he met Ford UK bosses, chief TGWU union car negotiator, Tony Woodley, criticised Ford for reneging on its commitments.
"In 1997 there was an agreement that Dagenham would be assured a new model and a future but it's quicker to sack British workers and we're not having that", he said.
Woodley promised a fightback: "We'll resurrect the campaign to stop the body and assembly plant closing. If it closes the rest of the plant will go too and the future of other component companies will also be short term."
He finished by saying: "After today there will be a lull" [during which time 1,500 out of 4,500 jobs will go through voluntary redundancies!]. "If we can't reach agreement we'll ballot for industrial action".
The Socialist Party's Ford Workers' Bulletin was well received. Workers demanded that the unions stand by what they said. "If there's no agreement today, there should be a ballot for industrial action".
The Socialist Party agrees; waiting for a strike ballot sometime later this year will undermine union members' morale and their confidence that the plant can be saved.
Our demand that Dagenham workers link up with Ford workers in Europe also facing job cuts got a good reception.
Asked whether the Labour government should act to prevent closure several workers sneered contemptuously. As a worker's banner said: "Tony Blair, do you care?
"WHEN I started in 1979 there were 30,000 workers, today there's only 8,500, yet production has tripled in that period", a car worker told The Socialist.
"We've got to fight. I'm 43 years old. At my age, where could I get another job that pays the same wage?", a Ford worker, Mr Singh, told The Socialist.
- For an all-out strike of all Ford plants to defend every job.
- Open Ford's books - show us where the profit has gone.
- Nationalise the car industry under democratic workers' control and management.
In The Socialist 30 June 2000: