The Socialist 12 June 2019 |
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Ford closure announcement must be met with united response of defiance
photo Mike Mozart (Creative Commons) (Click to enlarge)
Rob Williams (former Unite convenor at ex-Swansea Ford plant)
After months if not years of rumours and speculation, which have shredded the nerves of workers and their families, Ford has finally announced the closure of the Bridgend engine plant after nearly 40 years of production.
This is a catastrophe for these 1700 workers, their families and communities and the whole Welsh economy. The message that must be immediately sent by the unions and Jeremy Corbyn's Labour Party in Cardiff and Westminster to Ford and the Tory government is that the plant will not be allowed to close.
This would be the platform to build a mass campaign from the workforce on the Bridgend shopfloor and workers in the related companies - that depend on the engine plant - which make the components and provide services.
If a determined programme of industrial action is spelt out, it can give workers confidence to fight and build the pressure on the company and the politicians.
The Labour-run Welsh Assembly government should tell Ford that the plant will be nationalised to save jobs and communities and Jeremy Corbyn must give the commitment that a Labour government led by him will take it into public ownership. This would put huge pressure on the weak and divided Tory government to intervene.
In 1971, a previous Tory government nationalised Rolls Royce, and months later was forced to intervene when workers at Upper Clyde Shipbuilders conducted a working occupation with 80,000 marching in solidarity.
Honda workers in Swindon and steelworkers in Scunthorpe are facing the same scenario and support the call for nationalisation to save jobs.
The Ford unions have already threatened a national strike ballot if Bridgend is closed. This must be prepared immediately. A national meeting of Ford shop stewards should meet with plant meetings throughout the company's sites. This is the best way to undermine any Ford 'divide and rule' tactics.
The best way to protect the other sites is to fight to keep Bridgend open. The lesson of the last 20 years is that every plant closure makes others easier and more likely.
In 2000, there were over 50,000 Ford UK workers but now only a fifth of those remain in work. In Bridgend right now there will be workers from closed plants such as Treforest, Swansea and Southampton.
There is nowhere else to go. A national strike would send a clear message of defiance, as would an immediate stoppage at the plant.
Ford should be told that the plant will stop if there is any attempt to move out machinery and equipment.
But is it possible to win? There are no guarantees but it will close if there isn't a fight. Only three years ago, Port Talbot steelworks looked like it was going to close but it proved politically impossible to close with a divided Tory government in the midst of the EU referendum.
We have to make it politically impossible to close Bridgend engine plant now. Support the Ford workers.
This version of this article was first posted on the Socialist Party website on 6 June 2019 and may vary slightly from the version subsequently printed in The Socialist.