Over the last year we’ve done everything that Ford bosses have asked of us in order to secure the future of our plant. But our efforts have been rewarded with a kick in the teeth.
Despite Ford Europe making more than a billion dollars worth of profit last year, they told us last week that they intend to slash production of the Transit van that we make at Southampton.
As a result, around half of the permanent workforce – up to 500 of us – will be thrown on the scrapheap by May.
Those of us who are “lucky” enough to keep our jobs will be expected to accept that our recently negotiated 5.25 percent pay deal isn’t worth the paper it was written on. Instead we’ve been told to take a three-year pay cut.
We’ve already lost 18 percent of our take home pay since the company put us on a single shift and took away our allowances.
Our plant manager tells us that we have to “recognise economic realities”.
He says that he can get new employees to work here on pay rates that are even lower than the ones we are on now.
Our human resources manager says they have tested the local labour market and believe that “good quality workers” are desperate to come to Ford, whatever the money.
It’s clear they want a two-tier workforce where we would all be forced to compete against each other in a race to the bottom.
And this is not the only way they want to divide-and-rule us.
Workers here have been shown Ford’s plans for $700 million investment into two plants in Turkey that will make the vans that will replace the Transit.
The company clearly wants us to see Turkish workers as competitors and enemies that can only be fought by us accepting harder work and lower pay.
But we are not against our Turkish comrades. We are against Ford pitting one set of workers against another.
Our Unite union this week attacked the jobs and pay cut as a “betrayal”. Tony Woodley, our joint national secretary, has warned that there could be industrial action unless the plans are reconsidered.
At Southampton we’ve already proved that we’re prepared for such a fight. In autumn last year we walked out on strike unofficially when there were rumours of production cuts.
If we’re going to have a chance at beating Ford’s tactics, our unions must do more than talk about a fight.
We need to start preparing for action. If we don’t, then this plant will die.
Around 300 workers at Ford’s Dagenham plant in east London downed tools last week after hearing about company plans to renege on a pay deal and impose a pay freeze instead.
Justin Bowden from the GMB union told Socialist Worker that the atmosphere inside the plant was “incendiary”.
“Bad news travels fast,” he said. “Senior stewards went to a briefing with the company where they were told of 850 job losses and effective pay cuts. News had already reached Dagenham before they returned.
“Workers at the body and stamping plant simply refused to carry on working. They were absolutely furious.
“For years they’ve been told that the way to safeguard their pay and jobs was to become more efficient. But those efficiency gains have now become the basis for making people redundant.”
The GMB is calling on Ford to honour the pay deal it signed last year. If not, Justin says that there is “good possibility” that the union will ballot for strike action in the near future.