FORD WORKERS have voted to accept the company's revised pay and hours offer - but only just. Workers voted to accept the three year deal by 54.5 percent to 45.5 percent. The vote was 8,016 votes for the deal and 6,696 against.
A substantial minority were opposed to the deal at most plants - in the face of a recommendation to accept it from national union officials and the majority of plant convenors. At the Southampton plant, for example, 886 voted to accept the deal and 477 voted to reject. At the Dagenham and Basildon plants the overwhelming majority of workers voted to throw the deal out. They do not want a three year deal, do not like the pay offer and are furious with the strings attached. At Basildon shop stewards overturned their convenor's recommendation to accept, and then the plant as a whole voted to reject the deal by 89 percent.
At all three plants across the giant Dagenham works the deal was slung out. In the PTA the vote was 91 percent against the deal and in the Body Plant it was 92 percent! The deal was also rejected in Dagenham's Engine Plant. Many workers walked out during the night shift on Thursday of last week, disgusted with the deal and with their union convenor.
'We were given a 15 minute report back and a recommendation to accept,' says a worker in the Engine Plant. People were shouting out, 'What about the temporary workers? What about that?' But the convenor just said, 'Thank you and good night,' and walked off. We demanded a meeting but the Joint Works Committee [JWC] refused. So we voted in the ballot and then walked out. Our own JWC refusing to talk to people - it's disgusting.'
Workers on the main assembly line did not return to work, and no work at all was done in the second most important area of the plant. Ford lost around £1 million in production as a result. Another worker says, 'The deal is a big insult. But it's an even bigger insult that the Joint Works Committee accepted it.'
The connection between the pay deal and the way that JWC members are supporting those responsible for the racist harassment of Sukhjit Parma was not lost on people. 'The Joint Works Committee - we want them out,' says another worker. 'People are ready to take them on.' Many Ford workers are sick that there will not be a fight over pay. But the mood against the deal can be used to fight the strings at a local level. In that way workers can rebuild more fighting shop stewards' organisation in every plant.