Socialist Worker

Gearing up for battle

Issue No. 1717

Ford

Gearing up for battle

FORD WORKERS at Dagenham in Essex will start a strike ballot on 24 October The entire Dagenham workforce will gather at two mass meetings the day before. Thousand of jobs are under threat following Ford's decision to end car assembly at the plant.

There is no reason why Ford cannot be challenged and the decision reversed. The struggle at Ford is important for every worker in Britain. A multinational is wrecking lives and moving people around like pawns on a chessboard.

A positive meeting at last week's Labour Party conference showed unity in defending Dagenham. TGWU union national officer Tony Woodley chaired the meeting. He angrily denounced Ford for breaking clear agreements that car assembly would continue at Dagenham.

He said that if Dagenham was devastated it would send a message to other manufacturers that jobs could simply be swept away to increase profits.

Sir Ken Jackson, leader of the AEEU, said, "Manufacturing has gone through a turbulent period but an upsurge of public opinion has turned in our favour. The demonstration over Rover in April achieved the result the workers wanted. We will battle on to win a change of position from Ford over Dagenham. But we will need discipline and unity."

Jackson then left to speak at another meeting alongside the chairman of Ford Europe, Nick Scheele. Jackson's speech there did not even mention Dagenham. Scheele applauded his comments.

Angela Smith, the Labour MP for Basildon, said, "All the Labour MPs in the area are solid on this. Basildon is just a few miles from the plant and is in some ways a company town. Every family knows someone involved with Ford. Ford Dagenham is vital for the direct jobs at the plant but also for the shops, the pubs, the component plants around it. The workers have fully met their obligations over efficiency and productivity. The company has failed to meet theirs."

Ron Doel, convenor of the PTA plant at Dagenham, said, "Labour MP Margaret Hodge says Ford workers are aggressive. We are certainly going to be aggressive to win this ballot and to save our jobs."

As the meeting ended, Tony Blair's car drew up and the prime minister offered his support to the union leaders. It is time to turn words into action. If Blair really backs Ford workers then he should tell Ford it can either guarantee jobs or be nationalised.

The union leaders must launch a massive campaign to win the ballot. Activists need to keep up the pressure on the union leaders and demand that a yes vote is followed by effective action.

  • For copies of the rank and file paper Car Worker contact 241 Dames Road, Forest Gate, London E7 0EA, or ring 0958 478 631.

FloPlast

WORKERS fighting for union recognition at FloPlast in Kent were due to stage their third one-day strike on Wednesday. The 37 workers at the plastic piping firm are determined to win recognition for their GPMU union.

They have also begun to tap the wider solidarity that is key to winning their fight.

A delegation of strikers went to Gillingham last Saturday and collected �100 outside the local football match. An active campaign is needed, with delegations and collections across Kent. The strikers also need to tap solidarity from print workers in the GMPU and other trade unionists in the area and in London.

Strikers can win delegations to join their picket lines. The company is refusing to recognise the GPMU or to reinstate the six workers it sacked after they joined the union. FloPlast workers are set to take a further five one-day strikes after Wednesday's action.

Workers are also voting on whether to escalate to a three-day strike every week.

  • Donations, messages of support, requests for speakers: GPMU Kent Branch, 155 London Road, Sittingbourne, Kent ME10 1PA. Phone 01795 423 9993. Make cheques payable to GPMU Kent Branch.

BT

BT WORKERS in London are facing a possible battle with management over the company's NewGRID restructuring package. A third of CWU members rejected CWU union leaders' advice and opposed the deal in a recent ballot.

The deal included a cut in the working week. Management is trying to impose when workers take this cut.

Union officers in one major CWU branch have told workers to leave work early on Friday unless the company agrees a deal. A fight is brewing in London over regradings, also part of the NewGRID deal.


BAE Systems

Fighting the systems

AROUND 640 workers in a key New Labour backed company held their fourth one-day strike over pay on Thursday of last week.

Their solid strikes at BAE Systems (formerly British Aerospace) in Woodford, Cheshire, have forced management to agree to talks on Wednesday of this week. BAE Systems received �530 million from the government in March this year. Its profits topped �507 million in the six months to September.

Yet BAE Systems bosses claim they cannot afford to increase the workers' pay. The strikers, who are mainly in the AEEU engineering union, voted by 94 percent to turn down the company's two-year pay deal. BAE Systems had dressed up this up as a 9 percent rise.

The Woodford workers have bitter experience of multi-year pay deals. The last one was forced through in 1997. Weeks later the company celebrated huge new orders.

Since then the Woodford workers' pay has fallen while other sites have negotiated better annual pay deals.

Graham, one of the strikers, told Socialist Worker, "We've got stuffed in the three year deal. All the time they said there was no money, no orders, but as soon as we signed there were the orders. For the last three years we've been so busy. Now it's the pay review and we hear there are no orders-it's the same old story and we're not falling for it."

Many of the workers already feel forced into doing long hours of overtime to make up their money. The workers get �317.88 for a basic 37-hour week before tax.

One striker, Dave, has a 50 mile round trip to work. He said, "Every year we've been penalised. The cost of living has gone up and wage rises haven't matched it. Some lads here work seven days a week. You can do four to five hours a day overtime. You feel like it's pointless having a family when you never get to see them."

The workers have held 40-strong picket lines across two gates for virtually 24 hours on strike days. They have also put on picket lines over the weekend to stop contractors coming in and weakening their overtime ban.

Many of the staff who are not part of the strike have shown their solidarity by giving money to the strikers. The joint union forum has agreed to suspend strike action for talks with the company.

But the strikes have put pressure on BAE Systems bosses and shown the way to win.


Postal workers

POSTAL WORKERS at the NDO office in north London are fighting plans to close their office.

The closure of NDO is part of a �400 million reorganisation project in London. It also means the closure of the east London mail centre at Whitechapel and work transferred out of Mount Pleasant in central London.

The work will move to a big international centre at Heathrow and to new offices at Greenford and Feltham. That will mean the loss of 2,000 jobs in inner London.

CWU union deputy general secretary John Keggie has complained that Royal Mail has cut off consultation over the plan.

He says, "We have informed the Post Office that the present proposals are well short of what is required to provide a 21st century postal service. We will be making sure with political and other pressures that the Post Office accept this approach."

It will take a serious campaign to force Royal Mail to change its plans. John Keggie should be campaigning hard for strikes.

  • NDO WORKERS are also campaigning in defence of their branch chair, Mick Doherty.

He has been dismissed for allegedly bringing the Post Office into disrepute while off duty. His CWU branch secretary says, "As far as the branch committee is concerned, the decision to sack him is because of his union activities and is a clear attack on this branch as a whole."

Mick and his brother Tom were disciplined after the Arsenal against Galatasaray football match in Copenhagen in May. Neither was arrested or charged but Royal Mail has held its own court and sacked them.

Tom's sacking prompted a big walkout in July. Before the strike began union officials made it clear that the branch utterly rejected the racism shown by some English fans (not Tom and Mick) in Copenhagen.

An employment tribunal is now looking at Tom's case and Mick's is coming up for appeal. Mick's colleagues have petitioned outside the Essex Road office where he has worked on the counter for 13 years.

Over 2,000 people have signed in his support.

  • POST WORKER, a paper written by rank and file postal workers, is out now. Get your copy from 241 Dames Road, Forest Gate, London E7 0EA. Phone 0958 478 631.

Keep scum contractors off our tube Demonstration

Picket Balfour Beatty

Saturday 21 October, 11am, assemble 1 Angel Square, Torrens Street, (Angel tube), north London

  • Called by RMT London Transport Regional Council

Bus workers

STAGECOACH bosses have resorted to threats of redundancy to force drivers in Lancashire to end their dispute.

Around 700 drivers have held 15 one-day strikes over pay since May. Now Stagecoach has told the drivers to accept the latest pay deal or it will stop running buses.

The drivers were due to vote on the deal on Monday of this week. It amounts to �5.39 an hour rising to �5.50 an hour in January. "It's a rise but it's still peanuts," commented one driver.

Officials in the drivers' TGWU union should show a lead and stand up to the bosses' blackmail.

  • DRIVERS ON First Group's Manchester buses held their latest in a series of one day strikes over pay on Monday of this week.

Say no to NATO

Protest at NATO ministers' meeting

Tuesday 10 October 5pm Centenary Square, Birmingham

  • Phone West Midlands CND for details of this and other protests on 0121 643 4617

Time up for Trident

Saturday 28 October, assemble 10.30am, Blythswood Square, Glasgow

  • Sponsored by the STUC and Scottish CND
  • For leaflets phone 0141 423 1222

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Article information

News
Sat 7 Oct 2000, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1717
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