A firm stand gets results
BOSSES AT Ford motors have been rattled by the determination of white collar staff to fight to defend their pensions. The workers are furious that management want to merge their pension fund-which has a big surplus-with that of the manual workers, which is in deficit. Workers fear a Robert-Maxwell-style rip-off. Workers struck for an hour on Monday of last week and held mass meetings. A one day strike was also planned for Thursday of last week, the first in a series.
But the strike was called off at the last minute, much to the annoyance of some workers, after Ford hinted at concessions. Reps from the MSF and TGWU unions met on Friday of last week. As they met, Ford offered more concessions over the phone to union negotiators. Ford said it would be prepared to take the merger of the pension fund out of the workers' pay deal. The deal had been conditional on the pension merger.
And Ford said it was prepared to take the issue of the merger to the pension fund's trustees-something the unions had been asking for from the start. Negotiations over these verbal promises were to take place this week. But it looks as if the white collar staff's firm stance has forced Ford to make big concessions.
There are still outstanding issues. White collar staff will not get the cut in hours that manual workers got as part of their pay deal. And merger of the two pension funds may still go ahead. But the dispute has had positive effects. "People in isolated areas have really stood up to management," says a rep at Ford's research and engineering centre in Dunton. "The quiet people have been the most surprising. They have suddenly become giants."
Other workers have been convinced to join the union by the dispute. The workers' stance has shown that Ford does shift when under pressure. That lesson should not be lost on hourly paid workers at Dagenham who face massive job cuts. Now the white collar workers must keep their eye on the negotiations, and on the trustees, and be ready to renew their campaign if necessary.
WORKERS IN a section of the Engine Plant at Ford Dagenham have twice staged small stoppages in the past two weeks. They are angry because they want to kick out their shop steward but are being denied the right to have a fresh election. A number of stewards resigned from the TGWU last year in protest at the union's support for a worker, Sukhjit Parma, who was being racially harassed.
The stewards applied to join the AEEU, which rightly refused to take them. These stewards are not recognised by the TGWU or the AEEU, but they are still recognised by Ford management and the union Joint Works Committee in the plant! Workers want to kick them out. The two stoppages both lasted for about half an hour and involved up to 40 workers.