THOUSANDS OF marchers issued a defiant roar last Saturday against the Ford multinational’s plans to cut 1,150 jobs at its Jaguar Browns Lane plant in Coventry.
Hundreds of Jaguar workers and their families joined the angry and loud march. They were supported by delegations of workers from other car plants across the country.
The TGWU union said up to 5,000 joined the protest.
Union leaders’ calls to vote yes in the strike ballot at Browns Lane, which began this week, were met with loud cheers at the rally at the end of the march.
The fight to save Browns Lane is not just about saving 1,150 jobs in the here and now. It is a fight for the future of Coventry and car workers across Britain.
Richard Hart, a Browns Lane worker, told Socialist Worker, “My young daughter has got it right. She has made a placard which says, ‘Where will I work when I leave school?’
“We have lost too much industry in Coventry as it is. Where is the future for people?
“There is a sad atmosphere at work. The reality is that we’re being dumped on. Browns Lane is Ford’s best plant for quality, so why close it?
“I know I’ll be voting to strike in the ballot.”
Brian Jones, a Browns Lane worker, said, “Ford is just walking all over the workforce. We have done everything it asked us to do.
“Ford has made agreements about the future of Browns Lane which it has gone back on.
“Somewhere along the line you have to put up a fight, otherwise Ford will carry on and do the same across the business.
“We need help off workers in the Ford empire—whether in this country or in Europe.”
There is a feeling among Ford workers that the fight needs to be extended beyond the Browns Lane plant.
Many feel that the job cuts in Browns Lane are just the beginning of an assault on all of Jaguar and Ford.
Derek Hunt, who works at the Jaguar Castle Bromwich plant in Birmingham, joined the march with other workers from his plant.
He told Socialist Worker, “Ford are playing around with people’s lives, moving them from one plant to another.
“We are not safe. We have got to make a stand. I have never worked for a company like this. It’s a them and us situation. The strike ballot should be across all of Jaguar. Browns Lane is just the start.”
Derek Simpson, general secretary of the Amicus union, told the rally, “This struggle is about the future of Jaguar in the UK. Will we grasp the challenge and resist? The unions will support those who wish to fight. This is your future—and more, it is your responsibility.”
Tony Woodley, general secretary of the TGWU union, said, “This isn’t just about taking a few jobs. Vote yes in the strike ballot to leave something behind you for your kids. Vote yes to stop British and Jaguar workers being the cannon fodder of a global multinational company.”
Brendan Barber, general secretary of the TUC, offered the full support of the TUC to Jaguar workers.
It is good that the union leaders are talking about action to save the plant. But they delayed the demonstration and action in a vain attempt to get Tony Blair and Gordon Brown to use their friendship with George Bush to save the plant.
This meant that the unions failed to build on the anger that existed in Coventry when the job cuts were announced at the end of September.
The protest was not a community march, like the protest against the closure of Rover Longbridge in Birmingham four years ago.
Government minister Mike O’Brien spoke at the rally and only called for “negotiations” between the company and the unions.
The unions now have to mobilise for the biggest possible yes vote across Browns Lane plant, and then extend the struggle across the whole of Ford. Ford workers have the power to stop Ford’s plans and save Browns Lane.