Socialist Worker

Fightback needed to stop Ford bosses’ closure of Bridgend plant

by Tomáš Tengely-Evans
Issue No. 2658

Fords plans to close the Bridgend plant (above) are the latest in a long-running jobs slaughter in manufacturing

Ford's plans to close the Bridgend plant (above) are the latest in a long-running jobs slaughter in manufacturing (Pic: Creative Commons)


Ford bosses have announced plans to shut down their plant in Bridgend by September 2020. 

The move will mean the axing of 1,700 jobs at the engine factory in South Wales—and it is a threat to thousands more jobs that rely on the industry. And there are fears for jobs at Ford’s other four sites in Dagenham, Daventry, Dunton and Halewood.

It is the latest in a long-running jobs slaughter in manufacturing as bosses try to keep their profits up.

Unite union general secretary Len McCluskey slammed the decision as a “grotesque act of economic betrayal”. He said, “Ford can forget about it if it thinks we will make it easy for Ford to walk away from this workforce.

“We will resist this closure with all our might and we call upon the Welsh Assembly and Westminster governments to join us to save this plant.”

In April the Unite and GMB unions said that all five sites were “ballot ready” and would stand with any plant under threat. A letter told workers, “If any location is faced with compulsory redundancies, or plant closure, then each location would be balloted for industrial action.”

The union leaders’ must back up those words by announcing a national ballot for strikes across Ford.

Workers’ resistance—including strikes and tactics such as an occupation—can make the bosses back down from the closure plans. A big campaign of could force nationalisation to save jobs.

An immediate walkout at Bridgend would send a strong message to the Tories and Ford bosses that unions will fight.

Anarchy 

The Bridgend plant closure is part of the bigger pattern of job losses in the car industry in Britain and worldwide. There are many contributing factors, but the root cause is overcapacity of cars.

Visteon occupation—giving Ford a bloody nose
Visteon occupation—giving Ford a bloody nose
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This is caused by the anarchy of the free market. What’s produced under capitalism isn’t based on planning to meet social need, but rival firms competing to grab a bigger slice of the market share and profits.

McCluskey said that Ford bosses had “broken promise after promise”. “First it was that it would build 500,000 engines at Bridgend, that fell to a quarter of a million, then fell again and again to now just 80,000,” he said.

“The company has deliberately run down its UK operations so that now not a single Ford vehicle—car or van—is made in the UK.”

The different stages of the production process are based across different countries and “just-in time” distribution methods means there is little capacity in the supply chain. This means workers at one plant have the power to hit Ford’s worldwide operations.

Unions have largely relied on “social partnership” with car bosses in the hope of saving jobs. The process has seen the axing of tens of thousands of jobs by bosses whose only concern is their own profits.

Organising resistance can save the plant. And with threats at British Steel in Scunthorpe and the closure of the Honda car plant in Swindon, it can be part of a wider fightback. 


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