Shock, bitterness and anger spread across West Midlands at the news of the plan to close the Peugeot plant in Ryton, Coventry, in 2007. The closure would mean the loss of 2,300 jobs.
This is a bitter blow coming only a year after the closure of the nearby Rover Longbridge plant in Birmingham.
Workers at the plant are represented by the T&G and Amicus unions which have talked about the need for action. But as Socialist Worker went to press they were due to present an alternative business plan for the bosses to consider.
One T&G member who works at the Ryton plant told Socialist Worker, “It’s really weird. People are just carrying on pretty much as normal. We were told they were shutting the plant on Tuesday. On Wednesday we had mass meetings with the union. And that’s that. Haven’t heard anything from the union since – and all we get from management is hints about redundancy packages.
“We’ve had our hours and wages cut. We lost a shift last year. People don’t want to lose their jobs but they are unsure what to do.”
Many people from Coventry are affected by the jobs massacre in the car industry. One local woman told Socialist Worker, “I have friends who work at Peugeot. We can’t just sit back and let this happen.
“The government should step in and do something to protect these jobs. This area was built around car manufacturing.”
This is the latest attack in New Labour’s push for the most flexible workforce in Europe. The pressure is, as it was with Rover, not to call action close to elections. Workers at Peugeot are paying with their jobs because of the union link to Labour in the same way the Rover workers did.
Not to fight sends a signal to every worker that the unions are not going to fight for you if it means upsetting Labour.
There are basic things that need to be done now. The only way to stop the bosses running off with the expensive machines and equipment is to occupy the plant. At the very least there need to be highly visible protests.
French Peugeot workers have said that they will take action alongside the workers in Coventry. The potential for solidarity to save the jobs is there. What is needed is for the unions to call the protests.
The unions must call a march quickly to galvanise local support and win workers to a campaign to save the plant and jobs.