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But Dagenham has power to shut down Europe

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Issue 1685

The job killers

But Dagenham has power to shut down Europe

“This is devastating. No one knows who is for the chop. I’ll lose my house if my job goes. Or it will be somebody else. That’s food out of kids’ mouths. Look at the Labour Party, all fighting for one little job for mayor, not for the 1,500 here. What sense does that make?”

  • Worker at the Dagenham plant this week

UP TO 1,800 jobs to go. A whole shift to be axed. The plant’s future in question. That was the bombshell Ford bosses dropped on their workers at the company’s Dagenham plant last week. Ford workers should remember one thing-they have massive power. Now is the time to use it. There is more at stake than the immediate job losses at Dagenham in Essex.

The whole area will be decimated. The job losses will be over 2,000 once the knock-on effects to local suppliers are counted. “If they shut us down Ford will be killing a whole community, and they don’t give a toss,” said a Dagenham worker this week. “We’ve given them efficiency after efficiency and this is the way they treat people. It’s obscene.”

Even that rag the Sun, which will happily attack workers, says, “Dagenham without Ford would be like Windsor without the castle.” The 1998 pay strike by Ford workers brought Ford Europe to a halt. They still have the power to do that. The Engine Plant at Dagenham is the only Ford plant in the world to make diesel engines.

Ford wants to divide and rule. It wants workers in Dagenham’s Engine Plant to think their future is secure while it holds a gun to the heads of workers in the Body Plant, and the Paint, Trim and Assembly (PTA). Ford’s promises are worthless. Two years ago Ford boss Jacs Nasser “promised” Dagenham would get the new Fiesta and that its future would be safe. Now Nick Scheele, the boss of Ford Europe, says “market conditions” have changed.

Ford pleads poverty and “overcapacity”. But the firm still made a profit of 17.5 million across Europe last year and 4.5 billion in the US. Ford workers in all plants must stand by Dagenham to defend jobs everywhere. “We are shocked and devastated,” said one Ford worker. “They just want to sack us because they can do it cheaply. If they can do this to us, they can do anything. The union must give us a game plan.” That is right. TGWU official Tony Woodley should be at Dagenham building for a fight, not urging Ford to sack workers at Cologne in Germany instead. He should be addressing mass meetings at every Ford plant to win solidarity with Dagenham.

“We pay Woodley’s wages,” says a Dagenham shop steward. “He’s not going to be losing his job. He should get down here and address mass meetings. He should face the people. He should be behind us, not just sitting up there on his cushy number. Ford is a ruthless company. They have the power to switch around production as they choose. They will blackmail and lie and bully. All we can do is stand together.”

When Dagenham workers struck against racism Nasser was forced to get on a plane to Britain. They can do it again. Shop stewards at Dagenham met on Monday. They want to fight Ford’s plans. That means organising now.

It means shop stewards from the PTA and the Body Plant going to the Engine Plant and building links-outside at the gates if necessary. There needs to be a demonstration against the job losses to build unity and support for a fight. Workers need to send a message to Blair, as well as to Ford, that the possible closure of Dagenham will not be taken lying down.

Staff strike and show solidarity

“ROBERT MAXWELL is alive and well and at the Ford motor company.” They were the words of a white collar Ford worker on Monday of this week as over 2,000 of them struck for an hour. They are furious about management’s plans for their pension fund. One day strikes were planned for Thursday of this week and Tuesday of next. Nearly 1,000 workers packed into a mass meeting in Basildon.

“We don’t trust Ford,” said a worker from Ford’s huge research and design centre in Dunton, Essex. “Jacs Nasser guaranteed the future of Dagenham. Now look what’s happened. Why should we believe our pension money is safe with them?” The job losses at Dagenham have, if anything, hardened the workers’ resolve to fight Ford.

“We’ve never been on strike before,” says Denise, an accounts worker from Romford. “But we need to, especially with the Dagenham announcement. It has made everybody’s future more uncertain and we need a strong union to back us up.” And a worker at Ford’s Trafford House in Basildon says, “I’m disgusted at the job losses at Dagenham. It looks to me like Ford is running down its UK operations. I would support any action at Dagenham. The company is always trying to separate the hourly paid and salaried staff. Let’s hope this unites us this time.”

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