Support the Ford workers – stop the plant closures and sackings in Southampton & Dagenham!

The National Shop Stewards Network (NSSN) sends its full support to Ford workers and their unions – Unite and the GMB after their company’s announcement that it intends to close two British plants and sack up to 2,000 workers by next summer. We support any action taken by these workers to defend their plants and jobs.

At the same time, Ford is shutting its factory in Genk in Belgium with the loss of 4,300 jobs. The closure of Southampton Transit and the Stamping plant in Dagenham which supplies Transit panels is an attack on the whole Ford UK workforce as it will leave it smaller and vulnerable to a total closure or attack on workers’ terms and conditions.  In the year 2000, there were 52,000 workers in Ford UK, these closures will leave under 11,000. This is the reward for sacrifices made by Ford workers over the last few years – from outsourcing indirect jobs to agreeing a new starter wage rate and closing the final salary pension scheme to new starters.

This announcement shows that no workers are safe, whether they be in the car industry or anywhere else. These redundancies could lead to 20,000 workers losing their jobs in the component industry or related sectors. Unite and the GMB must link workers in Ford with these companies to build a huge army of opposition. Plant closures and redundancies are difficult to stop, but they can be stopped if a serious and determined fight is organised. Unite members in the construction industry and London buses this year have won victories, showing that the bosses’ plans can be resisted.

Union policy is to trigger a national dispute over a closure threat. There should be an immediate national meeting of all Ford UK shop stewards and convenors to discuss what action is needed, including the organising of a ballot for national strike action.

Action, official or unofficial, should be coordinated with workers in Genk and throughout the European plants.  Therefore, an emergency meeting of the union-side Ford European Works Council should be organised, with stewards from every plant invited. This could give Southampton and Dagenham workers the confidence to raise any and all means to fight the closures, including occupations.

In Southampton, a call across the city for a demonstration opposing closure of the plant would get a resounding echo and bring thousands onto the streets.

The NSSN campaigned on the 20th October 150,000-strong TUC demonstration in London for a 24-hour general strike against the attacks being made by this Tory/Lib Dem government of the bosses. The threat to the Ford plants shows yet again why the unions and the TUC need to link together all workers – in the private and public sectors – to defend all our jobs, pay and pensions.

Fords should be nationalised if it refuses to stop the redundancies, in order to save workers’ livelihoods and their skills and the plants they are working in.

All Ford workers must fight

Looming over both Ford workers and pensioners is the company’s pension deficit of about £2 billion. They will ask themselves how a company of reduced size that is blaming its closures on losses of £1 billion really intends to keep the fund afloat by paying the deficit. Workers should remember how the ex-Ford Visteon component plants were closed in 2009 through administration, which saw 600 workers sacked. Now, over 3,000 Visteon pensioners are taking Ford to court to protect the full value of their pensions because the fund has gone into the Pension Protection Fund. The option to dispense with this financial ‘burden’ must be increasingly tempting for Ford. The Visteon workers would have got statutory redundancy money of a maximum of £9,000 each but won an enhanced pay-off because they fought for it, through occupations and pickets.

The immediate launch of serious national and even international action would give workers in the two UK plants confidence to fight and send the strongest possible signal to Ford that the battle to save their jobs and pensions is on.

Solidarity with the Ford workers!

Rob Williams

NSSN national chair

Ex-Ford worker and Visteon convenor