Year 2000 No. 31, February 21, 2000

Ford Axes 1,500 Jobs at Dagenham Plant:

Once More the Question: Who Decides?

Workers' Daily Internet Edition : Article Index : Discuss

Ford Axes 1,500 Jobs at Dagenham Plant:
Once More the Question: Who Decides?

25th Anniversary of TPLF Celebrated

Message by Chris Coleman, RCPB(ML), to Celebrations

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Ford Axes 1,500 Jobs at Dagenham Plant:

Once More the Question: Who Decides?

The Ford car monopoly has axed 1,500 jobs at its plant in Dagenham after a slump in sales which has hit production of the Fiesta. Ford announced on Friday that the Dagenham factory will switch to a single shift in place of the present two in the body and paint, trim and assembly plants from the beginning of August. The engine factory will stay on two shifts. The factory has been on short-time working for over a year.

Ford has also warned the workers that the future could bring more cuts to the 9,000-strong workforce. The US monopoly threatened that the Dagenham plant could even close entirely. It blames "overcapacity" in the European car market for its problems and is targeting Dagenham because of "declining industrial relations".

Tony Woodley, national official of the Transport and General Workers Union, accused Ford of taking advantage of Britain’s labour laws, saying, "It is cheap, quick and easy to sack British workers." He said that the TGWU would fight to keep Dagenham open. "Two years ago we assisted Ford by closing the Ford Halewood plant on Merseyside for Ford production. That allowed them to spread their production costs across the rest of Europe. Under those arrangements it was made clear that Dagenham would have a new model and a future," he added.

Once again a major car factory in Britain owned by a foreign monopoly is under threat of closure, with workers being thrown onto the streets and communities decimated, causing dislocation and disruption to the economy.

Only ten days before the announcement, the head of Ford Europe, Nick Scheele, stated that it had not been ruled out that the new Fiesta could be manufactured at Ford’s Cologne plant, pointing out that with the development of globalisation, Europe is to be considered as one whole region in which production can be shifted at the monopoly’s will in the interests of competitiveness. With the announcement, Nick Scheele said that the company is to continue to keep all of its European operations under review, pointing out that "Dagenham has been running substantially below capacity with significant down time for many months". It has also been hinted by Ford that their future decisions may be influenced if the government were to promise to give them handouts, as they have already promised to the tune of over £150 million to the BMW-owned Rover plant at Longbridge.

This state of affairs brings home once again one most important question: who decides? The monopoly capitalists take it for granted that they should have complete freedom to make the decisions as to whether thousands, even hundreds of thousands, of workers should have a livelihood or not. The government backs them up by telling the workers to take it for granted that the monopolies should be the ones to have the final decision in the interests of being competitive in the global marketplace. But should not the workers take the decisions? This is not simply a question of jobs or no jobs. In this respect, workers should demand that a livelihood be recognised as a human right. But should a government leave it to the dictate of the monopolies as to what is in the interests of the national economy, and the most that the workers can expect of these monopolies is that they should allow workers to "share the pain" with workers elsewhere? Should the workers not participate in deciding whether society as a whole needs more or less cars manufactured, along with similar decisions in all other sectors of the economy? In other words, it raises the whole question of the direction of the economy and who sets the agenda.

The workers need to get organised not only to fight against the ravages of globalisation and the onslaught of the anti-social offensive, but to fight for a pro-social programme and that they be the ones who should set the agenda. To do so is to advance along the line of march which will result in establishing a socialist Britain in which it is the workers who constitute the nation, and the power to make the decisions on the direction of the economy rests with the people themselves and not with the monopolies and governments which act in the interests of the finance capitalists who own and control these monopolies.

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25th Anniversary of TPLF Celebrated

On Saturday, February 19, a festive meeting was held in London to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the founding of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). Guest of honour was the Ethiopian Ambassador, Dr Beyene Negewo. The main address was given by a representative of TPLF. Among those giving messages of greeting were Lesley Larkum of Ethiopia Support Network (Ethionet), Jenny Hammond, author of Fire from the Ashes, a personal account of the Ethiopian revolution, and Chris Coleman of RCPB(ML). Following the speeches and traditional Tigrayan food, Tigrayan music and dancing continued for many hours in a very joyous atmosphere.

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Message by Chris Coleman, RCPB(ML), to Celebrations

Dear Comrades and Friends:

The first thing I would like to say, on behalf of our Party, is that it is a great honour to join with you all in celebrating the 25th anniversary of the founding of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) and to pay solemn tribute to those who gave their lives in the heroic 17-year armed struggle against the Mengistu regime. It is from this struggle that all the great developments in Ethiopia stem. Looking back through the old copies of our paper Workers’ Weekly, I was reminded that our Party was supporting the struggle of the Ethiopian peoples against the Derg right from its inception in the early seventies. It was, of course, some time later that we met the comrades from TPLF and then the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) in which they joined with other revolutionary forces. From that time developed a deep and close friendship and comradeship which has lasted right up to the present. We recall that just a matter of weeks before the final victory over the Derg in May 1991 we had the privilege of meeting and having discussions, in this very building, with Meles Zenawi, who was later to become President and then Prime Minister of Ethiopia. And we shared the joy of that great victory of May 1991, as did progressive and democratic people the world over, seeing it as a victory not only for the Ethiopian people but for all people. We have been and remain very proud that comrades from our Party and its circles have always been in the forefront of the solidarity campaign in this country.

Since 1991 we have followed with sympathy and concern the great efforts made by the government and peoples of Ethiopia to build a new and democratic society serving the interests of the people, in the face of seemingly insurmountable difficulties and outside pressures. The comrades are always very modest about their achievements in Ethiopia, but it must be said that the problems which the government and people are grappling with in Ethiopia, and with notable success, are the key problems which face the peoples in all countries, problems of how the people will be empowered, how a pro-people economy should be shaped, how the rights of people and nations should be guaranteed. Such things as the writing of a new constitution with the participation of the people, the various electoral mechanisms put in place, the moves to develop an economy serving the people, the enshrining in law of the right of the nations to self-determination, most notably the organising of a referendum leading to the independence of Eritrea, whatever the subsequent difficulties, are rare in today’s world. In a very different country such as ours, a developed country, such things are acknowledged only in words, as the current disillusion with the political processes, the concerns about the economy, about the trampling of rights, the struggles of the nations within this British state to affirm their sovereignty and right of self-determination, amply illustrate.

Our struggles are common struggles and we are proud to be fighting shoulder to shoulder with our comrades from Tigray and all of Ethiopia.

Once again, we are honoured to be participating in this celebration. We honour the memory of those who have fallen in the struggle. We wish all the comrades and the Ethiopian people all success in the future years.

Thank you.

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