Year 2000 No. 32, February 22, 2000

Threat to Close Dagenham:

Ford Workers Must Affirm their Rights!

Workers' Daily Internet Edition : Article Index : Discuss

Threat to Close Dagenham:
Ford Workers Must Affirm their Rights!

Ford Professional Staff Stage One-Hour Strike

Train Drivers Plan Further Strikes

Dairy Companies Merger Threatens Redundancies

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Threat to Close Dagenham:

Ford Workers Must Affirm their Rights!

Having announced that 1,500 workers are to lose their jobs at Dagenham, the Ford monopoly is refusing to give any assurances about the plant’s future, saying that nothing is ruled in or out.

It should be noted that the whole scenario, the context of the announcement and the opposition of the trade unions to the job losses and threatened closure, is being presented in terms of the outlook of the monopoly capitalists. Ford of Europe chairman Nick Scheele put this context as one where Ford’s "overcapacity" is a "significant restraint on our operating performance". He has said that monopoly’s financial performance was unacceptable, that Ford Europe had capacity for 2.25 million units but sold only 1.7 million and that the cut-backs at Dagenham were "the optimal way for Ford of Europe to address its overcapacity situation". Production at the Dagenham plant has already fallen to 191,000 units in 1999 from 250,359 units in 1998 according to Ford figures. The union representatives have also spoken in terms of the problem being one of "overcapacity".

If the problem is presented in such terms, then the issue becomes one of how to "share the pain" in order that the inevitable suffering is minimised and shared among all Ford workers. The political context is one where the Labour government is practically making it obligatory for all workers to think this way, on pain of being included in the "forces of conservatism". Under the Blairite vision, "social partnership" is necessary so that workers and their organisations become part of the solution to making the monopolies "successful" in the global marketplace rather than being "part of the problem", in other words standing in the way of such "rationalisations", dealing with the problems of "overcapacity" by throwing thousands of workers onto the streets here or taking in government handouts there. In other words, workers are to have no role apart from being an adjunct to the difficult business of the financial oligarchy making the maximum capitalist profits, a "labour cost" in the equation of globalisation, the competition for markets, the amassing of maximum profits, the accumulation of capital. The workers are dehumanised in other ways in this scenario. Their jobs are there to be "shed", their livelihoods are put at risk in the name of finding solutions to "long-term structural problems". "Prosperity" is made synonymous with the success of these monopolies rather than the development of a sound national economy and the investment in social programmes. In this scenario, the government is only to ready to see the fabric of society torn apart, whatever it might say, and opposition to the dictates of the rich, an opposition which departs from the guidelines of the Third Way philosophy, is condemned and increasingly made into a criminal matter.

In this situation, it is crucial that the Ford workers, in common with the whole working class, affirm their rights. The crises in society, the crisis of overproduction as well as all the other problems of jobless growth, the destruction of the manufacturing base, and so on, are not of their making. They have a right to a livelihood which in a modern society should be recognised, and they must affirm this right. Why should not the problems of the economy, as well as all the other social problems, be solved in their favour? Is it not their right that they should decide what happens to their social product? The working class and people have a right to take control of what belongs to them, and they cannot accept that the "right" bestowed on the financial oligarchy by the accumulation of capital and the ownership of the means of production takes precedence.

The logic of the anti-social offensive against the people is that the rich have a prior claim on all the assets and resources of society, and the claims of the working class and people are at best subsidiary claims. In opposition to this, Ford workers must take a stand: we demand that our rights are recognised, we demand that society be organised so that our claims are met, we demand the right to determine the direction of the economy, we demand enabling legislation to guarantee our right to a livelihood!

Article Index


Ford Professional Staff Stage One-Hour Strike

Yesterday, February 21, Ford professional staff across Britain staged a one-hour strike.

The staff, which include employees from Dagenham, refused to be deflected from their action by the accusation from Ford that poor "industrial relations" were a consideration in the moves to cut-back or even close down Ford at the Dagenham factory. The 17,000 engineers, information technology and clerical workers are demanding parity with a three-year pay deal for the hourly-paid production workers, which is worth 15% as opposed to the final offer for salaried workers of only 11%. In addition to the pay dispute, the Ford monopoly’s demand to merge the pension funds of the two groups of workers was a further provocation, as the professional staff fund has a surplus of £507 million, while the fund for the hourly-paid has a deficit requiring funding of £155.2 million. The move is widely seen as being aimed at using part of the surplus to fund the redundancy programme that Ford is putting into operation.

Further strike action is to be taken by the professional staff as follows: February 24 – one day; February 29 – one day; March 6-8 – three days. Increased pressure is being put on Ford UK to grant the workers’ demands by the Ford European and German Works Councils which have stated they will not accept strikebreaking work.

Article Index


Train Drivers Plan Further Strikes

Last Friday, train drivers’ union ASLEF called six one-day strikes in protest at what they described as a breakdown in industrial relations at Connex. The first one will take place on Tuesday, February 29. The train drivers had won their demands not to work long hours for a service in which the normal running of the trains required overtime working. The company, Connex, had agreed to implement these demands following a one-day strike last month. But ASLF general secretary Mick Rix said that "major deep-seated problems" still existed. Whereas Connex managers had been told to undergo industrial relations training as part of the agreement, it is alleged that the company has continued to harass drivers and has failed to organise joint meetings.

Because the original strikes were suspended, the drivers can go ahead with the further strikes without having to re-ballot. The "conciliation service" ACAS has now been drawn into trying to resolve the situation.

In a second dispute, the result of a strike ballot of 5,500 guards working for the majority of passenger train companies, and called by the RMT union, is expected to endorse 24-hour stoppages when it is announced tomorrow. Railtrack had announced a rule change which is said to take overall responsibility for trains away from guards and place it with drivers. The workers point out that what is behind the move is Railtrack’s intention to turn the guards into a source of retail sales "such as selling tea and biscuits".

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Dairy Companies Merger Threatens Redundancies

The threat of redundancies has been held out over the announced merger of the food groups Dairy Crest and Unigate. The merged milk and cheese business would be worth a combined £220 million.

The companies have said that job cuts are inevitable as they look to make savings of £25 million. Dairy Crest employs 3,800 workers in Britain, while Unigate employs 5,400.

Dairy Crest chief executive John Houliston said: "There will be some job losses, but the consolidation that people have been demanding will undoubtedly protect jobs in the long term."

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