Unite will ballot its 2,500 members at Ford plants across the UK for strike action after the motor industry giant announced plans to close its final-salary pension scheme to new starters.
Attacks on private sector pension schemes are becoming increasingly common. Retail manufacturing company Unilever made a similar move in 2011, sparking several days of strike action in early 2012. According to Ford’s figures, 80% of private-sector employers have closed final-salary schemes to new starters.
Unite officer Roger Maddison said: “We fiercely oppose the closure of Ford's final salary scheme to new entrants. This is the thin end of the wedge. Ultimately we believe Ford will try to close the entire scheme.
“To make matters worse the company is trying to create a two tier workforce by making new starters work for 10 per cent less money for doing the same job as existing staff. This is totally unacceptable.”
Elsewhere in the industry, workers at BMW’s Oxford plant have accepted a two-year pay deal, comprising a 4.5% pay increase in 2012 and 2.3% in 2013. If inflation is higher than 2.3% in 2013, the difference will be added to a bonus.
They had voted by 97% to reject the company’s previous offer, comprising an increase of just over 2%.
Tube Lines strikes “rock solid”
Tube union RMT has declared the first three days of strike action in an ongoing battle for pensions equality by maintenance and emergency response workers as “rock solid”.
The workers, employed by Tube Lines (established in 2002 a Public Private Partnership initiative owned by Ferrovial and Bechtel but bought back in-house by Transport for London in 2010), struck for three days from 24 April. Emergency Response Unit (ERU) vehicles, normally driven by Tube Lines workers, were taken out of depots by non-ERU staff, showing that management’s commitment to breaking the strike outweighs their commitment to having emergency vehicles operated only by properly trained staff!
During the strike, a tunnel ceiling on the Bakerloo Line partially collapsed. An RMT statement said: “Whilst not a direct result of the action, the shutdown of the Bakerloo line due to the partial ceiling collapse has highlighted the need for fully trained experienced professionals working as part of the Emergency Response Unit.
“We firmly believe that in dealing with this extremely serious incident on the Bakerloo Line, ERU coverage of the rest of the network was at best seriously understaffed and at worst non-existent.
As Solidarity went to press, the RMT’s General Grades Committee was due to meet to discuss the next actions in the campaign.
Workers are demanding the levelling up of their pensions rights and travel privileges to bring them in line with the conditions of other Transport for London workers.
MMP lockout fight continues
Workers from the Mayr-Melnhof Packaging (MMP) plant in Bootle, near Liverpool, and their supporters have been continuing to organise protests in Britain and internationally against the ongoing lock out, sackings and the planned closure of the Bootle factory.
On 25 April, the workers organised a protest at an MMP shareholders’ meeting in Austria. There have been other international protests in Spain, Austria, Germany, Tunisia, France, Chile and America.
Workers in the UK and internationally have expressed their opposition to how the workers in Bootle have been treated. So far the main focus of the campaign by Unite, the workers’ union, has to been to try and “embarrass” MMP in front of its major clients, which include Kelloggs.
Such publicity campaigns are fine, but what is needed is a radical campaign that will give MMP workers in other plants, and Kelloggs workers and workers for other MMP clients, the confidence to take industrial action – unofficially if necessary.
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