Nearly a month after the announcement that Ford was axing 1,500 jobs (closing its Southampton Transit Van plant, and cutting jobs at the Dagenham stamping plant which supplies it), there are still no details of a high-profile, public campaign against the closure from Ford unions.
Shop stewards, conveners and union officials have been conducting negotiations with management.
Unions are in a difficult position, particularly as Ford is attempting to bribe workers by offering handsome severance packages; but they must go on the offensive to stand any chance of saving jobs.
In a context of job cuts, wage freezes, and other attacks across both the public and private sector, a fightback by Ford unions involving workers and the local community could become massive. It should include demonstrations, public meetings, and occupations of the plants to stop equipment being moved. Unite says it hasn’t “ruled out” industrial action: good. It’s time to rule it in.
Any action should demand the defence of jobs, and not engage in quibbling with the bosses over “business plans”.
If there is insufficient demand for Ford Transit Vans to maintain work at Southampton, the factory should be repurposed and the workers retrained with no loss of earnings.
If Ford refuses to repurpose the factory and retrain its staff, unions should demand that the government take the plant into public ownership. There is no shortage of products that a large manufacturing facility could make; Ford workers’ skills should be put to use on socially-useful, stimulating labour.
They should not be cast aside because of the whims of the market.