A union rep at the Ford Transit Van plant in Southampton spoke to Solidarity.
Our position is to oppose the closure. There was never any kind of discussion around it – it was just announced. We want to fight to stop it.
The mood in the plant is strange. Everyone’s very up and down, and there a lot of ongoing discussions and meetings so we don’t know the full details of what management is planning. Some of the workers employed by the contractors are talking about balloting for industrial action, but that’ll be around the demand for equal severance packages rather than against the closure. That’s the wrong reason, in my view. Workers should be uniting around a campaign to keep the plant open.
We have been a little slow off the mark. The first day the closure was announced, we should have walked out and been demonstrating outside the plant.
It’s mainly been stewards and conveners meeting so far, along with union officials. Once we have more information from management we’ll move to mass members’ meetings. In hindsight that should have happened already, but at least now we can go to members with more information.
We have had discussions with the Trades Council locally, and we are planning a public campaign with meetings and demonstrations.
In our discussions about how the plant might be kept open, we’ve talked about government intervention and potential public ownership. We think the government has a responsibility here; it helped Ford secure the EU loan that has expanded the work in Turkey, where our work is set to be sent. Therefore we think the government needs to intervene to ensure that loan doesn’t mean workers here are sidelined and left unemployed.
Ultimately this battle has to be fought by workers on the shop floor. Ford is offering handsome severance packages but that money won’t last long when you’re out of work. It’ll come down to how hard we want to fight.