Workers at the Ford stamping and tooling plant in Dagenham have begun voting in a ballot for strikes over the closure of the plant.
652 workers will take part in the ballot, which closes on 30 April. The closure of the plant, along with another factory in Southampton, was announced in October 2012. The ballot follows protests at both the Southampton and Dagenham plants, organised by Unite, on 18 April. The closures threaten 1,500 jobs directly, and more in Ford’s supply chain.
A Unite statement said: “The workers at the stamping and tooling facility are furious over the way they are being treated by the company. Despite promises to find the displaced workers alternative employment, the company is not keeping to its commitments.
“Over 100 toolmakers have not been found suitable jobs, and workers who are being redeployed are being given very little information about what work they will be doing once they are transferred.”
It seems likely the demands of the strike will focus on improving severance packages rather than halting the closure plans. Unite has highlighted the disparity between the severance payments offered to workers at the two plants — Dagenham workers are offered a package worth between £10,000 and £30,000 less than those in Southampton.
Unite national officer Roger Maddison said: “Ford betrayed its workers when it announced the closure of its plants and now the company is rubbing salt into the loyal workers’ wounds by treating them with contempt.”
Ford bosses at Dagenham are threatening to withdraw the severance packages on offer if workers take action. Unite says such threats “only strengthen workers’ resolve”.
When Solidarity spoke to a union rep in the Southampton plant in November, he said: “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.”
At this late stage it would take extremely radical action — ongoing occupation and probably government intervention to take the plants into public ownership — to prevent closure and job losses. A strike to win a better severance package is preferable to no action at all, and union reps who spoke to Solidarity did not report the mood from the shopfloor as one of workers desperate to take action immediately (even in November, a Southampton rep reported the greatest push for action came from contractors who wanted to fight for equal severance terms with directly-employed workers).
But a public, visible campaign that began as soon as the closures were announced — including both whatever industrial action workers were prepared to take and external political pressure and campaigning — might have left the union in a stronger position.