By Rob Williams, Socialist Party national industrial organiser and former Visteon (ex-Ford) Unite convenor, Swansea
Fordworkers in Bridgend and their families are trying to come to terms with the announcement that over 1000 workers will lose their jobs over the next two years, with the first 370 to go as early as this spring. This comes at the same time that thousands of Jaguar Land Rover jobs are on the line in the West Midlands.
In reality, this is Ford issuing notice of the engine plant winding down. The prospect of not much over 500 workers being needed by 2021 raises whether the plant will be viable.
In Bridgend there are workers who have transferred from plants closed by Ford over the last two decades: Treforest, Swansea and Southampton. They know full well that Ford often puts on ‘attractive’ voluntary redundancy programmes to shed hundreds of jobs, reducing the workforce to a level where resistance appears futile.
This is why the unions must act now and put forward a fighting strategy that can convince workers that it’s possible to fight and win. It is vital that it is a national strategy involving all Ford UK workers because another plant closure will make it easier for Ford to close all its remaining UK operations. This is particularly because of size of the pension deficit.
This requires militant action to fight for a political solution. This is particularly necessary because the unions balloted workers 18 months ago when they first discovered Ford’s plans for the plant. But the lack of action called then can lead to a feeling of scepticism.
Plant meetings should be immediately called to reject Ford’s plans. There should be preparations to ballot members for industrial action. An immediate walkout or refusal to go back to work would send a strong signal to Ford that the workers are serious and would raise workers’ confidence.
The car industry trade unions should draw up plans for a nationwide campaign of all car workers under threat including Jaguar Land Rover.
The unions should demand that the Labour-led Welsh Government, with new First Minister Mark Drakeford, nationalise the plant to save jobs. They should also demand from Jeremy Corbyn that a government led by him would make this promise to nationalise any car plant threatening job cuts and establish a national plan for the car industry.
With the Tories hanging by a thread in Westminster, this could raise the sights of workers and pile on the pressure. But action is needed now.
This article was originally posted on January 11 2019 and was updated to call for national action on January 14 2019.