Rob Williams, Socialist Party national industrial organiser and former Visteon (ex-Ford) Unite convenor
Bridgend Ford workers have sent a clear message to the company: “Talk about sourcing that will save the plant or we’ll fight.”
Nearly three-quarters of the shop floor voted in the industrial action ballot, showing that Bridgend workers are absolutely committed to fighting to save the plant and the jobs and south Wales communities that depend on it. The whole of the Welsh labour and trade union movement must stand with the Ford workers.
The workers and their unions have had no alternative but to ballot after Ford’s sourcing plans became clear in February this year. They would mean that the workforce would be reduced from 1,800 to just over 600, putting the whole viability of the factory in doubt.
Already, shop floor workers have made themselves unavailable for overtime to build the pressure on senior management. The idea that Ford can be persuaded by mere reason to change its plans is not borne out by history.
In the last two decades, Ford has closed plant after plant. The fact that there are workers in the engine plant from closed Ford factories in Swansea and Treforest, and Southampton, shows how ruthless the company will be. After the closure of the Southampton transit plant, Ford no longer even makes vehicles in the UK but instead only engines and gear boxes.
That’s why the other Ford plants have to support the fight in Bridgend. If it closes, it will only make their factories easier to shut.
What now? The talk of negotiations with Ford are welcome but there has to be a time limit as the clock is ticking.
There has to be plant meetings to decide on the action.
Some may argue that the narrowness of the strike vote means that a work to rule or overtime ban should be put on instead. But a one-day strike would send a clearer warning to Ford. In any case, some action has to be taken within 28 days to maintain the industrial action ballot. It should be seen as the red line in any talks.
But over and above the legal limits of the anti-union laws, there must be a clear message to Ford: while there is no satisfactory sourcing agreement that secures the plant, any attempt to remove machinery will be stopped by the shop floor.
This summer has seen a succession of disputes and strikes across the country. Recently, Glasgow janitors and Birmingham bin workers have forced their bosses back, showing that it’s possible to win victories.
Nearly 2,000 car workers have enormous potential power and would have massive support across Wales. The vote for action is in – Ford has to deliver or the fight is on.