The warnings of the run down of the Bridgend plant by Ford workers have unfortunately proved correct. Ford has leaked documents indicating the run down of the plant over the next four years.
By linking the closure to overtime payments the company is clearly trying to use the threat of closure to force through cuts in pay and conditions at the plant. And like at Tata steel, it is likely gunning for pensions too.
There must be a determined response to such blackmail. If Bridgend workers follow the advice of Carwyn Jones and submit to the blackmail then the company will continue the offensive and probably close the plant anyway.
Ford must be told that any attempt to run down Bridgend plant or attack pay, conditions and pensions will be met with UK-wide strike action. The company must be set a deadline by which time if they have not guaranteed the plant’s future then action will be called.
And until the sourcing is confirmed, the union must tell Ford that any attempt to take machinery from the plant will be stopped – this will send a clear message that the union is serious.
Instead of backing up Ford the Welsh government should be backing Ford workers. And making it clear that unless sourcing for engines is secured it will be calling for the nationalisation of the Ford plants.
Workers have made big sacrifices to get promised sourcing and the Welsh Assembly Government have given £15 million but management are ripping up their promises.
Rob Williams, ex-Swansea Plant convenor / national chair National Shop Stewards Network (NSSN), said: “Workers who came from Swansea and Southampton know full well what it looks and feels like when Ford lets a plant die. All of a sudden they become vague about future plans. The union is correct to demand answers now. In 2000 there were over 50,000 workers employed in Ford UK, there are just around 10,000 today!
“It’s clear what the trajectory is. Too many times in the last twenty years, people said, ‘There’s nothing we can do’ but because of that attitude there are no longer plants or jobs in Southampton, Swansea, Belfast, Enfield, Basildon, Croydon, Langley, Leamington and even Dagenham is a shadow of what it once was. Bridgend can’t be allowed to go the same way.
“Unless the company confirms sourcing that maintains the present workforce on nationally agreed pay, terms and conditions and pensions, the unions must build a campaign for industrial action.
“But it must be national – all the closures happened when plants were left isolated. If Bridgend closes, it will mean the other plants are left in a weaker position and closer to the end, and everyone’s pension is left in a more vulnerable position.
“If there is one lesson from the Visteon pension scandal is that you need your pension for the rest of your life not for a few years when the company can just declare itself bankrupt and get out of its liabilities – our retirement. Ex-Ford pensioners forced the company to pay £28 million in compensation after a brave 5-year campaign. Visteon workers occupied their plants in 2009 and forced Ford to pay proper redundancy but it’s better to fight now and try to avoid those heroic but desperate measures.
“Alongside Port Talbot steelworks, this plant is absolutely crucial to Ford workers and their families but also the communities where we live and the wider Welsh economy.
“Last year, a tremendous campaign allied to the weakness of the Tory Government made it politically impossible to close the steelworks.
“The Socialist Party unapologetically called for the works to be nationalised and taken into public ownership to save the jobs. We think that if the steel unions had built a mass campaign on that demand, linked to the threat of industrial action, it could have been achieved. Even Cameron had conceded the possibility of ‘part-nationalisation’.
“The Ford unions must put pressure on the Labour Welsh Assembly to commit to nationalisation if Ford threaten to pull out. This would put added pressure on Ford and send the clear message that these jobs cannot be allowed to go!”