Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/429/5041
Swansea car workers fight plant closure
Socialist Party Public Meeting: Support the fight to keep Visteon open.
Thursday 2 March, 7.30pm. Dyfatty Community Centre, top of High St, Swansea.
IT'S CRUNCH time for the 650 car workers in the Visteon (formerly Ford) Swansea Plant. In a clear joint strategy between Ford and Visteon, almost 230 Swansea workers are to be given the 'opportunity' to transfer to the Ford engine plant in Bridgend.
A Visteon worker
The Swansea plant has been barely able to operate after 89 workers transferred in January. With a further 200 or so leaving, the plant wouldn't be viable. Now it seems that Ford and Visteon have been secretly outsourcing disc and drum production to a German company, Kaiser.
Workers have had to suffer threats from the company which was spun-off from Ford in 2000. The unions were told by UK management in September that the four UK plants and over 3,000 workers faced 'meltdown' if they didn't make concessions. This meant effectively ending the 'mirrored' terms of ex-Ford contracted employees.
This came after the 'memorandum of understanding' in the US earlier in the year which saw over 20 plants put back under Ford control. This is part of a 'fix, sell or close' strategy by Visteon bosses with Ford's shadow increasingly in the background.
As Ford in the US announced a vicious programme of 30,000 sackings and 14 plant closures, Visteon put 23 plants worldwide in the spotlight, warning that 12 could close while six could be sold. The UK national talks were adjourned while the US bosses decided the next step. But, while Swansea workers have been waiting, Ford and Visteon have been making their move.
The Swansea plant has been seen, along with Belfast, as the most vulnerable to closure. The plants don't figure in the global product ranges, therefore the sourcing of new products has dried up.
Nationally, the Ford and Visteon convenors' committee have confirmed that any attempt to close a Visteon plant will result in a national dispute. With Swansea one of its biggest customers, the Ford foundry at Leamington would be directly threatened. It supplied the castings to Swansea that are machine finished into the final components sent, for example, to the Ford plant at Southampton.
Now these same castings are being diverted to Kaiser in Germany. The link between Leamington and Swansea is organic and what happens to Swansea will eventually happen to Leamington.
The unions must show Ford and Visteon that an alternative strategy must be found for Swansea. This means the immediate stopping of any outsourcing and a new product plan for the plant. This would at least make Swansea workers think twice about wanting to transfer to Bridgend.
If workers do want to transfer, there must be a commitment from Visteon to replace them. This can only be backed up by the threat of industrial action. A ballot at Swansea must be campaigned for by the national leaderships of both the main unions - TGWU and Amicus. This would trigger the promised solidarity from the other Ford/Visteon plants.
If necessary, Woodley and Simpson, the union leaders, should front the call at Swansea and throughout the Ford/Visteon combine. Only this programme of action can raise the prospect of success for Swansea workers and give them the confidence to fight.
In The Socialist 2 March 2006: