Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/364/5977
Fighting Back In Coventry
THE DECISION of Jaguar workers in Coventry to fight the decision to end car production has boosted the mood of opposition in the city. No one doubts that it will be a hard fight against a ruthless, cynical multinational like Ford. But it's a fight that Coventry workers can't duck.
Dave Griffiths and Bill Mullins
The city has faced closure after closure, now thousands of council workers face wage cuts as the council bosses introduce new pay gradings under the infamous 'single status' deal. Whilst many people are angry and therefore frustrated the fact is we just can't tolerate any more.
Ford have told Jaguar workers that there is no alternative to accepting the closure of the plant, yet on the streets there is a mood of: "We will not accept this and we want to do something about it". Socialist Party members on street stalls have continually been asked: "What can be done and how do we go about it?".
Ford have this well-planned. They've given no figures, no justification for their decision, probably because Brown's Lane is the most productive plant in the Ford empire. They made the announcement on a Friday when all the workers were at home as individuals and couldn't take action. They've already sent figures out telling workers what pensions they're entitled to. They're offering lots of money to try to get people to leave.
Stand up and fight
But the decision by the workers to stand up and fight is welcome. Now we must turn this decision into action.
At the Labour Party conference, Tony Woodley, the general secretary of the main union at Jaguar, the TGWU, lambasted Ford's broken promises.
He accused the bosses of being dishonourable and ignoring all agreements. He pointed out that Ford could not have done this in Europe or in North America because to make this announcement without consultation with the workforce would have been illegal.
He swore that the union would not accept the closure and would fight back against the Ford bosses.
Local Labour MP Bob Ainsworth seems shell-shocked at the treatment he had from the Ford European bosses when he lobbied them at the recent Paris motor show. "They told me the decision was made and that that it was not the company ethos to explain the financial reasons behind it". He called for the company to: "Share the financial reasons behind the decisions". Another way of saying: "Open the books".
The Jaguar workers will rightly say to the union leaders: "It's good that you want to fight - now put your words into action". But Woodley, like the others, seems to think that it is mainly a case of bringing Ford back to the negotiating table to: "See sense".
But it will take more than talking to force the Ford bosses to abandon their plans. It will take a determined and militant leadership that enthuses its members, if the necessary serious and determined struggle is to be won.
Comparisons have been made with what happened in Birmingham with the threatened closure of the Longbridge plant in 1999. Before he became general secretary, Woodley led the campaign to keep the plant open.
But instead of calling for Longbridge to be taken back into public ownership by the Labour government, he convinced the people of Birmingham that he had found a bunch of "good capitalists" who would take over the plant from BMW.
Unfortunately these "good capitalists" have been revealed as nothing less than asset-strippers as they made millions from land deals and other financial jiggery- pokery.
The same fate awaits Jaguar workers in Coventry unless the union leaders raise the demand now that the government renationalise Jaguar. The other parts of Jaguar, Castle Bromwich in Birmingham and Whitely Research in Coventry know that their days could be numbered as well. They would also respond to a call for the re-nationalisation of the whole Jaguar group.
But not just them either, Land Rover in Solihull is part of the same "premier auto group" as Ford call it, along with Jaguar and Volvo. They were threatened with closure not so long ago unless they accepted new working practices including video cameras over their workstations.
Land Rover workers were told they had to reach the same level of productivity as the Jaguar workers, who were praised as the most productive plant in the Ford empire!
Ford is a huge company making huge profits. It has got the biggest cash mountain of any company in the world, something over $20 billion. Its mismanagement and lack of investment are the primary reasons for the crisis today. The Socialist Party says: "Why should workers be left to pay the bill?"
- Oppose the closure of Jaguar.
- Open the books, let's see where all the profits have gone.
- Bring Jaguar into public ownership with compensation to shareholders linked to proven need.
In The Socialist 2 October 2004:
International socialist news and analysis
Socialist Party news and analysis