Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/559/6668
"We won't pay for bosses' crisis"
Fight back now against job cuts
Unite trade union demonstration outside Labour Party conference 2007, photo Bob Severn
Ford Workers and their supporters gathered in Southampton on 26 November to promote their campaign to win £100 million investment needed to build the new Transit in 2011. The rally had been called by the Unite union, in conjunction with a meeting they were having with Tory council leaders.
Nick Chaffey, Save The Transit campaign
At the eleventh hour, Tory leaders called off the meeting because Unite refused to cancel the rally, claiming that it had 'politicised' the issue, citing the role the Socialist Party and others have played in the campaign.
The decision was certainly not a vote-winner for the Tories amongst those attending the rally, with plant convenor Colin Ryan calling for the Tories to be punished at the next elections!
Fords: Our jobs - here to stay
The rally was a significant step forward, bringing together Ford workers, Unite and the Save The Transit campaign. Local trade unions had mobilised support for the rally with members from Southampton and Hampshire Unison, Southampton trades council, PCS and students from the university. Other car workers joined the rally from the Linimar plant in South Wales.
Ian Woodland, Unite officer for Ford Southampton, thanked those attending for their support: "The loss of Transit production in Southampton would be a devastating blow to the local economy. Today is the launch of the campaign. We need to build a community-wide campaign to save the Transit. We will be organising a demonstration in Southampton in the New Year."
Colin Ryan, Unite convenor, appealed for the strongest possible campaign to keep the Transit in Southampton and echoed the call for a massive demonstration in Southampton in the New Year.
Rob Williams, Unite convenor at Linimar, raised the need for solidarity from car workers across the industry: "Car workers are watching developments closely in Southampton, the economic crisis has put jobs at risk around the country. Our union nationally needs to ensure every car worker and their families are able to attend the demo by providing free coaches to Southampton."
The council's decision to abandon the talks has added fuel to the fire. On 28 November MPs from the area met with Ford Europe boss John Fleming who stated that Southampton was losing money and things had to change.
The MPs, who were shocked at the comments Fleming made, appear to be satisfied with a cut in production and a reduced workforce and show little appetite for the necessary fight.
They should have demanded to see the evidence for such claims and to see the company's books. After all it should be remembered Ford have received taxpayers' money in the past.
Contract workers at Ford, working for Hamptons, have been forced to battle for shutdown pay after their firm wrote to them saying they would get £20 a day for the first week and nothing for the following three weeks. Workers were outraged and reacted angrily to the news.
After negotiations with the company, they have been given the same terms as Ford workers for the period of the shutdown. A significant victory and more evidence of what can be won through struggle.
Elsewhere VFS, who do Transit conversions, have sacked 100 workers at their Southampton factory, further sign of the rapid crisis affecting the car industry.
More than ever the urgent need to build a mass campaign led by Unite and Southampton Ford workers is the key to winning the needed investment in Southampton and protecting jobs across the country.
At the same time we must raise the need for nationalisation in the event that Ford's renege on their agreements.
Ford workers at the plant are determined to ensure this campaign succeeds and understand the tasks in front of them. The Socialist Party has played a prominent role in supporting this struggle and texts and emails of thanks from Ford workers were received after the rally.
The Southampton plant will shut for a month over Christmas, losing workers hundreds of pounds. Angry worker Tony told The Socialist:
"At least we have a job at the moment, unlike many thousands who do not, due to the maverick management of our banks.
"We will be laid off on Friday 5 December and have an uncertain future. Unite have promised to take this campaign to a higher level and have called for an automotive mass demo.
"This crisis shows the whole capitalist system for what it really stands for, making money out of our sweat and toil without allowing us to enjoy the most basic needs. Capitalism sells dreams that always turn into nightmares for the working class. A young generation is now finding this out."
The National Shop Stewards Network is organising a meeting for car workers and those in ancillary industries:
Saturday 14 February 2009. 12-4pm, The Birmingham and Midland Institute, Margaret Street, Birmingham B3 3BS.
Please encourage your union branch/workplace to sponsor this meeting and send delegates (£5 per delegate or visitor).
See also: www.shopstewards.net or PO Box 58262, London N1P 1ET.
In The Socialist 3 December 2008:
Environment and socialism
Socialist Party editorial
Socialist Party campaigns
Socialist Party LGBT
Socialist Party Marxist analysis
International socialist news and analysis
Marxist analysis: history
Socialist Party news and analysis
Socialist Party workplace news