Union members at Ford Bridgend will meet again in the week up to 6-7 July to discuss the next steps in resisting attempts by the company to shut the plant, losing thousands of jobs in the process.
Nothing is off the table, including industrial action and “leverage” campaigning. Unite leverage takes a thoroughgoing approach to forcing a company to move – applying pressure to the investors and clients of the investors and clients and potential clients of the company concerned.
If Ford face the loss of business worth more than the saving to be made from closure because, alongside workplace action, other income flows are severely disrupted, they will move. Leverage can take a radical and confrontational form, reflecting the fact that when the union is in this situation it is effectively at war.
Ford are willing to pay a big cheque to workers to persuade them to take redundancy and not cause any trouble. One union member told me that he is in for well over £100,000.
But the same member explained to me that it is not his “job to sell”. “What about our kids? What about workers in the supply chain? What about all the other jobs in the community that will go if these jobs go – in pubs and shops and so on? None of them will get a pay-off. The community might never recover from this”.
Others in the Ford group can see that they are next. Apparently opinions are split — some (mainly older) workers want the money, but many others want to start the campaign now to save jobs.
A long-overdue discussion has been started throughout Unite on the need to fight for jobs and not just for decent settlements, and also on the need to prepare for battle in advance in key players such as Ford. And surely this must mean that we raise the demand for taking key industrial assets into public ownership when private ownership fails.
Labour should pledge to take Ford and others over in these circumstances – without compensation – and support a transition to new, green jobs under workers’ control.