Saturday, May 23, 2009

Ford Motor Company versus the workers - a short history. [Ford Visteon Enfield workers invited] a meeting at 8 pm on Wednesday, 10 June

Ford Visteon Dispute : some perspectives

The FV dispute at Ponders End , Enfield, this Spring reminded us briefly of the period of occupations and strikes that were so characteristic in the 1960s and 70s . A recent academic article reminds us that the decade from 1971 saw over 200 recorded occupations alone. The socialist view that “socialism exited in the factories “ of North America and Europe was echoed wistfully round in gatherings before being returned to the filing cabinet. The causes of this reminiscing are well known - a Ford subsidiary, in fact if not in law, had used the bolt hole so conveniently provided by the Labour Government’s Enterprise Act 2002 to declare itself into Administration, and the care the dubious multinational fixer, KPMG. Workers were nor even paid for work done that same day, 31 March ; pensions and all that were passed into the minimal State provision which as everyone knew meant months of delay before the pittances were finally paid out.

Against this background, the 600 FV workers in factories in Basildon, Enfield and Belfast occupied their workplaces. These actions lasted a few hours , 9 days and several weeks respectively, before the national union, Unite, terrified by the ghost of financial sequestration, used its offices to undermine the workers as and when it could. The “left “full time officers were the worst. Finally, faced by the intransigent Belfast occupation and continuous and energetic picketing at Enfield, . Ford Visteon decided to pay up and honour its “mirror” contracts.

The dispute still rumbled on – the occupation at Belfast proved difficult to intimidate by both union bosses and the Courts. The later sacking of the Swansea ex Visteon factory convenor Rob Williams complicated the issue . This turned out to be a standard sack-the-union-then-reduce-workers- conditions, tactic which was strongly opposed . The end came on Monday 18 May. Satisfied that there could be no more trickery as the money was there and written statements were pending, workers at all three plants marched out, or away, at 12.45 pm . History had been made.

The role in the Enfield occupation of RaHN supporter Alan Woodward is published in a booklet which will be available at the meeting . A free copy was given to all workers at Enfield involved in the dispute. He will start off the discussion, and hopefully Ford Visteon workers from Enfield will be there .

At this meeting, the aim is two fold – to go over the factual details of the events , then to put them into the perspective of Ford’s permanent war against its employees. For the second point , Ford not only revolutionised production with the moving assembly line , he also famously used the “work study” method of F W Taylor , reducing an employee to a simple operation repeated over and over again. He also fought furiously against any form of union representation , using both money and institutionalised armed violence in large quantities. He continued with this ultra hard approach somewhat modified , when his organisation spread to Europe, especially at the Dagenham factory. There has been a history of disputes ever since.

We will need to examine the union organisation in the workplaces which eventually overcame Ford industrial dictatorship. The protracted history of the Ford Motor Company and its war on workers in two continents can be found, piecemeal, in selected volumes which will be at the meeting .

No comments:

Post a Comment