The worst fears of the 1,700 Ford factory workers in Bridgend have been confirmed, with the company stating that its plant in South Wales will shut down by autumn 2020, after more than 40 years of operation. This is another blow to the British car industry, following the announced closure of the Honda plant in Swindon.
[See below for a model motion that Labour Party members and trade union activists can use to support the Bridgend Ford workers]
After informing the workers of this catastrophic decision on Thursday 6th June, employees were sent home until today by Ford bosses in order to prevent any discussion or debate.
The mood on the shop floor is one of palpable shock. But there is also fury and anger, considering that many of these workers have already been relocated from closed plants in Swansea and Southampton. As a result, industrial action - as promised by the Unite the Union leadership - is on the cards.
This latest closure is widely dubbed as the most serious threat to Welsh industry in more than 30 years. Huw David, the Labour leader of Bridgend City Council, said that, “no family in Bridgend will be unaffected”. Small businesses in Bridgend market are dreading even lower footfalls by their stalls, as people struggle to afford to buy locally. The last bits of life are being sucked out of Bridgend.
Similarly deindustrialised towns like Neath, Pontypridd or Llanelli are already struggling with rising levels of poverty and all the horrors that come with this. In reality, the shockwaves from the Bridgend shutdown will hit all of South Wales, as the plant employs workers from as far as Llanelli and Newport. The impact will be disastrous.
In the words of Steve Turner, assistant general secretary of Unite, the decision is an “economic sledgehammer to the Welsh economy and wider car industry”.
A giant question mark now hangs over the future for thousands of Ford workers across the country. For example, the closure of the Bridgend plant highlights the possible grim fate of the Dagenham Ford factory, which produces the same JLR engines as Bridgend.
These workers will have no choice but to fight back, else their entire livelihoods will be placed under threat. In order to guarantee victory, the Ford workers will need the full force of the labour movement behind them.
On the other side, the Tory Party is facing a complete meltdown. It is tearing itself to pieces, impotent to pass any meaningful policies. Were the Ford workers to come out on strike, the government would not be able to put up any real resistance. This reality should be stressed in order to embolden the Bridgend workers and their struggle to save the plant.
This requires boldness and action from the leaders of the labour movement. Unfortunately, but unsurprisingly, however, right-wing Labour MPs in the region are completely out of touch with the actual needs of workers.
These ladies and gentlemen cannot think beyond the narrow limits of their own careerist interests and big business agendas. Instead of organising a fightback, they have cowardly accepted the Bridgend closure as a fait accompli, and have opportunistically used these events to score points, enhance their own profiles, and push the campaign for a so-called ‘People’s Vote’.
This was the case with Jo Stevens, Labour MP for Cardiff Central, and Geraint Davies, MP for Swansea West, to name just a few. For them, a second referendum is the panacea to every problem under the sun. As if there were no factory closures and job losses whilst Britain was in the European Union over the last four decades!
If only these MPs would show as much effort in helping organise the Ford workers as they do in campaigning for a second referendum. Then the Bridgend workers would be in a much better position to fight back.
In reality, Brexit is only a catalyst in the long-term decline of British capitalism. Deindustrialisation has been taking place for decades, with manufacturing jobs being lost to more ‘competitive’ countries (i.e. where workers can be exploited ever harder). The capitalists at home, meanwhile, long ago abandoned productive investment for short-term profit-seeking and speculation.
This latest drama is taking place against the backdrop of the worldwide crisis of capitalism. The Ford plant closure demonstrates the reality of the so-called economic “recovery” from the 2008 crash. With global markets saturated, the capitalists can see no prospect for profitable investment in Britain. Instead, factories face closure and jobs are cut.
This is why Bridgend is not an isolated case, but part of a larger cut of 7,500 jobs announced last month - a tenth of Ford’s worldwide workforce. This is the direct result of the destructive logic of the so-called ‘free market’ system, which eats away at its own productive forces, and destroys people’s lives along the way.
As long as our economy is left to this ‘invisible hand’ of the capitalist market, then this will be the dark future that workers across industry will face. As long as production is for profit, then society’s productive potential will be squandered.
This is why the only real solution to this crisis facing Bridgend - and the rest of British industry - is a political one.
Recently, Wales saw the departure of its right-wing Labour First Minister, Carwyn Jones. Following a leadership contest, the Momentum-backed Mark Drakeford won a clear victory by promising “socialism in 21st century”.
Now is the time for these words to be translated into deeds. Welsh Labour must provide their full support and solidarity to the Ford workers in this dispute. We need nationalisation of the Bridgend factory - under workers’ control and with no compensation to the old bosses. These fat cats have already stolen far too much from the working class.
£150 million in government subsidies has been handed over to car manufacturers since the 2016 EU referendum, in order to keep factories open in Britain. After they announced the closure, Ford only offered to pay back a small fraction of the money they have received. This an absolute slap in the face for taxpayers.
Nationalisation of shutdown car plants should be a step towards the nationalisation of all the key levers of our economy, including the banks and major industrial monopolies, to be run as part of a socialist plan of production. This should be the pledge of a future Corbyn government.
Only in this way can we stem the tide of factory closures and job losses, and begin to put society’s resources to use for the interests of the many, and not the profits of the few.
Socialist Appeal supporters in Swansea West CLP have put forward an emergency motion to support the Bridgend Ford workers. We present here an adapted motion for use in CLPs across the country.
- Solidarity with the Bridgend Ford workers!
- Mobilise against closures and job losses!
- Nationalisation now - without any compensation to the bosses!
This CLP/branch notes its outrage at the planned closure of the Bridgend Ford factory in Wales, which will be a catastrophe for the 1,700 factory workers and everyone in the area. This marks yet another attack on workers, who are being made to pay for the losses caused by the bosses' mismanagement and the anarchy of the free market system that is in crisis worldwide.
This CLP/branch notes that the Bridgend Ford factory, as well as other private industries such as British Steel, have been run into the ground by parasitic capitalists. Meanwhile, workers continue to face relentless attacks on their jobs, working conditions and living standards.
This CLP/branch believes that urgent action must be taken to protect these jobs and the car industry as a whole. This can only be done through the maximum possible mobilisation of the labour movement. Union leaders should call a national conference of industrial shop stewards, and prepare a campaign for a national strike ballot to protect these jobs. Only the organised workers have the power to stop this relentless attack on their jobs and livelihoods.
This CLP/branch also calls for nationalisation of the Ford plant, under workers’ management and control. The company's bosses have had their day and should receive no compensation.
We call on all local Labour parties and trade unions to support the Ford workers. This mobilisation and solidarity should be linked to the campaign for a general election and a socialist Labour government. Capitalism offers nothing but misery and chaos to the working class.