Year 2000 No. 33, February 23, 2000

Which Way for the Economy?

The Background to the Threat to Close Ford Dagenham

Workers' Daily Internet Edition : Article Index : Discuss

Which Way for the Economy? The Background to the Threat to Close Ford Dagenham

TUC News: TUC Women’s Conference

Discrimination against Women on Pay

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Which Way for the Economy?

The Background to the Threat to Close Ford Dagenham

The decision by Ford Europe to axe 1,500 jobs at the Ford Dagenham plant with the threat to close the factory altogether has raised the question for the workers: who decides? That is, why should it not be the workers who set the agenda and decide the direction for the economy, and not have it decided for them on behalf of the multinational monopolies and the finance capitalists? It has underlined that the workers must affirm their rights – their right to a livelihood, their rights as human beings and as workers, and above all their right themselves to make the decisions that affect their lives. The Ford workers cannot accept that their role is just to make cars. Rather, in common with all workers, they themselves must fight for their solutions to the crisis of capitalism and that they embark on the line of march which will ensure that they themselves become the decision makers.

What is being underlined by the developments at Ford, as with Rover at Longbridge, and generally with the recent escalation of mega-mergers and the demands that everything be subordinated to the success of the monopolies in the global marketplace, is that to submit to the logic of the rich in these circumstances is not only directly against the workers interests but is also devastating to the national economy.

How does the logic of Ford operate? One year ago, a new chief executive for Ford was appointed, Jac Nasser, with the mission to shake up Ford’s corporate culture in the face of intensified competition from the other car monopolies globally. There are just four other major car monopolies formed from mergers and take-overs besides Ford with a web of subsidiaries throughout the world. These are General Motors, Daimler Chrysler, Toyota and Volkswagen. Nasser bought Volvo in 1999 for $6.45 billion, overhauling the design of their cars and launching plans for increasing their luxury car sales. In North America, slow-selling unprofitable car models have been replaced with more lucrative models. Ford then embarked on a $2 billion "restructuring" of its South American operations. Now it is turning its attention to Europe. "We are seeking tough cost reductions across Europe," Nick Scheele, chairman of Ford Europe, said in an interview with the Financial Times.

The Ford monopoly is faced with particularly intense competition for the domination of the European market from its rivals such as Volkswagen and GM. The drive of the Ford monopoly, as with all the vast multinationals, is to dominate the market, to undercut its rivals, to intensify the productivity of labour, to combat the falling rate of profit. It has reasoned that to combat a situation where in the third quarter of last year, for example, Ford Europe’s operations lost $171 million, it must concentrate on Germany. Success in Germany, Europe’s biggest single market, is seen by Ford as crucial for success in Europe. Germany is almost twice the size of the next-largest European markets, which are Italy, Britain and France. Ford has already moved its European headquarters from Britain to Germany. The ruthless, all-out competition for the European markets has led inevitably to the phenomenon of "overproduction", as the production is not geared to needs but to grabbing and creating the market for goods, in this case cars. Ford’s strategy is to streamline at the same time as concentrating on what will be most profitable and give them the competitive edge. In this situation, Nick Sheele has come up with a "transformation strategy" to turn the £28 million profits in 1999 back into something approaching the £193 million Ford made in Europe in 1998.

Should workers share this logic? There are no end of voices telling them, from the government to the TUC leaders, that they should do so. According to these voices, there is no alternative to this globalised competition, and that actually, provided it is given a "human", an "acceptable", face, this law of the jungle will pan out to a land of milk and honey in the 21st century. Rather than attempt to solve the crisis, and fight for their own interests, workers are told that social partnership with those who use them for their competitive global strategies is the only way that prosperity can come about. The class war is over, they are told, and to make sure that Britain becomes number one globally, continue to attract "inward investment" and all the other ways to entice the finance capitalists to make their billions in Britain and for the financial oligarchy in Britain to compete globally, the workers should do nothing but submerge their whole beings into this strategy.

Not only can workers not accept this logic, but their programme is one where they will be in control of their own lives and build a society where their interests are paramount in harmony with the general well-being of the whole society. The finance capitalists will be compelled to submit to the good of the national economy, and instead of parasitically extracting the maximum from the society they will be subordinated to a direction of the economy, dictated by working class for the national interests, which puts the people’s well-being at the centre and develops society with this motive. The workers will decide the fate of their own social product, and with socialist planning and national and international trade under their direction, benefiting the economy and carried out for mutual benefit internationally, will ensure the harmonious growth of the economy.

Why should not this logic prevail? The step in that direction right now is that the workers should affirm their rights and fight for the victory of a pro-social programme. Within this, they can get organised and raise the level of discussion on their own agenda.

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TUC News:

TUC Women’s Conference

The TUC has announced that at the TUC Women’s Conference in Scarborough from March 8-10 this year, during International Women’s Week, the main theme will be "achieving fair pay for women".

The TUC point out that government figures show that full-time women workers still only earn on average about 81p for every £1 for men. For part-timers it is even worse – part-time women workers earn 60% of the hourly rate of full-time working men. The TUC say that this critical issue will take centre stage on the second day of the three day conference with a debate on how fair pay can be more effectively campaigned for.

Other key issues to be debated include family friendly employment policies, health and safety issues for new and expectant mothers, action on sexual harassment and recruiting more women into trade unions.

There will be two guest speakers, Baroness Valerie Amos and Christine Crawley. Baroness Amos, former Chief Executive of the Equal Opportunities Commission is now a government spokesperson on women’s issues in the House of Lords. She became a baroness in 1998 and is former Deputy Leader of the European Parliamentary Labour Party. Suzanne Franks is author of "Having None of It – Women, Men and the Future of Work".

The Conference will be held at the Spa Complex in Scarborough and starts at 2pm on Wednesday, March 8.

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Discrimination against Women on Pay

Government research has shown that women who choose career over family could still earn almost £200,000 less during their working lives than male colleagues in the same job. The study was commissioned by Women’s Minister Baroness Jay and carried out by the London School of Economics.

Although the Equal Pay Act of 1970 was introduced to supposedly combat this inequality, the government research showed that many women were being paid less than men simply because of their gender. It found that women who took career breaks to have children could lose out on hundreds of thousands of pounds during the course of their working lives. Figures from the Equal Opportunities Commission also show that women get paid only 80% of the average hourly male earnings.

The research shows how bad Britain’s record is on this front. It came 10th out of 15 European countries surveyed.

Last year, the Equal Opportunities Commission launched a campaign encouraging women to find out what male colleagues earned and to fight for equal pay. It also wants companies to carry out payroll audits to ensure female employees are not being discriminated against.

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