DETROIT, MI November 7 — The new 4-year Ford-UAW contract follows the GM and Chrysler contracts in slashing wages and benefits for new hires and setting up a union management health fund (VEBA) that will take about $20 billion off Ford’s list of liabilities. Ford workers hired under the new contract will start at $14.00/hour and after two years reach their full rate of about $15.50. With cuts in pension and health care and other benefits, new hires will make about one-third of their senior brothers and sisters.</p>
The union leadership has sunk to the bottom in bailing out the auto billionaires––the legacy these sellouts will leave for future generations.
Workers are paying the price of the growing challenges to U.S. auto bosses by the European and Asian competitors, who are building more plants in the U.S. while GM, Ford and Chrysler shut down factories. The world’s auto billionaires shift production to China and India, driving down wages around the world.
After rank and file workers almost derailed the Chrysler deal, Ford and the UAW leadership had to throw Ford workers a bone. Six of the 16 plants scheduled to close were taken off the chopping block temporarily, in order to muster enough votes to ensure passage (although three of the six plants are set to close before the end of the contract). This sent Ford stocks sinking.
An automotive analyst with Lehman Brothers wrote, “Ford may have vowed to keep open underutilized plants,” a move that further angered Wall Street which is already unhappy with the auto bosses’ slow pace of plant closings and slashing wages. Another analyst for Morgan Stanley said the two-tier wage system and trust will save Ford $1.5 billion to $2 billion in cash by 2011, but noted the “absence of additional capacity [factory] closures.” (Detroit Free Press 11/7)
As with any “job security guarantee” in auto, all bets are off when the U.S. economy slumps from the crisis in sub-prime mortgages and soaring oil prices. The U.S. auto market is falling sharply with production scaled back for the fourth quarter and next year not looking any better.
After the GM contract was ratified, GM announced it was canceling shifts at three assembly plants and wiping out more jobs with another round of buy-outs. Five days after the Chrysler deal was ratified, Chrysler eliminated another 11,000 jobs, on top of the 13,000 previously announced (one-third of the workforce), justifying the good instincts of those who voted “NO.” Thousands of Chicago Ford workers are currently on a three-week layoff and many more cuts are coming, including more buyouts.
Right now, we’re a long way from reversing these attacks on the international working class. But the response of Ford workers to our modest efforts in this contract fight and around fighting racism with the ‘Jena 6’ campaign shows that we are slowly but surely rebuilding the revolutionary communist movement in auto. CHALLENGE distribution is creeping up and there is more interest in what PLP has to say. Most important, personal and political ties are being forged that will lead Ford workers to join PLP and fight for the political leadership of the industrial working class.