The workers at Jaguar’s Castle Bromwich plant in the West Midlands were presented on July 13 with a revised version of the Castle Bromwich product proposal. The workforce had rejected the original version with a majority of 68% against the “new product proposal”. A ballot of the JLR (Jaguar Land Rover) workers will be held on July 18 on the new document.
In its Employee Bulletin of July 2012, Castle Bromwich Operations sets out details of the new deal, which it says is being unanimously recommended by the Castle Bromwich Shop Stewards’ Committee. The Bulletin is headlined: “Bid for New Investment”.
In essence, there appears to be no great difference from the initial product proposal, which consisted of 12 pages. The striking difference is that by removing some clauses from the initial document, the focus on “Assured Saturday Working” really stands out. Assured Saturday working is basically a demand that each worker is committed to working for twelve Saturdays in any 12-month period. At the same time, there are other demands for increased “flexibility” and “efficiency”. For example, workers will be expected to “take part in videoing of processes, self timing and participating in Learn Masterclasses”. This is somewhat ironic, since management recently sent round a circular demanding that the workers must not use image-capturing devices, and that any videos posted to websites be taken down immediately.
To justify the extension of the working week, and the expectation that workers submit to management-controlled procedures in the name of improved efficiency, the JLR Castle Bromwich management engages in its capital-centred logic. It attempts to impose this on workers, with the threat that if the workers do not agree, they will be jeopardising new investment, jeopardising the future of the plant after 2020, and threatening the plant’s competitiveness in the global market.
It should not be overlooked that JLR made a record £1.5 billion profit last year. This is one of the largest figures ever recorded by a Midlands firm. Reports have pointed out: “The growth comes on the back of soaring demand from China. JLR sold 314,433 cars, the highest ever, representing a growth of 29.1 per cent year on year. The company turned over £13.5 billion represented, a growth of 36.9 per cent over the £9.9 billion last year.”
The sentiment among the workers is naturally that they do want to fight in defence of their rights and working conditions. Whether or not workers as a whole accept or reject the new recommendations, it is the capital-centred logic that is to be condemned, the logic that if the workers do not agree to the management’s conditions, then they will be the ones who will be responsible for Jaguar’s failure to be “competitive”.
It should be pointed out that all the concessions being demanded of the workers are no guarantee that a solution to JLR’s “competitiveness” will be found. There are other factors in the global market that are out of the workers’ hands and those of the owners of capital who own and control JLR. Car workers in the West Midlands have bitter experience of decisions affecting not only their livelihoods but also the future of their communities being taken well out of their hands, whether it be in Detroit or by the financial oligarchy in Europe or elsewhere.
This underlines the necessity for the workers themselves to have their own agenda, which they decide, such as the fight for the right to a livelihood to be recognised. It is essential that workers stick to their own experience, and get together to discuss what is happening in front of their eyes. Whatever the outcome of the forthcoming ballot, WWIE stands by the Jaguar Workers at Castle Bromwich, as at Halewood and elsewhere, in their stands to strengthen their organisation and uphold their rights and interests.
Workers Weekly Internet Edition.