Jaguar Land Rover Workers Reject Company’s Attempts to Impose a Settlement

Jaguar Land Rover workers, in a consultative ballot, practically unanimously rejected JLR’s pay “offer”, which the car maker sought to impose on the workforce. Of the 12,881 workers across JLR’s five plants, 96 per cent voted to reject the offer on an almost one-hundred percent turnout. This includes staff and shop-floor together, making it one of the most overwhelming results in industrial history. JLR became part of the Tata Motors Indian car-making monopoly in 2008.

Arousing particular opposition was the company’s proposal to take £240 million off the pension fund, which is seen as a way of funding its pay offer. JLR is proposing to dilute and change the final salary pension scheme, despite its being agreed in negotiations two years ago.

Commenting, Unite national officer Roger Maddison said: “The workforce made huge sacrifices and endured pay freezes during difficult times to ensure that Jaguar Land Rover is the success it is today.

“Their hard work, skills and commitment have helped ensure that JLR has become a highly profitable world leader with a bulging order book. With the company making a staggering £10 million profit a day, it is no surprise that the workforce is angered by pension cuts and a pay offer that falls short in recognising their role in that success.

“JLR needs to get back around the negotiating table and hammer out a deal that meets the workforce’s expectations and shares the rewards of the company’s success fairly. Otherwise we will be looking to ballot our members for industrial action across the company’s five sites.”

Showing his true colours, Vince Cable, the Business Secretary, told the Financial Times last month that the “last thing” Britain needed was to see a revival of union militancy.

The JLR workers are also opposed to the proposed use of one-off bonuses which are not linked to the rate of pay, nor would they be linked to increases in the pension. The workers point out the car-makers’ aim to gradually replace pay rises that attract company pension payments over the coming years with bonuses which will neither be consolidated nor pensionable. Even mooted by the monopoly is that the bonuses should be the same throughout its global operations, and how much that would be worth is an open question. The workers had also wanted new starters to receive 100% of the rate for the job after five years, but the company refused, sticking to its plans for six years. The monopoly also proposed to impose shift and weekend working.

JLR made a record-breaking pre-tax profit of £942m even according to figures in its most recent quarterly results, not far off the £1.3bn Tata paid Ford for the Jaguar and Land Rover brands in 2008. Last year’s profits stood at £2.5 billion, according to its own capital-centred accounting.

The attempt to impose a pay structure and refusing to enter into meaningful negotiations is thus a calculated insult to the JLR workers and their union representatives. The management has refused to accede to a single demand from the workers’ representatives. Full time officials of the union are due to meet management next Thursday, and if the JLR refuses to negotiate, then Unite will look for an industrial ballot.

It is clear that the euphoria that the government and JLR have attempted to generate over the benefit of its productive capacity for the workers, the community and for the economy as a whole was meant to cover over the narrow aims of Tata Motors in maximising its profits in the shortest possible time at the expense of the workforce, who have produced the added value which the company parades as profit. It is also understood that the company may at a whim up sticks and decide to move production to China or India if that suits the owners of its monopoly capital.

The situation at JLR underlines the necessity not only for workers to take a stand against being treated as a cost of production and a refusal by the monopoly to recognise the role of the workers in generating the added value which it appropriates. It also emphasises the necessity for the Workers’ Opposition to challenge the direction which the owners of monopoly capital are taking the economy. The issue facing society is not some “revival of union militancy”. It is that the private ownership of the means of production and the exclusion of the working class from decision-making is causing havoc and dysfunction in the economy and in society as a whole.

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