Jan 21, 2002
It wasn’t very long ago that William Clay Ford, Jr. fired CEO Jacques (Jac the Knife) Nasser and took over the reins of Ford Motor Company himself. Now he has stepped forward to make the doomsday announcements. Five plants have to close. Eighteen plants have to downsize and restructure. Suppliers have to be cut. Thirty-five thousand workers’ jobs have to be eliminated. Ford’s prospects are bleak. He says.
Ford’s public relations department must be working overtime, because it’s a hard job to convince anyone that a multibillion-dollar empire like Ford is going broke.
It was only last year that the same public relations department was boasting about Ford’s huge 28 billion dollar cash reserve. Did they lose all that money that fast? Or did they just bring in the Enron accountants?
In any case, the news accounts leave many more questions up in the air than they answer.
First of all, how many cuts are they talking about, where and when? The headlines say “CRISIS” and “BIG CUTS!” But the smaller print says “later” and “after production is shifted.” The headlines say “35,000 LAYOFFS!” But the smaller print seems to be talking about a totally different project.
For example, the headline of a Detroit newspaper said “SHIFT REDUCTION” at Atlanta Assembly. Atlanta has 2,189 hourly workers. To say “shift reduction” makes us think of half the workers gone. But in the details, the article reads: “Workers affected: 150 hourly.”
When you read through the rest of the proposals, with the exception of several old plants or very small ones, this is what they are proposing.
So what’s up? We know that Ford can count, and this doesn’t begin to add up to 35,000..
What’s up is that Ford intends to impose the same old speed-up it always tries to force on us: trying to cut 150 jobs out of work force of 2,189, spread that work onto the 2,039 workers left. And they will try that in each of their plants. If they can cut and paste enough, they can go ahead and close those few old plants they want to close.
Seen from this viewpoint, it looks like the ordinary speed-up that workers face every day.
Of course, with the usual speed-up comes resistance. Sometimes the companies succeed in cutting jobs and dumping the work on those who are left. But often, workers, individually or collectively, find the ways not to work faster.
This is Ford’s problem: how to impose, across the board a speed-up, without sparking any reaction from the workers.
And so we are confronted by these big glaring headlines: 35,000 jobs to be cut. Enough to make someone think there is nothing that can be done; enough to make someone think it’s better to lie low and just hold on to their own job.
Or so Ford hopes!
That would be the worst possible reaction. If the workers accept these scare headlines, if they think they can’t respond, then, yes, Ford can eventually cut 35,000 jobs. In other words, Ford will be able to do what William Clay Ford says he wants to do: “revitalize,” in other words, get rid of workers.
But that can’t happen if the workers resist.
This is not a new ploy. It’s exactly the same kind of game that Chrysler played just about a year ago: big headlines, big scare stories.
We can bet that GM will be next.
If Chrysler, now Ford and eventually GM get away with this, of course it will make them stronger: in other words, richer. And yes, their shares will attract more money on the stock market.
But it won’t rescue these companies from bankruptcy. Because these companies ain’t broke.
It definitely won’t do anything for the workers except to make them lose more jobs faster, and fall into earlier graves.
Whatever Ford says, the workers should have the same response: No job cuts, we don’t accept a single one!