Aug 11, 2003
On Monday, August 4th, another gas fire broke out in a blast furnace at Rouge Steel, in the Ford Motor Company complex in Dearborn, Michigan. The Dearborn fire chief reported that it was a maintenance problem and that nobody was hurt. He forgot to mention that two days earlier a pipefitter at Rouge Steel had been crushed to death in another accident caused by a "maintenance problem." In fact, the whole Rouge complex is one big "maintenance problem" that has been directly responsible for a whole rash of deadly accidents.
What does this phrase – maintenance problem – mean? Ford, and its captive steel company, Rouge Steel, expect workers to tough it out, working with faulty and old equipment; they expect tradesmen to cannibalize parts from old machines or robots if repairs are made at all; they demand that workers continue to work, even when there are hazardous conditions; they maintain only skeleton maintenance crews, so oftentimes a tradesman works alone.
Ford's maintenance is built around band-aids, rubber bands and bubble gum – as the trades workers put it.
That's why there have been "accidents" one after another. Since February 1999, when the Powerhouse exploded, there have been no less than 11 deaths and over 30 serious injuries to workers in this complex.
To seriously address the so-called "maintenance problems" that led to these deaths, Ford Motor Company would have to set aside its cost-cutting "profit-maintenance" policies and re-invest some of its billions to make it a safe and hazard-free work environment.
That will happen when the workers make it happen.