Jun 6, 2005
Ford and its "independent supplier" Visteon have worked out a joint plan for slashing union jobs and workers' pay.
Visteon is the parts company spun off from Ford five years ago. Its plants, its workforce and its business all came from Ford.
Under the latest agreement, 15 of Visteon's UAW parts plants, along with four plants in Mexico and six salaried facilities, will be returned to Ford. Thirteen of the UAW plants will be held in a "separate holding company," and either closed or sold to other parts suppliers. Two will be reabsorbed back into Ford – after the workers there are shackled with new work rules.
This is nothing but a new stage in a shell game designed to cut workers' wages and benefits to the bone.
When the Ford parts plants were spun off into Visteon in 2000, promises were made that wages and benefits would keep up with those at Ford.
But two years ago, Visteon, crying poor, got the UAW to agree to a two-tier wage scale: current employees would retain a $23-per-hour wage, while new hires would make only $14.
With this latest change, the plants will be brought back into Ford – but with employees now making little more than half what other Ford workers make. And 5,000 "first-tier" workers will be encouraged to retire, so more workers can be hired at the lower wage.
Supposedly, current wages and benefits are guaranteed – at least until the current contract expires in September 2007. After that, the holding company – or other parts companies who buy up some of these plants – are fully expected to demand even further wage cuts from ALL the workers, below $14 per hour.
Whether the plants have the Ford logo, the Visteon logo, or another one on their outside walls, they will all have cheaper labor costs – meaning more profits. This is what led Ford to create the fiction of an "independent" part supplier in the first place.
And yet, the UAW leadership is helping sell this deal to the workers!
UAW president Ron Gettelfinger says that the union has no choice – it's the only thing to do, to save jobs.
But this kind of move has never saved jobs. All it does is set one group of workers against another with these different wage rates, and plunge all wages and benefits into a race to the bottom.
Just because the union leadership is helping to push this attack, that doesn't mean the workers have to accept it. But it does mean workers can't depend on the UAW leadership to organize a fight back.