manufacturing

Notoriously Militant

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Sheila Cohen has written an immensely readable and well-researched book on the history of the British Ford Motor Company, seen through the eyes of leading shop-floor and union officials and stewards, mainly from the PTA assembly plant.

The book encompasses the history of Ford Dagenham from 1931 until the last vehicle rolled off the line in 2002.

The book is suffused with the spirit of shop-floor activism and workers’ democracy, particularly celebrating the upsurge of 1968-74, when rank and file trade unionism was among the most advanced in the British labour movement.

To hell in a Chelsea tractor?

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The news that Vauxhall in Ellesmere Port is to move to a four-day week, albeit with no cut in basic working hours, highlights the predicament facing the UK motor industry. The industry appeared to have recovered from the worst of the recession.

Indeed, luxury and niche producers, like Jaguar/Land Rover - which is now the sector's biggest employer, mainly because of sales of the all-terrain vehicles derided as "Chelsea tractors" - and BMW/Mini are doing extremely well. However, continued recession and the impact of austerity means a drop in demand for cheaper "mid-market" models, especially in Europe.

A new period of class struggle

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Unofficial strikes, occupations and rank and file action - we need to learn from the new struggles by trade unionists and non-unionised workers alike, argues Charlie Kimber.

The occupation at the Vestas wind turbine plant, the support it has generated, and the global publicity it gained confirm that we are in a new period of class struggle. The initial effect of soaring unemployment was to panic most union leaders into abject surrender and to make many workers doubt their ability to fight.

Vestas changed the climate

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The workers at Vestas on the Isle of Wight have not won yet. But even without winning, they have done more for environmental politics in this country than a hundred conferences.

First, they have changed the debate about wind power. It's not true that onshore wind development is stalled in this country. There has been a 500 percent increase in onshore wind power in Britain in the last five years.

But it is true that among environmentalists many people took the NIMBY opposition to wind farms seriously. Now the balance has shifted decisively.

Green cuts

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The irrationality of capitalism was starkly exposed in April when, despite massively increasing its profits for the first three months of the year, the manufacturing company Vestas announced that it was to shed 1,900 jobs.

Of these, 450 were to go at its plant on the Isle of Wight.

Such a news item would perhaps not excite much comment in these difficult economic times - except that Vestas is the world's largest manufacturer of wind turbines. Given the urgent need to deal with climate change the announcement caused disbelief and anger throughout the environmental movement.

The devil's carousel

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The global car industry has been rocked by the recession, thousands of jobs have gone and many thousands more are threatened. Kevin Devine reports on how bosses' attempts to save their profits will affect the workers on the "devil's carousel".

One of the biggest manufacturing casualties of the economic recession has been the car industry. Worldwide vehicle sales are collapsing and car plants are closing or going onto short-time working. In Britain the latest figures, for April, show that new car registrations fell by 24 percent compared with the same period a year ago, while the British vehicle market as a whole is estimated to have shrunk by almost 29 percent in comparison with 2008.

Occupations that send a powerful message

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Three decades of the neoliberal project have wrought significant changes to British society, all with New Labour's unabashed aim of making Britain "the most business friendly environment in Europe".

The measures taken to make Britain a playground for the rich have left the country exposed to the forces unleashed by the global economic crisis. We are faced with the deepest recession in living memory with a package of cuts to match.

Visteon: A life-changing struggle

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The occupation at former Ford plant Visteon wasn't planned. We came down here to get our personal belongings after we heard that we had all been sacked with immediate effect.

But one of the doors was open so everybody just ran in and decided to stay.

We barricaded all the doors so security couldn't get to us. Straight away we were getting donations of food brought to us. Kurds, Italians, Jamaicans, Turkish people - every nationality that lives in the country was cooking for us. It was quite emotional. All these people who didn't know us came along to give us their support, to feed us, to bring supplies of sleeping bags, toiletries. I've never seen that in my life - so many people came to strangers and put their hand out.

No child's play - workers and the deadly toys

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Just as people are getting ready for Christmas shopping, tens of millions of toys have been found to pose a health hazard - not only to children in the West, but also to those producing them in China.

US toy maker Mattel - the largest toy company in the world - recalled 172,000 Fisher Price toys in November after several children choked on small detachable parts. The company has also, for the fourth time, recalled large quantities of toys due to high levels of lead in their paint. Mattel had already recalled nearly 20 million toys, and in September it withdrew 844,000 toys from its Barbie brand.

Mattel's toys are manufactured by companies such as the Chinese Sunyick Plastic Products company, which employs 5,000 people.

Why Rover Crashed

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New Labour put the market before jobs, argues The Walrus.

Sanctimony personified, the image of Tony Blair scuttling back from the pope's funeral to turn up at the T&G offices at Longbridge alongside Gordon Brown might have been laughable if it wasn't so nauseating. Having treated what he has now taken to calling 'hard working families' with utter contempt for the best part of eight years, Blair's dissembling performance - dripping with praise for the workforce and its skills - absolutely reeked of hypocrisy.

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