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By Editorial staff

Journalist


Ford strike may kill the golden goose

Reflecting on the past, Numsa's strike at Ford could mirror the collapse of the UK motor industry due to similar union actions.


As striking union workers loyal to the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) brought production to a halt at Ford’s factory outside Pretoria yesterday, it is worth looking at history to see the outcomes of similar actions.

In the ’60s, ’70s and early ’80s in Britain, trade union power was at its zenith and the country recorded myriad strikes across various sectors, ranging from coal mining to automotive production.

In the case of the latter, stoppages at the plants of the then British Leyland group and other companies – and attendant bad work by disaffected workers – led to the effective collapse of the motor industry in that country.

As cheap, better-quality Japanese imported vehicles flooded the country, tens of thousands of British car workers joined the dole queues.

While we certainly do not support the rabid capitalist mantra that even a bad job is better than no job at all, we wonder whether the workers at Ford South Africa are not heading down a similar road to their UK comrades all those years ago, in trying to choke the goose which lays the golden eggs.

ALSO READ: Numsa members to strike at Ford over bonuses

Numsa has heard that the global operation of Ford – which is headquartered in the US – produced annual profits of $25 billion (about R458 billion) and demands that workers here get a slice of that cake.

Workers at Ford’s local operation are already an elite in our local labour market, because the multinational pays well and offers good benefits.

So a bonus would be rich icing on an already sweet cake.

Numsa has cleverly dodged the reality that the Ford profit is global and there has been no mention of local profitability.

Ford has invested more than $1 billion in South Africa and this sort of union action is guaranteed to make its shareholders reconsider the wisdom of their decision.

ALSO READ: SA’s trade unions must get their act together or risk total irrelevance

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