Unite and Ford defend car industry’s single market access

The leaders of Unite and a major global auto-maker have agreed to build common cause in defence of UK car manufacturing’s access to the European Union’s single market post-Brexit it was announced on Friday (January 27).

Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said that jobs, investment and a continuing commitment to the UK workforce were also discussed when he met with CEO of Ford Europe Jim Farley, in what he described as a “very positive meeting”.

Earlier that day, Farley had warned that the loss of tariff-free access to the EU single market would put thousands of manufacturing jobs at risk. Unite, the biggest union in UK manufacturing, has been campaigning to retain this access in an effort to persuade the Prime Minister to revise her statement that the UK would leave the single market.

McCluskey said he pressed Ford on its commitment to its UK operations in the wake of record UK car exports but amid warnings that manufacturers are beginning to reduce their investment in the sector as the economy adjusts to its upcoming exit from the EU.

McCluskey said he met with Farley to discuss Ford’s continuing commitment to its UK workforce, Unite members, and to seek assurances that the company would retain its footprint in this country.

“I am delighted to say that this was a very positive, wide-ranging meeting, in which Mr Farley shared with us the company’s future plans but also their concerns about the value of sterling and the type of Brexit currently being considered, which would see this industry lose its access to the European single market,” he said.

“Our automotive industry is world class, and Ford is a big part of this. It was good to hear Ford Europe’s chief executive personally express his thanks for the dedication and loyalty of the UK workforce and that the company wants to work with us on jobs and investment planning for the future.

“On the Bridgend plant, talks are ongoing and I will be visiting the plant in the coming weeks to speak to the shop stewards about the direction we need to travel to secure jobs,” McCluskey added.

“Given the turbulence of current times, however, we fully share Mr Farley’ view that the sector must retain access to the single market on a tariff-free basis.

“Unite members across the UK car industry want Ford to thrive in this country,” he went on to say. “So we are building common cause with our companies across the auto industry, including Ford in our efforts to persuade the UK government that it must secure the access to the EU single market which is fundamental to this economically crucial industry.”

On Thursday (January 26), Ford announced that its European operations had returned $1.2bn in pre-tax profits for the last quarter of 2016, as well as continuing to return historically high profit levels for its North American operations.