Contractors

When contractors on lower wages were first brought in to cut costs, they faced resentment from Ford workers who feared for their jobs.

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So they was all Ford employees when I initially came in the year 2000. And part of us trying to be a viable plant was obviously trying to make us cost-effective compared to our counterparts in various countries or whatever. Southampton was the last automotive assembly plant for Fords in Britain so we was obviously trying to make sure, we wanted Southampton to stay.

So you do everything you can to make it competitive and one of the parts of the competitiveness was that we had to compete with other plants who got paid a lot less than what we did. So by that we were quite inventive and good at the lean production system and we made lots of efficiencies which obviously saved money, but one of the things that we struggled with was the rate of pay that obviously our workers got compared to other people.

So one of the things that we did was called out-sourcing and that’s where we would get contractors in that worked obviously for a lot less money than the Ford workers but it enabled us to still retain producing vehicles at Southampton. And, something we discussed with the unions and they knew that it was to make the plant viable, but unfortunately they would not be on the same pay scale otherwise the plant would have gone a lot earlier.

Debbie B

At the time when I first started as a contractor, there was a ‘Them and Us’, there was a brick wall between a contractor and a full-time Ford worker. Because their jobs were being taken by other people.

The contractor at the time was Cameron’s, Cameron’s Industrial Services. I think they were one of the first contractors on the site at the time – about ‘92-’93. They did all the industrial cleaning, they took over the waste management, sorting the waste and disposal of it for Ford. That’s everything from their hazardous waste to general waste, if you like, pallets, metal parts, whatever they produced, we would dispose of.

That sort of work was done by Ford but obviously it used to cost them a lot more money. Efficiency wise, what Ford have done over the years, is outsourced jobs that they found to be not so productive for their own people to do. So it’s easier and cost-effective to outsource it to different contractor at a lesser rate.

Andy W

Penske came in and won the contract to basically provide the service. But effectively we were responsible for unloading parts of vehicles, putting them into storage areas, carrying out any quality tests or anything that needed on them and delivering them to the production line as and when required by the Ford operators. We also sub-assembled quite a few of the parts.

It was difficult and challenging when I first came here because a lot of the Ford people saw us as taking their jobs that their friends used to do. We’re doing it for cheaper, and because of that the guy who counts the beans at the end of the day thinks, ‘You know what, I think I’ll get them to do some more work so they can save me some more money’.

So there was that sort of, almost like a resentment for us being here. There were certain people who weren’t interested in helping us at all but there were a lot of people who just saw us as just trying to do a job. The first few months was difficult but, I think, once you sort of, people understand what you’re doing and you’re not going to go away, there was a lot of barriers broken down.

But even to a point there were still people here who were very old school and thinking, ‘I worked for Ford all my life, my Dad did, by granddad did, you have no right to be here’, you know, okay, whatever. In 2008 when Ford downsized in this site and pretty much the recession hit worldwide, we went from two working shifts to one day shift.

And in hindsight I think it was probably a very wise move, they offered a lot of the old guard an early way out. And the old guard were pretty much the ones with all the sort of barriers and things like that. The first two or three years was kind of crazy, mad, you just didn’t bother speaking to half of the people because you thought all you’re going to get is attitude.

Rav C

The ‘Them and Us’ culture, and contractors weren’t allowed to use the Ford canteen and so on, until after the Ford workers had eaten, so essentially the food had all gone. So that was always a big thing here.

We weren’t allowed to park in the car park, that was Ford workers only. It was that bad, seriously, it was quite bad. But as I say, that changed, that changed quite well. We were invited to this – that’s when things changed – they had this ‘One Ford’ goal and vision.

Andy W

We had the opportunity to get the workforce together and to talk about what that might mean in practice. It certainly changed the way people felt about the plant, the way we felt towards the contractors working in the plant.

Historically there’s always been a, I suppose, a less than positive relationship between the Ford employees and the contract employees. Partly to do with history, partly to do with a number of things.

And this was a way of trying to talk about the elephant in the room, you know. This is, we are one site, and we are one group of people and it’s going to work better if see each other as equals and to create a more, sort of, mutually helpful environment. And ‘One Ford’, I think, was really useful in cementing those relationships.

Bryan P