When is discrimination
in Ford Belfast to end?
24 November 1999
Ford Belfast has a long history of anti-Irish racism by the pro-British community, who run both the management and the trade unions there.
The factory, with a workforce of 45 per cent Catholic and 55 per cent Protestant, is on the edge of republican West Belfast, the constituency of Gerry Adams MP, President of Sinn Fein. At one point, the maintenance department was 91% Protestant.
The pro-British minority have all the best jobs, the majority of the shop stewards and the majority of the votes.
Not only are there links between the internal union and the management, but there are Masonic links (Freemasons), Orange Order links (including the Black Preceptory) Imperial Grand Chapter of the British Commonwealth, and also allegedly paramilitary links.
The main links are to the UVF, but there is also an element of the UDA. Both paramilitaries are supposed to be on ceasefire, but a reduced number of attacks and occasional murders are still taking place, using the names of new pro-British paramilitaries.
In these circumstances it is very hard for the workers to unite and fight for their common interests. Discrimination has to be fought, and this is a matter of life and death.
This has been brought to the attention of senior Ford management and British trade union leaders. A number of investigations have been conducted by a variety of Americans, including Jack Nasser. But nothing has happened.
On Nassers instructions Nick Scheele, chairman of Ford Europe, has been put in charge over the heads of the English management. A number of cases against Ford have implicated this English management (such as head of Ford Britain personnel, Bob Hill) in the discrimination. For example, in Tom Irvings case, he called him an active Catholic! What would the late Cardinal Basil Hulme of London make of that?
In May Ford paid out £25,000 to the late Mick ONeills relatives for the discrimination he suffered.
The company was also found guilty for the well-known St Patricks day case, when Irish were not allowed time off, but were forced to take off 12-13 August. To them, this is like a Ku Klux Klan celebration!
Death threats against Irish hourly-paid staff have been fully reported to the T&G.
To avoid complicity the AEEU has changed a number of its branch meeting places. In the past they met in halls where murders of prominent Irish nationalists and Catholics were planned, e.g. the murder of the well-known human rights lawyer Pat Finucane.
This situation is like black people in the southern states of America, having to go to a union committee run by the Ku Klux Klan to complain of discrimination!
Full tribute to the Lawrence family whose son was brutally murdered in South London because of the colour of his skin. They have courageously condemned anti-Irish racism, and are supporting the campaign for justice of the relatives of Robert Hamill who was beaten to death by a frenzied crowd of pro-British supporters in full view of a heavily armed squad of RUC policemen.
Bill Morris has said that Mr Parmars case in Dagenham (see separate article) is the worst case of racism in the unions history.
No disrespect to Mr Parmar, and full justice for him, but Bill Morris is turning a blind eye to the murders and horrendous discrimination in the British-administered part of Ireland.
Bill Morris is aware that in Belfast, 10 of the local managers held a secret meeting to block Catholics from being promoted. That would be comparable to 100 managers at Dagenham holding secret meetings to stop black people being promoted. Bill Morris was informed of press reports on this matter in 1992. But he has taken no action, called for no investigations, and made no comment on the issue.
It is long overdue to turn a searchlight on the racism in Ford Belfast. The unions and Ford management must face up to their responsibility and end this situation at the place of work.