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Vauxhall jobs threat - unions must organise a fightback
UP TO 5,500 jobs are at risk at the Vauxhall plants in Ellesmere Port in Merseyside and in Luton, as a result of the bankruptcy of Vauxhall's parent company General Motors (GM) in the USA.
If Vauxhall was to shut then thousands of other jobs in the supply sector would also be at risk.
GM (which employs nearly 250,000 people in the USA) has effectively been nationalised by the Obama government because of the fear of the US ruling class that letting it collapse altogether would affect millions of jobs and have serious political and social repercussions in that country.
Obama has been forced to inject $60 billion into GM (giving his administration 60% control of GM), which along with another $9.5 billion from the Canadian government, puts a total of 72% - of what was once a prestigious company of US capitalism - into state hands.
In Europe, the German government too have been forced to intervene to stop Opel (as GM is known in Germany) going bust, threatening over 25,000 Opel jobs and tens of thousands more in the supply industry.
The German government is backing a takeover of Opel by the Canadian company Magna with a government loan of $2 billion.
It is quite clear that the German government has done this only because Magna has promised to keep the German plants open (even if there are some job losses).
This leaves Vauxhall's two British factories, along with the Belgium GM assembly plant in Antwerp, at high risk of closure.
The Unite trade union has condemned the UK government's business secretary, Lord Mandelson, as not being sufficiently involved in the Berlin negotiations which have resulted in the agreement for restructuring GM's European operations. But surely the issue here is not whether the British government should be involved but what the union is calling for.
Unite, as the main car workers' union in Britain, throughout this crisis and similar crises in the past (Rover, etc), have not even called for what Obama has been forced to do, which is the nationalisation of GM.
(Though Obama only did this after he got the American unions to accept huge cut backs in health and pensions of the existing workforce and those already retired!)
What Unite should be doing - instead of just bleating that 'Mandy has not been involved enough' - is putting forward a programme to mobilise their members in the affected plants.
- That the union will fight all attempts to close any of the Vauxhall plants.
- The government should take over and nationalise any plants under threat of closure as a result of the Berlin agreement.
- That Unite should organise an all-European conference of GM car workers to hammer out a programme of action to defend all jobs and to defend all conditions at work including pay and pensions.
In The Socialist 5 June 2009:
Workplace news and analysis
Socialist Party election campaign
Socialist Party feature
Socialist Party review
Marxist analysis: history