LAST MAY the Unite union leaders agreed for their members in the UK that they would provide savings of 106m euros over four years, 2010-14, to GM Europe. This would be 10 per cent of the total GM Europe savings required to finance GM’s survival plan.
To raise the cash Unite agreed, without consulting the workforce, to a two-year pay freeze, pension schemes savings and the introduction of ‘Smart Pensions’. They had already agreed to over 300 redundancies, as part of the 8,000 sackings that were agreed for GM Europe as a whole.
In return for these concessions GM ‘conceded’ that the Ellesmere Port plant would produce the next (7th) generation Astra ‘subject to maintaining its competitive position in the Opel/Vauxhall manufacturing portfolio’.
It was also agreed that nothing could be decided about the the production of the electric Ampera car at Ellesmere Port. There would be negotiations in which Ellesmere Port would have to prove its greater flexibility and profitability in relation to the other GM Europe plants, in order to win the job, and save almost two thousand workers’ jobs.
As far as the Luton plant was concerned there was nothing, except that after ‘The current Vauxhall/Renault joint venture Vivaro’s life cycle runs out in 2013 . . . Vauxhall is optimistic that talks about a new generation Vivaro will be successful.’
Then the German government refused to sign the deal and the plan collapsed. GM Detroit then decided that the company, which owes tens of billions of dollars to the US government, and is currently owned by it, was able to finance GM Europe on its own.
This was after it had conducted a desperate struggle to get the German government to part with one billion euros!
Since that body-blow to GM’s fortunes there has been a change of government in the UK and the Tory-Lib Dem business secretary, Cable, has announced that there will be no cash aid for the Vauxhall group in the UK.
He said this after he refused to honour the massive loan that Labour was prepared to make to Sheffield Forgemasters, a decision that will cost thousands of jobs.
Britain’s car industry can no longer rely on taxpayer ‘emergency’ bailouts, Cable warned yesterday.
Cable, who is to meet GM Europe’s boss Nick Reilly to discuss the matter this week, made clear that such projects ‘shouldn’t depend on Government support’.
This was confirmed by a Business Department spokesperson yesterday, who said: ‘To date Vauxhall has not approached the government for support for the Ampera . . .
‘Companies need to stand on their own two feet, but our door is not closed for conversations.’
Cable had insisted on Monday: ‘I think where we can be more helpful . . . is in helping with things like training . . . If they do approach me, then we are perfectly happy to have a conversation with them.’
His final word on the Ampera was: ‘I am not closing the door to conversations, but we can’t give money to every company that asks for it.’
There was not a word for GMM Luton!
The likelihood is that the fate of the two plants will be decided by GM and the Tory-Lib Dem coalition within days.
A Tory refusal to soften its approach because it will anger ‘the markets’, and its money lenders, raises the prospect that both plants could face closure.
The Unite union leaders have a great responsibility for the situation that has developed. When the Labour government was in office they refused to organise the occupation of the plants and a campaign that they should be nationalised to save all of the jobs.
Instead, they agreed huge sacrifices on behalf of the workforce. Now with the Tories back both plants face closure. They must be occupied at once and Unite must be forced to organise a national campaign of action to bring down the Tory-led coalition and bring in a workers government to nationalise both plants.