ON Thursday May 21, GM announced that ‘Representatives of Unite, the union, signed the UK Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) and European framework agreement in respect of employee contributions to the Opel/Vauxhall turnaround plan.’
The statement made it clear that ‘These are part of an overall Opel/Vauxhall European labour cost saving agreement to save 265 million euros per annum.
‘The UK programme will save 26.5 million euros per annum in the agreement period from 2010 to 2014 and represents ten per cent of the European total.’
As part of the deal: ‘The UK Memorandum of Understanding agreed the following employee actions to achieve the 26.5 million euro savings in the UK: a two-year pay freeze, pension scheme savings, the introduction of “SMART” pensions’, plus that post 2012, the Ellesmere Port plant would only have a future if it continued with its flexibility and productivity drives, while there was no agreed future for GMM Luton after that date.
A grateful GM Europe boss, Nick Reilly, told a press conference after the signing: ‘I understand it is difficult for unions to explain to their members that they have to make sacrifices.’
But he stressed: ‘We have to fight as one team.’
Last Wednesday the deal and the team collapsed when the German government led by Angela Merkel, which is already up to its neck in guaranteeing the debts of the crisis-ridden regimes of the EU, refused to give GM its 1.1 billion euro state loan guarantee.
German economy minister, Rainer Bruederle, said a government committee considering the aid request had failed to reach a unanimous decision. He added he was convinced GM had enough money to complete an overhaul of Opel.
In fact, GM is tens of billions of dollars in debt to the US government, which is its temporary owner.
General Motors requires the 1.1 billion euros in German state aid as a vital part of its 3.7 billion euro package.
The head of Opel’s union, Klaus Franz, denounced the German government decision, which threatens the jobs of 50,000 Opel and Vauxhall workers in Europe.
Merkel was yesterday meeting with the heads of four German regional states containing Opel plants to discuss them financing the GM loan, and doing what the German government refuses to do.
GM is contributing 1.9 billion euros to the plan and wants European governments to provide loan guarantees for the rest. The UK Labour government had volunteered £270 million as part of this EU deal with the European arm of GM.
However, it is not only the German state loan that is under threat.
The present UK Tory-led coalition is demanding a £900m cut in the finances of its Business Department.
Among the loans that this department has made is the £270 million loan to GM Europe.
Only last week the government refused to confirm the guarantee and said that all of the Business Department loans were now under review, and that all would be rigorously checked, and those that were deemed not to be commercially viable would be cancelled.
Motor car workers in Europe are living under a constant threat to their jobs from the capitalist crisis and from capitalist governments that are determined to make the working class carry the full burden of the capitalist crisis.
The only reasonable response to this latest threat to 50,000 motor car workers jobs in Europe is to occupy all of the Opel-Vauxhall plants at once, and begin a determined campaign to mobilise the workers of Europe to fight for their nationalisation under workers’ control.
In the UK, the Unite trade union leadership has agreed to every request from GM to cut pay, cut jobs and cut pensions, as well as agree to over 500 redundancies.
They have opposed the demand for an occupation to save the plants in the UK, and they opposed the demand, under a Labour government that the Vauxhall plants be nationalised to save every job and to save the industry.
They will act no differently under the Tory-Liberal coalition. Workers must occupy the Vauxhall plants at once and demand action by the Unite trade union and all TUC trade unions to secure their immediate nationalisation. There is no other way forward.