VAUXHALL Chairman Jonathan Browning announced yesterday that the General Motors (GM) subsidiary is to cut about 900 jobs, by the end of August, at its Ellesmere Port factory on Merseyside. The company is scrapping the night shift at the plant that produces the Astra model.
The GM chief in Britain made clear that the company is setting out to axe 900 jobs, out of a workforce of 3,250, and did not rule out the closure of the Vauxhall plant at Ellesmere Port.
He said that he is seeking the collaboration of the Labour government and the union leaders in clearing the way for these plans.
Chancellor Gordon Brown, travelled to Merseyside to give his blessing to the sackings. He said: ‘We will do what we can to help each and every one of the workforce who may be affected by this announcement to find other jobs in the area.’
Derek Simpson, the leader of the Amicus engineering union, had already raised the ‘white flag’ even before Browning had spoken.
He had told yesterday’s Financial Times that ‘traditional industrial action does not apply in a global market’. ‘What point is there going on strike if the company is going to close the plant?’ he added.
After Browning’s announcement, T&G union leader Tony Woodley said that GM was imposing sackings because ‘GM can sack our people on the cheap’. He welcomed ‘the support of the Chancellor for the future of the plant’.
Simpson, who rules out strike action, pleaded with GM to build the new Astra at Ellesmere Port, while Woodley proposed that workers put their confidence in the Chancellor.
Yet Brown has presided over the closure of a half a dozen car factories and the loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs in manufacturing industry over the past nine years.
These leaders of the two main unions in the car industry, with a combined membership of more than two million, are treacherous because their proposals to do nothing actually helps management with its plans.
In Liverpool, where thousands of jobs have been lost and unemployment is high, the workers at Ellesmere Port want to fight to defend the 900 jobs, as a key battle in the struggle to defend the plant.
The same is true in Coventry, where Peugeot plans to close the Ryton factory, with the loss of 2,300 jobs, in the middle of next year.
Simpson mentions the Vauxhall, Peugeot and TVR plants threatened with closure as a roll call of the dead and says that strikes will not work.
This is not true! In the heartlands of the US car industry, when the unions were built in the 1930s, they had the answer to GM, Ford and Chrysler, when threatened with lock-outs and the use of scabs. They organised sit-in strikes and occupied the plants.
The way forward is clear. Workers at Ellesmere Port and Ryton must organise strike action and occupy the plants to halt the sackings and closures.
The answer to closures by the multinationals is the expropriation of these plants and their nationalisation under workers’ control.
Carworkers at the Japanese giants Toyota, Nissan and Honda know that their future is not assured either, because these companies, like GM and Peugeot, can also decide at any time it is cheaper to produce cars in eastern Europe.
What is needed is a national strike throughout the car industry to defend jobs on the basis of the long-established trade union principle that ‘an injury to one is an injury to all’.
For such a struggle, union leaders like Simpson and Woodley are worse than useless. They must be kicked out and replaced by a new leadership to organise the struggle to halt plant closures and sackings.
Today carworkers join NHS staff, civil servants, lecturers and postal workers in a struggle to defeat the employers and their government, the Blair regime.
All the unions in the Trades Union Congress must be mobilised in a general strike to bring down the Blair regime and go forward to a workers’ government that will develop a socialist plan for the economy, including car production.