GM-Opel-Vauxhall crisis deepening

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NICK REILLY, the GM executive who closed down Vauxhall Motors in 2002, unveiled, yesterday in Frankfurt, the GM plan for Opel and Vauxhall. Earlier this year GM let what was its other European arm, Saab, go for a relative handful of US dollars.

Reilly unveiled GM’s ‘Plan For The Future’. It states that its Opel unit will invest 11bn euros ($15bn; £9.7bn) over five years, ‘in a new product offensive’.

The peculiarity of the just-launched plan is that GM currently does not have the 11bn euros since it is in hock to its current owner, the US government.

The plan is to be financed by EU governments to the tune of 2.7bn euros, with the German government asked to provide 1.6 bn of the total, plus a number of other financial guarantees.

The plan is to run at a loss, and for the plants to break even within two years, and then to make a profit after 2012.

This will require 8,300 jobs cut across Europe and the closure of the plant in Antwerp for a start – while there is no plan for GM Luton to exist beyond 2012.

Reilly, head of GM Europe assured a sceptical press conference that the carmaker’s plans had been approved as ‘financially sound and a realistic road map to success’ by an independent auditor.

The auditor’s report is now with the German government, which is considering whether to provide the requested aid, without which the plan will be consigned to the dustbin.

The rest of the thrust required for the GM plan to fly is to be produced by wage cuts and a huge increase in productivity by the super-exploitation of workers who will have lost more than 20 per cent of their number.

The 11bn euros is to finance a three-pronged Opel offensive. There is to be the launching of eight new models this year, and another four in 2011, the opening of a second front with the launch of the Ampera electric car, and then pushing GM successfully into new markets, namely in the Middle East and the Asia-Pacific region.

That this is a very chancy venture, to say the least, is obvious.

For the UK the situation for Luton GM is that the writing is on the wall.

The Vivaro van will continue being built at the Vauxhall plant until the end of 2012, after which there is no plan, just an assurance that GM will ‘investigate new business opportunities’.

Immediately, 369 Luton workers are to lose their jobs along with 150 administrative workers in the UK.

Ellesmere Port is to continue, with the prospect of a third shift in mid-2011. However its continuing existence depends on expanding its flexibility, along with record productivity, as well as an acceptance of cuts in wages.

Overall, the ‘product offensive’ is to be launched with overall production cut by 20 per cent, with 8,300 sackings already announced, 6,900 of which will go in manufacturing and 1,300 in sales. There are however more sackings to come through continuous efficiency savings.

The labour force is to be sweated until it drops, with GM UK a sideline operation.

As Reilly said: ‘Opel/Vauxhall has a clear vision: to be a leading European manufacturer of high quality, desirable automotive products, based on German engineering, driven by a united team of professionals and respected around the world.’

The GM ‘Plan for the Future’ is not a plan to satisfy the working class. As the IG Metall trade union federation has said that plan means more closures, more sackings, wage cuts and super-exploitation.

The Belgian trade unions have refused to accept the closure of the Opel Antwerp plant and have blockaded it.

The Unite trade union in the UK must be made to defend the wages, jobs, and working conditions of all UK GM workers.

It must form a common front with the EU unions to fight the GM plan.

There must be no sackings and the union must begin a national campaign for GM UK to be nationalised under workers control.