GLOBAL action to save the motor industry from crisis, and above all to stave off bankruptcy at General Motors, has been urged by Unite joint general secretary, Tony Woodley, in a meeting with business secretary Peter Mandelson on Monday.
‘General Motors is running out of money as a result of the crisis in the USA,’ Woodley said, and he predicted that GM could cease to exist next year.
He issued a clarion call for ‘Peter Mandelson, with his considerable international expertise, to work immediately with colleagues in the US, including in Obama’s transition team, and in Europe, to put together a co-ordinated global package to get the motor industry out of the crisis caused by the reckless bankers.’
He added: ‘Where General Motors goes today, other major companies throughout the sector could go tomorrow. Already thousands of workers are on short-time or are looking at a pay cut as a Christmas present from their employers. Only decisive government action on both sides of the Atlantic can stop a problem developing into a full-scale crisis.’
Woodley asked for the Brown government to set up a £13bn fund to save British manufacturing and the motor car industry and to see to it that a £40bn fund was established to bail out the motor car industry throughout Europe.
He is in fact asking the British government to bail out the motor car industry bosses. This same government was not prepared to save Rover MG in 2005, when all it would give was a bridging loan to keep the plant open over the period of the May general election.
In fact, both Woodley and Simpson, then the leader of Amicus, supported Blair’s policy, and accepted that Blair could not financially underpin the Longbridge plant.
What is different now is that the existence of car production in the US and the UK is now threatened by the financial crisis and the way that it is developing into a slump.
Woodley is calling for the UK and US governments to bail out the bosses as it has done the banks.
He is not calling for the defence of every job and for no wage cuts, and no closures in manufacturing.
Government bail-outs of the manufacturing industries are beyond the capacity of the US and UK economies. Such bail-outs, however, would not save jobs.
The motor car monopolists would simply hang onto the cash and carry on closing plants, sacking workers, and cutting wages.
This is exactly what the banks are doing. The Northern Rock bank, part nationalised, is sacking bank workers and repossessing homes at an accelerated rate. Lloyds TSB intends to sack up to 40,000 workers.
The banks are simply using the government’s bail-out cash to top up their reserves and are refusing to lend to small businesses or mortgage seekers.
David Frost, director-general of the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), complained ahead of Monday’s meeting with Mandelson: ‘The BCC has serious concerns about the availability of credit.’
The Federation of Small Businesses added: ‘The banks must be held to account on their lending practices at this and subsequent meetings. There must be agreement on how the banks must act and how the government can enforce this.’
The ‘British’ motor car industry of GM, Ford, Peugeot, Honda, Nissan and Tata will simply pocket the cash and carry on closing and cutting the industry, sacking large numbers of workers in the process.
Woodley is peddling a ‘solution’ for the big bosses.
The only way to defend manufacturing and motor industry jobs is through the trade unions mounting a decisive national campaign to defend every job, fight all wage cuts, and to occupy all plants faced with closure, and to mount a campaign of national strike action to demand the nationalisation of the manufacturing industries and the banks under workers control.
The Brown government will oppose this policy, tooth and nail. It must be brought down and be replaced by a workers government.