General Motors plans to close the Opel plant in Antwerp, Belgium this winter, with the loss of more than 2,300 jobs.
Workers in Antwerp occupied the factory’s parking lot yesterday in protest at the closure decision, telling the world that new Astras would be ‘kept hostage’, and prevented from leaving the plant.
On January 28, GM is due to inform the EU trade unions of all the details of its restructuring plan at a special meeting.
Armin Schild, head of the IG Metall union in Frankfurt and a member of Opel’s board, yesterday criticised GM for lacking a clear and thoroughly financed restructuring concept and said: ‘Now, GM is apparently off on the next horror trip.’
He criticised GM for mismanaging the company for 15 years and called the planned closure of the site in Antwerp ‘a declaration of war against all European Opel employees’.
At the January 28th meeting, Opel CEO Nick Reilly is expected to announce up to 8,300 redundancies, in Germany, Spain, Poland, Hungary and the UK, while underlining that no plant is safe ‘in a shrinking European auto market’.
He is set to state that very major concessions on wages, jobs, productivity, flexibility and pensions are required, on a permanent basis, to stand a chance of avoiding more plant closures in the near future.
The reality is that workers leaders are to be told that their members will be pushed to build up huge car stocks, before they are sacked and production is moved to Asia, or Eastern Europe.
Reilly announced last week that the company will cut 8,300 jobs across Europe, including 4,000 in Germany, and close the plant in Antwerp – casualties of the ‘tough reality’ of a shrinking European auto market.
The head of the workers council at Opel’s plant in the western German city of Bochum, Rainer Einenkel, said yesterday that there would be further plant closures, sackings and wage cuts ahead.
‘The worst is not over,’ he told German trade unionists.
Representatives from Opel’s European work councils and unions are to meet next Tuesday in Antwerp.
GM says Opel needs to cut its production capacity by 20 per cent to remain viable and is looking for state aid to help fund its 3.3bn euros restructuring programme.
In the UK, GM is to cut 354 jobs at its Vauxhall plant in Luton, and has stated that there will be no job cuts at its Ellesmere Port plant, which makes the Vauxhall Astra.
However, there is no guarantee that either of the two plants will remain open after 2012, while the terms and conditions of employment are being changed at both plants, to push up the rate of exploitation of the workforce.
As well, GM has also failed to sell its Swedish car brand Saab and is starting to wind down the operation, and sack 3,400 workers.
The European trade unions at their meeting next Tuesday must decide to fight to keep Antwerp open and not to accept the huge job cuts, wage cuts and speed-ups that GM is demanding throughout Europe.
There must be strike action throughout Europe and all of the Opel plants must be occupied.
Since the bankrupt GM cannot manage a European motor car industry, the GM plants must be nationalised and be put under workers’ control.
This is the only way to defend jobs.
Similarly, in the UK workers must occupy the two plants and demand that they be nationalised under workers’ control. The Unite leadership which supports the Brown government is opposed to nationalisation and thinks that workers must just accept whatever is on offer from the bosses.
Such leaders must be removed and replaced by leaders who will take action to defend jobs.
The meeting of the European trade unions next Tuesday is the opportunity to unite to defend every GM job and plant in Europe.