Saab goes bust as GM’s Opel-Vauxhall crisis deepens

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GM’S crisis has deepened with the collapse of its deal to sell Saab, and as the EU states do battle over whose plants are to close.

The sale of GM’s Swedish unit Saab has been called off after the Swedish sports car maker Koenigsegg said it could no longer carry out the acquisition.

‘Given the sudden change in direction, we will take the next several days to assess the situation and will advise on the next steps next week,’ said GM president and chief executive Fritz Henderson. He is expected to close the plant which employs a workforce of 3,892, which produced 90,281 cars in 2008.

At the same time GM has had to admit that it needs the German government’s support to the tune of 3bn euros to carry through its European restructuring plans.

Earlier GM had been pretending that it did not need cash aid. The pretext was given up by its European chief Reilly when he announced that the financing of the restructuring would be down to the various EU governments, with the trade union leaders assisting, by giving the go-ahead for vicious speed-ups and wage cutting.

GM stated yesterday that it will not be closing any of Opel’s four plants in Germany. After GM cancelled its deal with Magna, German workers took strike action when GM indicated that at least one German plant would close, with Bochum the favourite for the axe. The US carmaker also said it would be cutting 9,000 jobs in Europe.

Yesterday GM’s European boss Reilly was emphasising that he saw Opel’s Eisenach plant as ‘a significant resource for the production of Corsas for the long term’. He had previously given assurances over Germany’s three other Opel plants at Ruesselsheim, Bochum and Kaiserslautern.

He emphasised that GM’s European headquarters would be based at Germany’s Ruesselsheim plant.

GM employs around 25,000 workers in Germany, 7,000 in Spain, 2,500 in Belgium and 4,700 in Britain, where Opel cars are sold under the Vauxhall brand.

So far the company has received offers of 400 million euros from Britain and between 300 and 400 million euros from Spain, as well as proposed tax breaks from Poland, plus 3bn euros from the German government.

On December 4th, GM is due to spell out to the European governments what they are going to get for their money. With all of the German plants secured for the moment, it is expected that there will be 5,500 workers sacked in Germany, while the Antwerp Opel plant will be closed with 2,500 workers losing their jobs. Up to 600 jobs are expected to go in the UK, and 400 in Spain.

The Luton plant is expected to take the bulk of the UK job losses, and is to be marked down for closure in 2012. Ellesmere Port will be told that its life span will be determined by how competitive and flexible it remains, in a ‘very combative environment’.

Every plant will be subject to a wage freeze. All workers will work longer hours, and will have to agree to wage, benefit and pension cuts to finance the restructuring.

Faced with this dire prospect, GM workers in the UK must demand that the Unite trade union defends every job.

The union must mount a national campaign for the two GM plants to be nationalised and put under workers control. Leaders that refuse to fight the Labour government must be made to resign.

Any attempt to close the plants must be met with an occupation to keep them open.

There must be immediate elections of shop stewards, and new shop stewards committees formed in both plants. These will stand up and fight for their members wages, jobs, pensions and basic rights, and put an end to the current policy of capitulation to the Brown government and to GM.