A CRISIS, with the most revolutionary implications for the working class, is erupting in the US, with GM, the world’s biggest motorcar producer announcing 30,000 job cuts, and that nine assembly, stamping and Powertrain engine-making plants, plus three Service and Parts Operations facilities are to close, to save $7 billion a year by 2007.
The GM crisis and its development is being watched closely by Ford, Daimler-Chrysler and every section of the US ruling class. Anything that GM does, they will have to replicate to survive.
They are particularly interested to see what GM can screw out of the reformist leadership of the UAW autoworkers trade union. GM has already been given favourable treatment by this leadership.
In the early autumn, GM announced that it required a big reduction in its health care expenses. The UAW leadership responded by ignoring the anger of its members and signed an initial agreement to reduce GM’s healthcare expenses by $3 billion a year, a decision that sent GM’s share price up by 11 per cent.
GM had made a huge annual saving, and without a shot being fired. Now the US giant has come back for more. It is to cut 30,000 jobs in North America under a drive to restore company profits.
GM boss, Wagoner, said yesterday: ‘Given the demographics of GM’s workforce, the company plans to achieve much of the job reduction via attrition and early retirement programs. GM will work with the leadership of its unions, as any early retirement program would need to be mutually agreed upon. GM hopes to reach an agreement on such a plan as soon as possible.’
Wagoner is looking to the reformist UAW leadership to hold back GM’s angry workforce, and to deliver the goods once more for GM.
However, Delphi, the parts supplier that was once owned by GM, is in such a state that no trade union could agree to what it wants. Accordingly, the boss of Delphi is taking more direct action.
He has declared the company bankrupt and is taking out court proceedings to allow him to cut the wages of workers from $26 to $9 an hour, and also to cut health benefits. The issue at Delphi is expected to come to a head in the last week of January 2006.
Already, the massive anger of workers has led to the formation of a Mobilizing@Delphi working group, which includes the UAW, IUE-CWA, Steelworkers, International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, and the International Union of Operating Engineers.
Their statement says: ‘These unions have agreed to work together to achieve the best possible outcome for Delphi workers and their families.’ It added: ‘Delphi’s contract proposal is not a framework for an agreement but a road map for confrontation.’
And adds: ‘The Mobilizing@Delphi coalition has taken a clear position: Delphi will not have the opportunity to set one plant against another, or one union against another. We are united in our effort to craft a solution to Delphi’s problems that makes sense for our members, for our families, for the company and its investors and for the communities where we work and live.’
However, it is not possible to craft a solution that satisfies the workers, the shareholders and the company.
The Mobilizing@Delphi coalition is talking about some popular front protests when what is required is a general strike by the entire trade union movement to stop the Delphi wage cuts and the GM sackings, and to drive the employers back.
A period of class war and revolutionary struggle is opening up in the US. What the US workers require is a revolutionary leadership, meaning that a section of the International Committee of the Fourth International must be built in the US without delay.