Workers attending the morning shift at the GM van plant in Luton yesterday were presented with a Unite union leaflet, informing them of a ‘gate meeting’ to be held during the lunchtime change-over period between the two shifts.
According to this leaflet, the purpose of the meeting was ‘a report back to the membership on the Magna deal’.
Workers were shocked that at the meeting it turned out not to be a report back on the deal, but a vote to ratify the agreement already made between Tony Woodley, joint general secretary of Unite, and Magna.
This news was greeted with boos from the near 1,000 members present and complaints that they only had half an hour, which didn’t give them any time to question or discuss aspects of the deal.
This includes the proposed 365 job losses, a two-year pay freeze and a commitment to achieving year-on-year savings of £26 million.
Speaking to News Line after the meeting, Jim, a GM worker, said: ‘It was disgusting.
‘All we were told was that if we didn’t ratify what Woodley had already accepted that Magna would walk away from the UK and the plants would close.
‘When people tried to ask questions about the 360 jobs going, all the convenor (Gary Reay) would say was that there was a no compulsory redundancy agreement.
‘This is nonsense. How will they get that number of volunteers?
‘I think people will be forced out through a massive crackdown on sickness and discipline and there will be nothing voluntary about it for many people.
‘The fact that we were called to a meeting without any notice that a vote would be taken, with no hard information from the union about this agreement or the possibility of asking questions, and then just given half an hour to decide is disgraceful.
‘Quite a number either voted against or abstained, although a substantial majority voted in favour.
‘That’s not surprising, given that the union really gave us no alternative and indeed stopped us from deciding any alternative action to defend jobs in the plant.’
Chris Stagg, a Luton worker, said: ‘It is absolutely disgusting and unheard of that the members were not consulted and given adequate time to consider questions that affect their entire future.
‘I think that in the near future every worker at the van plant must be vigilant and prepared to take action to defend our rights.
‘This deal solves nothing for the workers.
‘Apart from the redundancies already announced, the pay freeze that’s now been accepted, the acceptance of a £26 million year-on-year saving, means that there are going to be more attacks on jobs and wages.
‘After all, wages represent the biggest outlay for the company and any savings can only be made at our expense.’