GERMAN Chancellor Angela Merkel was first to announce yesterday that General Motors (GM) has chosen Canadian auto parts manufacturer Magna to buy Opel and sister firm Vauxhall.
Magna has pledged to keep all German plants open, although it has made it clear it will axe 10,000 jobs out of 54,500 across Europe.
Chancellor Merkel told a press conference in Berlin: ‘I am very pleased about the decision that’s been made and it is along the lines that the federal government has been advocating.’
General Motors later announced in a statement: ‘Several key issues will be finalised over the next few weeks to secure the binding agreements, including the written support of the labour unions to support the deal with the necessary cost restructuring for viability and the finalisation of a definitive financing package from the German government. . .
‘Under the deal, Magna/Sberbank will purchase a 55 per cent stake in New Opel; GM will hold a 35 per cent stake and employees will be provided a 10 per cent stake.’
UK Business Minister Pat McFadden said: ‘There will be restructuring throughout GM Europe,’ and admitted ‘that does mean job cuts’.
ATUA National Secretary Dave Wiltshire said yesterday: ‘Given Magna’s commitment to keep every plant in Germany open, it means the two plants in Britain are under certain attack, with the Luton van plant likely to close completely.
‘While the German unions threatened war, occupations and mass strikes to bring down the Merkel government if their plants weren’t kept open, the Unite leadership of Simpson and Woodley have remained disgracefully quiet, saying only that they oppose nationalisation.
‘GM workers must demand that this leadership resigns and that the union fights for for every single job in Vauxhalls.
‘Threats of closure have to be met with occupation and the demand that the government nationalise Vauxhalls. If the government refuses, the union must be prepared to bring it down.’
Reacting to the GM decision, Unite joint general secretary, Tony Woodley said that ‘jobs will go with the restructuring’ and that ‘plants will close’ but that ‘we have talked with Magna and they have assured us that there is a future for Ellesmere Port and Luton.’
He praised Business Secretary Peter Mandelson, who Woodley claimed had ‘worked his socks off for Britain and British workers’ and whose efforts ‘were exemplary’.
The Unite leader added: ‘We would have preferred GM had kept Vauxhall itself but the uncertainty surrounding the ownership is now over, and we have some tough negotiations in the coming weeks.’
Woodley expressed fears that intellectual property rights will end up with the Russian car giant Gaz which is looking to expand its market in Russia, as was GM.
He said: ‘Nevertheless, with Magna as the new owner, we need to make sure that British plants and people are not treated disproportionately during the re-structuring that will take place.
‘With that in mind, the union and the government will no doubt continue to negotiate with Magna.
‘We expect financial support from the UK government for Magna to be dependent on the job and plant commitments given by the company.’
l On Tuesday September 15, from 5.30-7.00pm at the Jury’s Inn Hotel, Liverpool, Unite will be holding a TUC Congress fringe meeting called ‘Saving Vauxhall Jobs, Defending the Car Industry’.
It will be addressed by Derek Simpson and Tony Woodley, and Vauxhall workers from Luton and Ellesmere Port and their families are invited to attend.