Night shift workers at the GMM van plant in Luton were summoned to a meeting with the General Manager, Paul Staes, on Monday night and informed that 354 workers would be axed in the very near future.
Staes was reporting to the workforce on the outcome of negotiations that have taken place in the past week between GM and Magna, the consortium which includes the Russian Sberbank as well as the Canadian motor parts producer, on the future of GM Europe now the Magna bid to buy it from General Motors has been accepted.
He informed the workers present that the deal with Magna was due to be signed yesterday and he confirmed that the Antwerp GM plant was scheduled for closure.
The job cuts Magna intended to make, he stated, was 10,500 across Europe.
The number of jobs due to be axed in the UK has been estimated at between 1,400 and 1,800.
If 354 jobs are lost at Luton it implies that the rest of the job losses are planned for the Ellesmere Port plant in Cheshire where the Astra car is produced.
As to the future of the Luton plant, Staes attempted to reassure workers by saying that it would remain open until the contract to build vans for Renault expired in 2012, but he stressed that there were no guarantees for the plant after that date.
Speaking to News Line after the meeting Jim, a GM worker said: ‘I can’t believe that this is the end of the job cuts here.
‘When they announced that the night shift would close on the 19th October, we knew that 300 jobs at least were on the line and it won’t stop there.
‘What stuck out at this presentation was that we had no warning, no briefing whatsoever from our union, it’s just management telling us what they are going to do and if we are lucky we get a flier after from the union repeating what we have been told.
‘I feel we are like those frogs they put in a pan of water and gradually heat it up, because it’s gradual the frog doesn’t realise it’s being boiled to death until too late.
‘That’s what the management and the union leaders are trying to do to us.’
Arthur Lynn, a former convener at the plant said: ‘Everything that happens in the plant, especially the refusal of the union leaders to call meetings of the membership, makes it clear to me that these leaders have accepted job losses as inevitable and are completely prepared to go along with them.
‘They seem to be urging the members to put all their faith in the promise of an electric powered car sometime in the future that will supposedly solve all our problems.
‘The leaders of Unite have no policy or intention of fighting for jobs.
‘From statements made at the Labour Party conference, they are kidding the GM workers that while they wait for this miracle electric car, the Luton plant will be kept open until 2012.
‘They ignore the fact that Renault have in the past tried to get out of this contract and that with the sale of GM to Magna they have valid legal grounds for ending the contract immediately.
‘The union members deserve and have a right to be told by their union exactly what is going on behind the closed doors of the negotiating room and given the opportunity to demand that the union fight job losses not passively accept them.’
Dave Wiltshire, ATUA national secretary, said: ‘When Peter Mandelson said at the Labour Party conference this week that he and the government stood right behind GM workers it sent ice up the spine.
‘The only time he has stood behind workers has been to push them over the cliff, he and the government did it at Rovers, the LDV van company and along with GM they are going to do it to Jaguar workers too.
‘The tactics of the Unite leadership has been to deny the GM workers any democratic right to determine policy by simply refusing to hold any union meetings.
‘What they fear is that their members will almost certainly demand a real fight from the unions to save every job at the plant.
‘And the only policy that can guarantee jobs is the demand for the complete nationalisation of GM and a full-on confrontation with the Brown government, something Woodley and Simpson will avoid at all costs even if it means presiding over and going along with thousands of their members being thrown on the scrapheap.’