WORKERS at the General Motors Truck and Van plant in Luton were yesterday voting on a management offer that cuts their hours and pay.
The offer, which has already been agreed by the leadership of the Amicus and Transport and General Workers sections of Unite, reduces the working week from 37 to 30 hours.
The reduction of seven hours pay a week will be offset by a 50 per cent supplement of lost pay.
This means that the company will make an extra payment equivalent to half the seven hours being lost, with workers facing a drop in weekly pay of between £35 – £40.
This cut in the pay and hours will not result in a straight forward four-day week however.
According to a joint union statement handed to the workforce: ‘Given the erratic nature of how the Company receives orders for our vans, a straight forward reduced working day, or a four-day week does not suit its needs as the amount of vans required varies from one month to the next.’
In order to ‘suit the needs’ of the Company, GM – with the endorsement of the union leadership – the working week will actually be increasing to 40 hours a week.
This is spelt out in the management briefing document which states: ‘…from 1st March 2009 each working week will be increased to 40 hours per week (if there are no down days that week) to maximise the banked time accrued.’
In other words workers will be working a ‘normal’ 40 hour week, for which they will be paid for 33.5 hours, with the excess hours worked banked against ‘down days’, those days when management decides to close the factory.
According to GM the number of ‘down days’ it estimates will occur during the duration of this agreement – it is proposed to run from February 16 to December 31 2009 – totals 44 days.
To add insult to injury the Company has told the workers that should this deal be accepted they will reinstate the three-week summer closure which they were intending to reduce to two, the extra week being taken as down days.
The threat made by both GM and the union Shop Stewards Committee to Luton GM workers is that if they fail to agree this proposal it will result in ‘demand-matched hours’, that is, if the company decides to close the plant for a week workers would receive no pay except the 50 per cent supplement.
The union communiqué ends with the message: ‘There are no guarantees of pay or jobs if demand continues to fall.’
This deal, far from safeguarding jobs in GM, brings closer the likelihood that GM closes down the plant.
The Luton plant must be occupied and UNITE must take national strike action to have it nationalised to defend all workers’ wages and jobs.