5,000 European workers marched to the Opel plant in Antwerp yesterday afternoon to demand that it must not close as a result of the GM-Magna deal.
There were motor car workers present from Germany, Spain, Poland, Austria, France and Hungary.
They had responded to the the European Metalworkers’ Federation (EMF) call for mobilisation and solidarity in the light of the current restructuring of GM Europe and the threat of closure of the Antwerp plant.
The EMF Trade Union Coordination Group for General Motors, chaired by EMF General Secretary Peter Scherrer, met in the morning to discuss future strategy and measures before joining the demonstration.
The march started at 1pm with the formation of a human chain between the plant’s East to West locker.
Speakers at the rally included Peter Scherrer, Klaus Franz, the Chairman of EEF (the GM European Works Council) and the leaders of the Belgian trade unions.
Scherrer told the rally: ‘I am very glad to see so many workers and people here.
‘We welcome very warmly our colleagues from Spain, England, Germany, Poland, Hungary and France and of course the thousands of colleagues and friends from Belgium.
‘You are all here to support the colleagues in Opel Antwerp in their efforts to safeguard the future.
‘This is not only about a plant and the workers; it is about their families, the community and the future of the whole region.
‘We want the new management of Opel to show respect for the legitimate demands of all the European Opel workers.
‘We will address management again and again regarding our principle demands, which are: NO to the closure of plants and NO to forced redundancies!
‘We are here to show our solidarity with all the Antwerp colleagues. We stand together in fighting for our aims. We all know that when we do not fight for Antwerp today, tomorrow it will be Bochum, Luton, Zaragossa, etc.
‘We all know that if we do not stick together as firmly as possible we all will lose this fight.
‘We ask management to have a clear industrial concept that respects the need to save employment.
‘We ask for a clear commitment to social responsibility. We ask for fair and correct negotiations and no blackmailing.
‘We do not want to enter into a business game where one plant is played off against another, and where one worker is played off against another.
‘The future of Opel Europe is only possible when these principles are followed. That is what we are fighting for.
‘We need responsible behaviour from the governments and politicians.
‘We will not accept that workers are the hostages of political games. We want effective co-ordination of help, support and aid given to companies at European level.
‘We will not accept that some are the lucky ones while others have to suffer hardship just because their government is not willing to support companies.
‘It is time for a real European approach. Nationalistic rhetoric will not help; it is only by standing firmly together that we will win our fight.
‘Thank you all: Unity is our strength.’
Of the German plants Bochum is hit the hardest, with 2,000 workers expected to lose their jobs.
The staff at the Kaiserslautern-based Opel plant is to be cut by 460.
2,100 jobs are to be axed in the Spanish city of Zaragossa with some of the jobs transferred to Germany.
Magna is to shut down the Antwerp plant in Belgium axing 2,500 jobs, while 1,400 jobs are to be terminated in the UK.