Experiences of former car workers in Australia

Documented from "Vanguard" CPA ML Australia: International Automotive Workers Coordination: Auto workers struggles across the world We are pleased to publish the International Information Letter of the International Automotive Workers Coordination (International Newsletter of GM-Stellantis Coordination), which documents the continuous struggles and solidarity actions of Auto workers across the world. A former car industry comrade has provided a short introduction on the demise of the auto industry here in Australia.

US and Japanese multinationals in the automotive and automotive component industries shut all their remaining plants in Australia in the first two decades of the 21st Century. Initially this caused massive disruption to workers’ lives and whole communities. The multinationals and their compliant governments here at both national and state levels got some temporary reprieve from the working class movement as the automotive industry was such a highly unionized and organised part of the overall economy.

However, many of the workers thrown out of automotive plants have ended up working in other production areas and services sectors of the economy. Their experience of the power of the collective has (much to the bosses' dislike) spread into previously poorly organised or passively unionised areas of the economy.

For example, in Victoria, an Australian state which had a big automotive industry sector, there has been a significant increase in workers' struggles and strike action in food production plants, by farm workers in large agribusinesses and large wholesale warehousing which distribute the imported products of multinational companies. In March 2021 production workers at US multinational food manufacturer, McCormicks, have been on strike for over three weeks in pursuit of a first wage increase for five years. McCormicks supplies US multinational fast food manufacturers KFC and MacDonalds.

Some redundant automotive manufacturing workers re-trained in completely different areas such as disabilities and aged care sectors. They took with them to these previously poorly organized sectors a wealth of experience in worker struggle and now contribute to organizing in their new employment areas.

Multinational corporations in the automotive industry will continue to automate, continue to relocate plants or lay off workers. Nothing is more certain than this as long as capitalism exists. However, the experience of the decimation of the automotive industry in Australia is that workers have turned a bad thing in to a good thing by sharing their experience of struggle in new situations in different sectors of the economy, effectively expanding the level of organisation of the working class movement across a greater area of the economy as a whole.

 

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