International Info-letter GM-PSA No. 14 – September 2018

From the representatives of the international GM / PSA corporation collaboration

 

Dear colleagues and friends!

 

This newsletter also serves as cordial invitation, in particular to our colleagues at PSA / Opel / Vauxhall in Europe:



Delegates of the militant automotive workers meet on October 27th 2018 in Ruesselsheim / Germany to prepare the 2nd International Automotive Workers Conference. Given that a delegation of the Korean-Chinese car manufacturer Ssangyong will be joining, we would like to use this opportunity and invite you to a meeting on the 28th of October 2018 for colleagues from PSA and Open/Vauxhall from all over Europe. Further information is at the end of this newsletter.

Now to the developments in the automotive industry and within PSA and GM:

The competitive struggle of car manufacturers for global market share is greatly intensifying. Primarily Chinese corporations push forward aggressively; six Chinese corporations are already among the largest 20 automotive companies in the world. PSA has gained slightly by buying Opel / Vauxhall. GM and Ford, who were still front-runners 20 years ago, are fifth and sixth behind Hyundai / Kia. Daimler dropped from third to eleventh place. In contrast, Volkswagen has moved from sixth place to the top, among other things, by massive fraud with falsified emission values for diesel engines.

It is a disaster for the environment that not only the worldwide sales of cars with internal combustion engines is growing unhindered, but also that the cars and engines keep getting bigger. In the midst of the onset of an international structural crisis in the transition from internal combustion engine to alternative drives, all corporations are attacking their workforce, trying to massively increase exploitation, planning to extend and flexibilize working hours and suppress militant colleagues. Many governments are moving dangerously to the right. They permit the extension of working hours by law, as in Austria and France; they engage in racist, nationalist and social-chauvinist propaganda à la Trump (our country first) and they prepare imperialist wars for the redivision of the world in the interest of their international monopolies.

The global trade war, emanating from US President Donald Trump, is a harbinger of incipient annihilation battles for the world market. PSA has bowed to pressure and withdrew from Iran, which is expected to destroy thousands of jobs at Iran Khodro and Saipa. These colleagues, too, have our solidarity for the fight for their jobs - they are part of our corporate workforce! But this retreat also means cuts for the colleagues in the engine plant Douvrin / France: Already in June a part of the workforce had 3-5 days short-time work.

In this situation, we as workers have to fight well organized, international coordinated and with all severity. It is therefore important to strengthen international connections. The International Automobile Workers Coordination sent a letter of solidarity to the workforce of Opel Zaragoza and Ford Valencia, from which we quote:

"In both our companies thousands of colleagues said ‘It's enough!’, we have had enough of blackmail and of continuing to pay for the crisis, just to see managers and shareholders gain immense profits, while those that work every day are losing or at most recovering the losses of recent years.

This means that there are opportunities to increase the resistance, the struggle and the unity of an increasing number of colleagues with which we can oppose the greed and blackmail of the management.


Since the International Automotive Workers' Conference we have reiterated our commitment to supporting such struggles as the only way to preserve dignified jobs worldwide. "


In both Spanish plants mainly the two trade unions CGT and STM offered resistance (both are part of the International Automotive Workers Coordination).

Carlos Tavares, chief of PSA, has continued his blackmailing, about which we had reported in February. In Aspern as well (Vienna / Austria) the commitment to production was combined with the cutting of 140 jobs. In Luton / Great Britain far reaching concessions had been extorted.

In Germany Carlos Tavares did not manage to play off every single plant against each other. Here the entire workforce of all plants, first also with the metal union and the general works council, opposed him. Tavares demanded that the wage increase of 4.3 per cent be canceled, as well as further reductions in Christmas money, holiday pay and bonus payments. He did not succeed. The workforce of the corporation foiled his plans by its protest. On 24th April a common rally took place in front of the gate at Opel Eisenach with big delegations from all locations in Germany. From France as well (from the CGT PSA Mulhouse) and Great Britain (Luton) messages of solidarity were sent.

The workforce was ready to step up the struggle further, which also manifested itself in small company actions like break meetings. The metal union announced growing actions till a strike, but did not organize it in the end. Instead an agreement was reached for the next five years which provided for considerable reductions in standard wage rates and took payments above the agreed union rate into account. As ostensible service in return there is much talk about the renunciation of dismissals in these five years until 2023, but the contract really allows dismissals. Whoever contradicts the outsourcing of his work place can be dismissed at once. This agreement is a surrender to Tavares.

The agreement was not yet signed when it was already announced that a big part of the research and development center in Rüsselsheim (ITEZ) with about 4,000 engineers is about to be outsourced. Via our French colleagues we received a letter of a trade union representative from Altran, one of the companies that is under consideration for the takeover of the ITEZ. He warns the German colleagues that in case of an early takeover two thirds of the colleagues taken over will lose their jobs contrary to the promises.

At the same time the occupational training in Rüsselsheim will be reduced by more than a half and in Eisenach not a single trainee will be taken over. A nationwide collection of signatures for the undiminished continuation of the training is directed against this, starting from Rüsselsheim.

In August 2018 trade union members of the German Opel plants voted on the agreed contract at meetings, not even the wording of the contract was submitted to them. A democratic discussion among the shop steward committee was prevented by not convening a meeting of the shop stewards. Instead substitute works council members were freed for full time activity, who for days spoke in favor of an acceptation of the contract, stirred hatred against militant forces, who supposedly called with all kinds of allegations for the refusal of the collective agreement, so rejecting the safeguarding of jobs. From Rüsselsheim Opel workers reported: The 'Blitz' journal from colleagues for colleagues at Opel informed the workers. After that, a mass discussion developed within the workforce... Mainly the secrecy of the contract and the desorganization was criticized... As regards content the renunciation of the jointly hard-won wage increase and long-standing payments was criticized. 'This makes on average 2,000 € per year. 'We cannot afford this' … It was criticized as well that the general works council and the metal union leadership later gave the 4,300 jobs that were cut their blessing and accepted the decline of the training workshops. 'PSA wants the workforce to subordinate itself to that …., but we are not ready to do that'. This is just the problem of the board of PSA - that the idea of a corporation-wide struggle has developed which manifests itself in practice in solidarity, exchange of views and joint actions like on 24th April, the day of action in Eisenach.” Altogether 96 per cent of the trade union members attending nevertheless agreed to the contract ,– mostly because they expect to safeguard jobs with that, but they will be disappointed. It was this mixture of lies, playing things down and militant slogans which promoted petty-bourgeois illusions, even though without really convincing the workers. At the same time a small part of the workforce voted No. For considerations in principle: “You have to think things threw to the end. What will happen to our youth? What will happen with the collective agreements that will no longer be valid in big companies?”

How ridiculous the calculated propaganda about the alleged losses at Opel is was manifested in July: After Opel had allegedly made no profits for 20 years, suddenly profits of 500 million euros are announced for the first six months of the year – and that in a time which is marked by short time work and loss of production!

Working hours prove to be more and more the focus of class disputes. PSA uses the possibility that president Macron offers with his amendments of laws to increase working hours from 35 hours at the moment. For this Tavares selected Vesoul /France as center of spare parts with about 3,000 employees and threatened that otherwise the plant would not be competitive in the international logistic sector. In reality it was intended that the work of the former spare parts center in Gonesse / France should be taken over by Vesoul, in order to call into question 76 jobs here. The trade union CGT organized protests in Vesoul and smaller strikes of parts of the workforce against the breach of the 35 hour workweek. From Sochaux there came a delegation in support of the about 90 striking colleagues on 22 May. However the other trade unions have signed an agreement that the working hours will be increased to 37.75 hours, but only 36 hours will be payed. At the same time 150 jobs are being cut by outsourcing to “Gt logistics”. With that these trade union leaders not only stabbed the French working-class movement in the back, but also set a negative signal internationally. The CGT declared: “What the employees need is, in contrary, a reduction in working hours and massive new employment.” It must be the common goal to reduce working hours with full wage compensation internationally with the goal of the six hour working day or the 30 hour workweek with full wage compensation. We in the automotive workers coordination have to pursue this goal the more firmly the more the corporations and their governments want to increase working hours.

On 2nd August an unbelievable anniversary took place in Bogota / Colombia: On this day, seven years earlier, the vigil of the dismissed workers of General Motors Colmotores in Bogota had started in a tent in front of the US embassy! A unique performance of endurance and a unique ignorance of General Motors towards the just demands for re-employment! Our colleague Frank Hammer from Detroit / USA was again in Bogota for a solidarity visit in the spring and reported on this in the USA. With a whole circle of supporters in the USA and with the worldwide solidarity, the colleagues in Columbia will struggle until their demands are fulfilled!

From Korea we received a message in February that General Motors is planning to close down the plant Gunsan with about 2,000 employees. At the request of the Korean metal union KMWU, we have organized that a letter of a former colleague of Opel Bochum was written to the colleagues at Gunsan. The trade union members absolutely wanted to learn the lessons of the struggle in Bochum. The letter concluded with the words:

I can only advise the Korean workers to take up the fight, because only those who fight get solidarity. Those who do not fight earn only pity. That buys nothing. A fat lot of use that is.“



The progressive people in many countries this year remember the protest movement of May 1968. In France there was also a general strike fifty years ago. The plant of PSA in Sochaux was occupied by the workforce in June, when the family Peugeot together with the government decided to deploy the paramilitary police troops CRS against the workers. The brutal police intervention cost the lives of two workers – this shows the character of our opponent. One of the representatives of the international GM-PSA-Opel corporation cooperation sent us a message of solidarity on this occasion to the colleagues in Sochaux which we convey in shortened form:

On 11th June 1968 two workers of PSA Sochaux were killed: Pierre Beylot and Henri Blanchet. They were 24 and 49 years old. The first one died through a bullet, the second one fell from a wall. This happened in the course of a brutal attack of the CRS (riot police quartered in barracks) on the workers who had occupied the factory. Since 20th May 1968, 26,000 workers of Sochaux had been on strike within the framework of a nationwide general strike. In the night to the 11th June, the direction of the corporation, the government and the heads of the police decided to smash the occupation of the factory by force. Thus the strike could be smashed by force, but not the trade unions. First in Germany, starting from Volkswagen, the employers began to use a new method: the manipulation of the mode of thinking of the workers to poison them with petty-bourgeois illusions of individual advance, with seeming inclusion and with competition between the workers.

However, we workers are learning to cope with that. We are breaking through the borders between plants and countries. Those who died on 11th June remind us of the fact that the struggle between the working class and the class of capitalists still exists, a struggle of life and death. It was a German in French exile who called to us: Workers of all countries, unite!”

It is up to the corporate workforce to defend all jobs and sites. No work force must stand alone. We must not let ourselves be fooled by the statement that there will be no redundancies and that compensations for terminations are optional. Many colleagues personally feel secure when allegedly, there are no compulsory redundancies. However, we are responsible for the future of the youth. People who give up their jobs for the sake of “voluntary” compensations subsequently agree to “sell” the future of the young people. This is the reason why it is important to get the colleagues out of their mindset of an individual alternative and to fight together for the future, but also to help each other in order to come to grips with national demands and location-sites being played off against each other.

In February, we had already proposed a mutual positive program for the corporate workforce to collect the strength for the corporate-wide struggle. This might include the following claims:

* Struggle for every single working place, training place and each plant!

* Struggle against weekend work and flexibilization!

* Permanent jobs instead of temporary work!

* Unity including suppliers such as Faurecia, GEFCO, Lear, etc.

* Shortening the working time with full wage compensation as an international aim

* Switching to emission-free drives at the shareholders’ cost

* Defending and extending of trade union rights and the right of political activity in the company!

* We must stop the governments’ shift to the right!

 

Of course, these can only be general demands as a framework program that can also be specified for each site. Nevertheless, it would push forward our fighting unity within the corporate group. What do you think?

 

For discussion, we invite you to the European council on 28 October 2018 in Rüsselsheim with colleagues of as many sites as possible, especially from Spain, France and Germany. Rüsselsheim is close to the Frankfurt airport and long-distance train station, and is also easily accessible from France. Please report back as soon as possible, by 15 October at the latest, how many colleagues will participate! We will then organize accommodation and board as well as, if necessary, a pick up from the airport or the train station. On Saturday, 27 October a delegates meeting of the automotive workers coordination for Germany takes place in which we welcome you to participate. In the evening, there will be a party and on Sunday the consultations for the delegates of the PSA sites are planned.

 

We must definitely work together for the strengthening of our coordination! We propose to discuss that possibly from each participating site short reports are to be sent on a monthly or quarterly basis! Additionally such reports shall be published on the website of the international automotive workers coordination.

 

At the end, a prior notice: The 2nd International Automotive Workers Conference will take place at the beginning of 2020 in South Africa. This will be for sure a new highlight for the cooperation and coordination of our struggles. It is important that also the PSA workforce participates in the conference. Please already plan to elect the delegations and prepare your journey! Of course, you will get more detailed information on time and place of the conference and to the rules for the delegations well ahead of time.



With kind regards and in solidarity,

 

Fritz Hofmann