International Info-letter GM-PSA No. 16 - June 2019

Dear colleagues, dear friends! This information letter is intended, above all, to help prepare the second International Automotive Workers Conference to be held from 19 to 23 February 2020 in Johannesburg, South Africa.

 

This conference is of particular importance in view of the intensified competition of the automobile monopolies for leadership of the world market and in view of the accelerated transition to the environmental catastrophe. The background for this is the beginning structural crisis in the automotive industry with the switch to electro-mobility. This structural crisis is linked to another structural crisis based on the digitalization of production and the signs of a transition to a new global economic and financial crisis. The competition between the international automotive monopolies for leadership on the world market is intensifying and is to be carried out on the backs of employees and their families, as well as at the expense of the natural environment. In this situation, we automotive workers are challenged to go on the offensive internationally.

General Motors is concentrating on the most profitable sectors (especially large pickups) and, after leaving Europe, South Africa and India, is now also getting rid of a number of smaller models with lower profit margins. A total of eight plants are to be closed. PSA is trying to further cut back its workforce in Europe and increase exploitation.
In this competitive struggle each company tries to play off its workforce against others by means of social-chauvinistic manipulation of opinion. Because all corporations are afraid of a joint struggle across company and border lines for jobs, wages, working conditions and for saving the natural environment.
At General Motors division between workers in North America and Mexico is being pursued. In North America, Korea and Colombia, massive reduction of personnel is planned.
PSA also continues to make massive job cuts and continues to close smaller plants. After St. Ouen (Paris), now Hérimoncourt (near Sochaux), the original plant of the Peugeot family, is to be shut down. Further job cuts are also planned at the Mulhouse, Aspern, Ellesmere Port, Glivice, Rüsselsheim, Kaiserslautern and Eisenach plants. The workforces are to be reduced and, if necessary, supplemented with temporary workers. A part of the development center in Rüsselsheim will be sold to Segula. And this is just the beginning. At the same time, GM and PSA invest only half-heartedly in electric drives and neglect, in particular, the development of fuel cell technology. The use of batteries and hybrid drives is not a sustainable solution for a transport system without emissions.
There are a number of struggles against the planned destruction of jobs:
At the PSA plant in Hérimoncourt (France), both shifts went on strike on 11 March against the impending closure and got strong support from the population.
In Rüsselsheim and Eisenach (Germany) there was a whole series of smaller militant actions, such as demonstrations and "flash mobs", demonstrations at works meetings, signature collections etc. for the preservation of jobs and training places. The workforce achieved a partial success, and vocational training is being continued in Rüsselsheim and Kaiserslautern. The fight for training that is at least at the same level as before continues in all plants.
At the GM plant in Oshawa, Canada, strikes and actions against the threatened closure of the plant with 3,000 employees have been going on since November. On 8 and 9 January there were two independently organized sit-down strikes in two shifts, which GM declared to be illegal. We cannot wait for permission to defend our livelihood! On 8 February the staff of the supplier Lear went on strike.

There is an important development in the USA with a center in Detroit: the movement for a radical shift in car production to zero-emission engines, renewable energies and related products. It brings together important forces from the working-class movement and the environmental movement and receives support from individual congressmen. The idea of this movement is that only the combined forces of workers and the environmental movement are able to cope with the powerful international corporations of the auto and oil industries. On February 20, a public forum of these forces took place in Detroit under the title "Green New Deal", combined with a demonstration before the Auto Show. Our fellow combatant Frank Hammer is one of the spokesmen of this movement for workers' rights and the environment. He declared at the public forum: "It's unlikely that we're going to solve the climate crisis in capitalism". And he added that the same goes for the guarantee of a good job. "Only under socialism will we have the framework to create a truly human, just and fair society". It will be a very important task of the second International Automotive Workers Conference in South Africa to discuss these experiences and positions in depth, so that the autoworkers take the lead in the struggle to save the environment. It is not necessary that we agree on all questions of the social perspective or the way to a liberated society, but it is necessary that we discuss these questions and build a strong united international force on the issues in which we agree, which predominate.

The political repression in France, against which we have protested several times, has reached a new sad peak: nine colleagues from the CGT trade union at the PSA plant in Poissy are to be sentenced to six months in prison on probation, according to the public prosecutor. The case concerns an alleged 17-minute deprivation of liberty. There was a protest rally in front of the Versailles court with delegations from several auto factories. We call up to protest against these plans. The verdict is to be handed down on 28 June. Letters of solidarity can be sent to ulcgtyvelinesnord@wanadoo.fr.

In November, the International Coordinating Group discussed the proposal for an international day of action, which we had taken up at a meeting of representatives from Brazil, Colombia and Germany. The idea of a corporate-wide day of action at General Motors is certainly generally correct and necessary. However, it was a mistake to call for such a day of action on 1 February on very short notice and without thorough consultation with the representatives of all workforces and trade unions involved. We should have known this from the experience of our past successful days of action. Before successful days of action we had often held meetings with representatives of several workforces, where the plans and preparation were thoroughly discussed.
On the day of action on 1 February there was a rally in Sao José dos Campos in Brazil in front of the factory, while in the other factories only smaller actions were possible, such as a joint declaration by colleagues in Eisenach. A day of action cannot be fully successful and show our strength if planned so spontaneously. In Germany, for example, this requires long-term persuasion work among the masses of trade union members, and such action days usually have to be fought for against the will of the trade-union leadership. In addition, we autoworkers cannot only react directly to attacks with an international day of action, but have to focus on our common positive demands: For a reduction of working hours with full wage compensation, for saving the unity of humanity and nature, for political rights such as the full and legal right to strike in all matters and the fight against the rightward development of the governments, including the imperialist preparation for war. We must draw lessons from this for a long-term and thorough preparation of an international day of action. Because it is necessary to show our strength internationally and so also win new forces.

Our second Automotive Workers Conference is very necessary and timely for the international joining of workforces across company and national borders against the attempts at division. This second conference shall decide on an international program of struggle. Special emphasis must be placed on the unity of economic and ecological issues, but also questions of the fight against the rightward development of governments (not only in the USA, Brazil, Turkey or India) or the fight for peace must be discussed.

It is now high time to step up the mobilization and preparations for the conference in South Africa and to collect donations for travel expenses. It is important to consult early about participation, to register, apply for a visa, book flights, etc. and to elect delegates in each country. For example, if you want to travel to South Africa from India, Colombia or Mexico, you will need a visa.

So that the Automotive Workers Conference can make binding decisions, there will be a Delegates Assembly consisting of five elected delegates from each of the participating countries. The more countries that send authorized delegations, the greater the authority of the conference. It is therefore important to strive for the election of delegates in all countries. It is also possible for participating organizations and individuals to agree on a delegate key.
These delegations should also prepare country reports. Further information can be found on the website of the Automotive Workers Conference: www.automotiveworkers.org

There will again be group forums at the conference to discuss the common struggle in the groups. So far we have had a forum for GM and PSA together and there is no proposal to change that. We need reinforcement (and rejuvenation) for the international representatives, also with PSA colleagues. Now the elected representatives are: Carlos Luiz Prates Mancha / Brazil, Frank Hammer / USA and Fritz Hofmann / Germany.

This report is based on a lot of information, for which we would like to thank you. It was compiled this time by Frank and Fritz.


With greetings of solidarity