International Information Letter GM / PSA / Fiat-Chrysler No. 18 - April 2020

Dear colleagues and friends This newsletter is intended to inform you about the 2nd International Conference of Automobile Workers and about the developments in connection with the Corona Pandemic and the global economic crisis. We have received reports from India, Spain, France, Germany, Colombia and the Philippines - thank you very much!

Information Letter No. 18 in PDF

Lettera informativa internazionale GM / PSA / Fiat-Chrysler No. 18 - aprile 2020 in Italian

May 1st as our international day of struggle is very important especially in the current situation! We are facing huge challenges in the automotive industry. That is why it is not acceptable if, as in Germany, the May 1 events are cancelled by the trade union leadership. We must use 1 May in particular to reaffirm the demand for a reduction in working hours with full wage compensation! We propose to all our colleagues that this demand and specific local demands should be brought to public attention in an appropriate form on 1 May. In the USA, there is a broad movement for a general strike on 1 May (mayday2020general strike), in Germany, as in many other countries, we are fighting for public rallies - with due regard, of course, to health protection. If rallies are not possible, then posters can be put up, banners can be put up in central places or even at home.

We should make the results of the 2nd International Conference of Automobile Workers in Johannesburg (South Africa) in February 2020 known everywhere. The international programme of struggle that was launched there will be published in the main languages on the coordination website www.automotiveworkers.org in time for May 1st. The conference with more than 200 participants from 19 countries was very successful and also elected a strengthened International Coordination Group. Unfortunately, at the conference some of the Spanish participants questioned further cooperation because they did not want to accept that the struggle against anticommunism was included in the programme of struggle. The majority of the delegates decided so because anticommunism is an attack on the working class unit and on all progressive people.

The corporate forum for GM, PSA and Fiat-Chrysler has chosen a strengthened coordination. In addition to the three previous representatives Frank (USA), Mancha (Brazil) and Fritz (Germany), Verena (Germany), a young woman of trust from the Opel plant in Rüsselsheim, was elected. In addition, several regional and group managers were recruited. It was decided to extend the cooperation at GM and PSA to the newly merged Fiat-Chrysler group. More than 40 colleagues from the USA, Italy, Germany, Brazil, Spain, India, France, South Africa, Indonesia, Philippines, Tunisia, Turkey, Ukraine and the Netherlands participated in the forum. Messages of solidarity were adopted for Zaragoza (Spain), Bogota (Colombia), Talegaon (India) and Silao (Mexico).

The debate on the international days of action was important and driving forward. Several participants criticized the actionist and arbitrary approach, based on a part of the Group spokespersons to a day of action at the beginning of 2019. Without prior discussion and decision-making within the workforce, an international day of action was to be held within a few weeks. However, a successful day of action needs much more lead time and preparation. Together with colleagues in the companies and within the trade unions, it must be possible to have sufficient discussion and to gain a broad basis for cooperation. It was confirmed that it was very good to have strike actions in three plants in Brazil on that day, but an international day of action in the true sense of the word did not take place.

Part of the conference was also a militant, lively demonstration in Vereeniging near Johannesburg as well as a very nice cultural programme, which was mainly supported by the South African hosts.

The newly elected representatives of the cooperation are grateful for the trust and will fight to develop the coordination to a higher level. The most important blow against the ruling powers is how we coordinate ourselves better and better. We rely on the trusting cooperation within the three groups. Each of them is asked to use the homepage for exchange and write regular reports. We also want to encourage other forces to join our solidarity charter.

The successful conference is an excellent basis for tackling the challenge of the current crisis situation with increased strength for international cooperation.

 

On the Corona Crisis and the Economic Crisis

The Corona pandemic has already claimed hundreds of thousands of lives. Colleagues from the car industry plants and their families are also affected. Our sympathy and solidarity goes out to them! Indirectly, many millions of people are affected by plant closures, redundancies and short-time working. This is not only a consequence of the virus, but also, and above all, of the world economic and financial crisis and the structural crises which have already affected capitalist production before Corona. All these crises are dramatically aggravating each other. The union of the automobile workers worldwide is challenged as rarely before.

What is the situation? Most of the General Motors, PSA and Fiat-Chrysler plants are closed. This was not voluntary. There has been a wave of protest and fighting in many countries with demands for temporary closures of plants for protection against the virus, sometimes combined with the justified demand that the companies continue to pay 100% of the wages. "Offensive" at Opel Bochum issued a catalogue of demands which was further disseminated in various car workforces and other companies. At the head of the campaign were Fiat colleagues in Italy, but colleagues in the USA, Germany, Spain, France and other countries also put pressure on the company for temporary closure. In some cases, wages are now being paid in full, as in India or Brazil. In some cases, compensation is paid for short-time working, as in Germany and Spain, that is the minimum; the companies are subsidised from our tax money by paying the short-time working allowance. But many colleagues have also lost their jobs, especially temporary workers andLettera informativa internazionale GM / PSA / Fiat-Chrysler No. 18 - aprile 2020 employees of supplier companies. There are also sites that are still working, especially in logistics (Bochum (Germany), Vesoul (France). Here, no consideration is given to the health of the employees; profit comes first! Occasionally the production of ventilators was taken up (USA, France). But there can be no talk of a general conversion of production to ventilators, as a colleague from France rightly criticises.

What is the next step? In India, there is a state-ordered closure, in other countries plants are still open. The company bosses cannot wait to restart production. Empty factories without production are horror for them. They are reminded daily that without us workers, all the production facilities are worth nothing. The competition for the top of the world market is intensifying considerably in the face of the crises. Companies try to start production earlier than others in order to have an advantage in the competition.

The bosses of PSA and General Motors have declared that they want to start production as early as possible. PSA already wanted to start up production in Valenciennes (France) on 31st March. This failed due to the resistance of the workers and unions. Then they tried it in Vigo (Spain), they also had to give up this plan. The summit was the plan to restart the Mulhouse plant in France early. Mulhouse is the centre of the Corona pandemic in France!

It is a fight for our health, but one that we are also responsible for the whole population. The spread of the virus must be stopped, but the production of goods such as cars must take a back seat. At the same time, however, we must also fight against the destruction of jobs and the shifting of the burden of the crisis onto us. It is to be expected that company bosses will try to justify plant closures, redundancies and Lettera informativa internazionale GM / PSA / Fiat-Chrysler No. 18 - aprile 2020deterioration in wages and working conditions with the consequences of the corona pandemic. However, these are primarily economic crises which have their legitimate cause in the capitalist system. Even before Corona, the closure of the Talegaon plant in India was planned, and there were also closure plans in Bogota (Colombia), Sao José (Brazil), Rosario (Argentina), Aspern (Austria) or Eisenach (Germany). According to the prevailing civil law, in times of crisis, contracts can also be suspended, for example, by waiving the right to dismiss. This is obviously already being considered! Environmental protection requirements are also to be reversed.

In March the car market in Europe collapsed by 55 percent, in the USA by 38 percent. In China the decline in February was 80 percent. It is possible that attempts will be made to stop certain plants from starting up at all after the production stop. The workforces must be very vigilant and, if necessary, mobilise the entire population in their regions to fight for every job.

We call for solidarity with Travis Watkins, who, as an employee of an outsourced company and a union representative, has worked to protect the health of his colleagues in Wyoming, Michigan (USA). Support and spread the petition at change.org: "Reinstate UAW member Travis Watkins at once!".

We also call for solidarity with Katrin Papke, who was employed by Opel in Bochum (Germany) through the outsourced company Neovia. She was fired for political reasons because she stands for the "class struggle against capitalist exploitation". The court date for her lawsuit against this is May 27. Messages of solidarity are welcome.

Please, report regularly on the devLettera informativa internazionale GM / PSA / Fiat-Chrysler No. 18 - aprile 2020elopments in your countries, corporations and factories - especially on May 1st! Make the results of the International Automobile Workers Conference in South Africa known everywhere! And please stay healthy!

 

With solidarity greetings

on behalf of the representatives of international cooperation

Fritz Hofmann

 

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