International Information Letter GM-PSA No. 17 – November 2019

Dear colleagues, dear friends! This information letter informs about important current events and helps in mobilization and the last phase of preparation for the 2nd International Automotive Workers Conference from 19 to 23 February 2020 in Johannesburg, South Africa.

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The automotive industry is a pacemaker for the initiated transition to a new world economic crisis. In India 350,000 jobs in the auto industry have already been destroyed, in China 220,000; in Iran 50,000; as well as ten thousands more all over the world. The suppliers are hardest hit. Michelin apparently plans to shut down four tire plants in France with 2000 employees. Car sales are dropping worldwide, at the same time international structural crises are taking effect in the transition to electromobility and the digitalization of production, which all together enormously increases competition. Entire companies can be expected to vanish.

With the announced merger of PSA with Fiat-Chrysler (FCA) a leading automotive company shall emerge which can struggle for world market leadership. Neither PSA nor FCA can do this alone, due to the necessary gigantic invests in the transition to electric drives. With the merger a new company emerges with 400,000 employees and a production of 8.7 million cars annually, number four behind Volkswagen, Renault-Nissan and Toyota. The advantages of such a merger for international finance capital can only be realized through the annihilation of jobs, especially in the light of crises, intensified exploitation and plant closures. The sale of Opel to PSA already led to the cutting of 6,000 jobs at Opel. The company workforces have to grow together and use their power of 400,000 employees against the upcoming attacks. It’s good that the French trade union CGT and the Italian CGIL-FION have agreed to close collaboration.

In this situation it is significant that 48,000 GM-Workers in USA went on strike for 40 days. It is the first larger strike in twelve years and the longest strike of US-automotive industry since 1970. The strike was not only led for higher pay, but also against plant closures and especially against the degrading and divisive system of different wage systems. The automotive companies enforced this system since 2008 in the world economic and financial crisis. Newly recruited colleagues were downgraded. Since then were no wage increases, while GM made 35 billion dollars in profits. This resolute strike expresses the high fighting spirit of the colleagues. The colleagues still in higher wage systems also fought for abolishing the multi-tiered wage system. The strike had great impact. Production stood still in 34 plants. Losses for GM were at least 2 billion dollars. The outcome is a foul compromise with only small wage increases and a partial harmonization of the lower wage grades. The planned plant closures are factually accepted. General Motors payed 11,000 dollars per employee for accepting the contract. In the light of income losses, trade union members accepted the outcome only by a close margin with 57 percent against 43 percent. The ICOG wrote a solidarity statement for this strike and for the wage negotiations of automotive suppliers in South Africa, which was an important support in the struggle.

In Detroit two action days took place at the same time on 20 September 2019 - the strike of the auto workers at GM and the climate action day which was especially organized by young people. Our colleague Frank Hammer held a speech at the climate day of action:

The nationwide strike by 46,000 UAW members to determine the fate of GM, Ford and Chrysler auto-workers will have ripple effects for the entire working class and GM communities, right here in Detroit and Warren, in the US and globally.

The other strike, today's youth-led global climate strike, is a huge step in our fight to shape the fate of our planet, the fate of human civilization and all living things.

As Detroiters, it is our historic duty and obligation to merge these two strikes so that they are one...Climate activists must support the autoworkers - as the Sunrise Movement already has – and the autoworkers must be recruited into the ranks of the climate activists.“

 

In Oshawa (Canada)

workers temporarily occupied the GM plant threatened with closure, so rescuing at least some of the jobs.

 

In South Korea in September, 8000 workers at GM in Incheon and Changwon and 2000 employees of the technology center went on strike for an improved wage agreement. There were mutual declarations of support from Korea and the USA. The ICOG and the public speaker of GM gave short statements.

 

In Mexico colleagues at the GM plant Silao declined overtime work as strike breakers. A number of colleagues were dismissed for that. They sent a video message and continued their struggle. That is practical international solidarity in the spirit of the international automotive workers coordination!

 

The International Coordinating Group of the International Automotive Workers' Conference also sent solidarity messages to Korea and the USA.

 

In Germany at the end of June,the metal workers' trade union called up to a big demonstration in Berlin against threatened attacks on jobs and working conditions with 50,000 participating. Friends of the Automotive Workers Conference appeared visibly.

 

Opel sold a great deal of its German development center in Ruesselsheim to Segula. Engineers who were not willing to change over to Segula partly received compensation. Contracts were terminated for 23 colleagues who declined changing to Segula. So much for the lie that jobs would be secure until 2023.

 

Since the end of September it has become more and more clear that the Opel plant in Eisenach (Germany) is again being threatened to close and that also other German plants are being called into question. Far too little was invested in Eisenach for the introduction of the new model Grandland. For the most part the work pace can not be kept up. And so the plant could not reach the planned production numbers by far by the end of October. Management wants to push through Saturday as a regular work day, something that the workforce has prevented for almost 30 years. With smaller militant actions, such as meetings during work time, the workforce is preparing for the necessary hard struggle that must be led in the entire corporation - in the face of the merger with Fiat-Chrysler - also in this new large corporation. Similar to the USA, this is also aimed against the divisive rejection of unified wages. Especially the newly employed colleagues are waging a bitter struggle against the down-grading and have the support of the majority of the workforce.

 

From India Tushar Kamte, trade union chairman from the GM plant in Talegaon near Pune, has addressed the International Automotive Workers Coordination with the request for solidarity against the destruction of jobs by means of compensation payments.

 

In Glivice (Poland) PSA is planning a new factory for transporters. It will be built on the grounds of the present factory, but the workforce is supposed to get far worse working conditions. The workforce of the present factory will be reduced – this year alone by 800 jobs. The colleagues are supposed to apply for the jobs with worse conditions in the new factory. The European Works Council has uttered determined protest.

 

In China workers protests against dismissals and back pay are increasing in the auto industry. Within the first seven months there were already 25 such struggles, in all of last year 5.

 

In this situation a small group is apparently trying to spread confusion. An organization which boasts by calling itself “wsws – World Socialist Web Site“ is traveling all over and agitating against the unions, especially in the USA and in Germany. While criticism of the trade union leadership is necessary, especially in these countries, it would, however, be stupid to leave the unions. It is so cheap and harmful to call up to leaving and to avoid the daily work of convincing and organizing for the unions as fighting organizations. You cannot attack head on a union like the UAW which is just on strike, even if some of its leaders are proven to be corrupt.

 

In Colombia the courageous and enduring struggle struggle of the injured GM workers of ASOTRECOL from the vigil in front of the US embassy is continuing. At the same time, attacks on the workers and their two trade unions are repeatedly taking place. It is necessary that these three trade unions cooperate closely.

 

Make all efforts to send strong delegations to the 2nd International Automotive Workers Conference! Elect delegates! Prepare the conference well. Registration forms, as well as documents for preparation, especially the draft for a joint program of struggle can be found at www.automotiveworkers.org. Motions for improving the program of struggle can be submitted by 15 January 2020. In the corporation forms we must evaluate the cooperation of the past years and discuss the tasks that lie ahead. We must also decide on whether we want to continue the joint corporate work at GM and PSA (and presumably FCA) or if we should elect representatives for the respective corporations for a joint cooperation. The representations will present a report on their work and make a proposal for further cooperation.

 

With greetings of solidarity,

 

Fritz Hofmann

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