International Automotive Workers Coordination: Auto workers struggles across the world

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We are pleased to publish the International Information Letter of the International Automotive Workers 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.

International Automotive Workers Coordination
International Information Letter
GM-Stellantis
No. 20 - March 2021

Dear Colleagues,
The merger of PSA and Fiat is now official. The newly formed Stellantis mega-group includes 14 brands, over 100 production plants in more than 30 countries and over 400,000 employees.

Group CEO Tavares said the merger creates a "shield for jobs" and there will be no plant closures as part of the merger. He said similar things when PSA merged with Opel. Since then, thousands of jobs have been destroyed at Opel. The announcement that the merger is expected to result in an annual "synergy effect" of five billion dollars leaves no doubt that further attacks on jobs, wages and working conditions are to be expected. A Stellantis statement said it was "fully focused on realizing the promised synergies."

The statement was prompted by workers at Chrysler's Sterling Heights (Michigan, USA) plant opposing the introduction of an 84-hour work week. This horror working time of 12 hours a day, seven days a week, is explicitly called a test. Against this, Fiat colleagues throughout Italy, with the support of the union Si-COBAS, are calling for a two-hour protest strike on April 1, with meetings to discuss new initiatives. We call for solidarity - this attack must be repulsed by the whole workforce together!

We are publishing the appeal of the Italian colleagues as an attachment to this Infobrief. Make this initiative known in companies and trade unions! Think about initiatives to support the struggle for shorter working hours and to show solidarity with the colleagues in the USA and Italy! In Germany, this could be linked to the current collective bargaining round.

Also in the Eisenach plant (Germany), Tavares comes with the blackmail that the plant only has a future if flexible shift models are introduced beyond the current ten shifts.

The Vauxhall plant in Ellesmere Port / England is already acutely threatened. Stellantis boss Tavares claims that the British government is to blame because cars with combustion engines will no longer be allowed from 2030. He wants to blackmail the British government for several hundred million pounds and have the British taxpayer pay for the necessary investments. The company should have invested in environmentally friendly drive systems long ago - at the expense of its profits! The future of 1,000 jobs plus about 7,000 at suppliers is at stake. Union representative John Cooper says: "Unite will fight any attempt to close the car plant with all available means." No plant should stand alone. That's why the company-wide fight for every job is challenged!

The capitalist crisis chaos with corona crisis, environmental crisis, with structural crises and world economic and financial crisis is not caused by the corona virus, nor will it disappear with the possible containment of this virus. In Brazil, the pandemic is completely out of control. The trend is also moving more and more towards political and overall social crises. We are also getting reports from Poland, France, Italy or Germany about a variety of crisis developments. 

After one year with the Corona pandemic, the failure of the capitalist system is revealed more and more every day. The production of vaccines follows the greed for profit of the corporations, not the health protection of the masses. International corporations like Amazon make maximum profits while millions of small traders around the world lose their livelihood. Dissatisfaction with this development is growing in all countries, but dissatisfaction alone will not change anything. What matters is that the protest is actively organized by workers and their unions, as one letter from Poland says: "Otherwise they will destroy us."

We workers must organize and take responsibility for fighting for our rights instead of waiting for help from proxies. We must also lead the struggle against the governments responsible for the failed crisis management and the whole right-wing development!

The pandemic cannot be fought effectively as long as the capitalist corporations expose their workers to the risk of contagion on a daily basis. In Germany, the militant auto workers support the demand for a consistent "lockdown" for two to three weeks with full pay at the expense of the capitalists. All businesses that are not vital must be temporarily closed so that the pandemic can truly be brought under control and we can once again assemble and move without restriction.

Stellantis' 2020 earnings statement was published at the beginning of March. Both merger partners achieved profits. They sold 5.9 million cars last year, generating 134 billion euros in sales. Operating profit was 7.1 billion euros, or 5.3 percent of sales. General Motors reported a profit of 6.4 billion on sales of 6.9 million cars and $109 billion in revenue, a 5.9 percent return on sales. 

The auto industry had a slump in production and sales worldwide in 2020 by 11.2 million or 15 percent, and in Europe by 23.7 percent. China is the only country still experiencing small economic growth. At the same time, the proportion of electric cars is increasing rapidly. In the spirit of unity between man and nature, the move away from fossil fuels must be welcomed, but battery and hybrid technology can in no way be a permanent solution. Automobile workers are challenged more than ever to combine the fight for jobs, wages and working conditions with the fight to save the environment!

It has been one year since the 2nd International Automotive Workers Conference in South Africa. An important discussion there was the question of anti-communism as the main method of the rulers to divide us workers among ourselves and to paralyze us in unreserved cooperation. Controversial and forward-looking discussions were held and a more developed program of struggle was decided, which includes the struggle against anti-communism. We are promoting a broad discussion of the 'Don't Give Anti-Communism a Chance' movement in the plants and unions to strengthen the unity of the corporate workforces.

We received again a number of information from different countries:

In Germany, the collective bargaining round in the metal and electrical industry started on March 1 with demands for higher wages and shorter working hours. The monopolies are taking tough advantage of the Corona crisis and want another "zero" round until mid-2022. 410,000 workers took part in warning strikes and rallies in the first two weeks of the strike. There is great resentment among the workforce, especially because there is also the threat of attacks on jobs and company pensions. Struggles can and must also be waged under health protection measures!

India: GM has stopped car production at the Talegaon plant at the end of the year and will continue to produce spare parts until March. The struggle of the colleagues and their union, which was strongly represented at the 2nd International Automotive Workers Conference, could not prevent this brutal decision. Thousands of jobs are being destroyed because the profit rate in the competitive Indian market was not sufficient for the greed of the capitalists and investments were too expensive for them. But the struggle and the worldwide solidarity were not in vain, they united us more firmly. We wish all the colleagues involved all the best and further good cooperation.

At the end of January, the workers of the new PSA plant Kénitra in Morocco started a strike for higher wages. The capitalists called in the state to help with military forces to end the strike. The demands could not be enforced at first, but the colleagues have staying power. A union has now been formed at the plant. Solidarity from France and Germany was particularly strong. We received messages of solidarity for the Moroccan colleagues from, among others, two friends from Morocco itself (see IAC homepage). 

Colombia: On January 23rd, a video conference organized by "SABOCAT" took place for the struggling colleagues of ASOTRECOL in Bogota. Joshua Heuertz of SABOCAT called the colleagues "heroes" who have maintained their vigil for reinstatement in the tent in front of the U.S. Embassy for almost ten years. The videoconference certainly helped strengthen the solidarity movement, especially in the U.S.!

In Poland, as we know, Stellantis has built a new PSA plant next to the previous Opel plant in Glivice and wants to take over the workers only on much worse conditions. The trade union Solidarnosc has made a long list, which deteriorations are planned. A colleague writes us: "For higher profits the company will do everything at our expense. Stellantis' strategy is to work more for less pay." In Tychy, even the attendance bonus of 20 euros per month has been eliminated.

 

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