Friday, 18 May 2012

Ain't that good news?

Imagine you went to the factory where you worked one day and the boss told you that it might be closing. You'd be understandbly concerned. If, after a few months of uncertainty, the boss told you that it wouldn't be closing but he'd be cutting your pay and other conditions, you might be relieved to still have a job but hardly feel like cracking open the champagne.

That's exactly what's happened at the Vauxhall car plant in Ellesmere Port, Cheshire. But politicians from all the main parties have been falling over themselves to hail the decision by General Motors to build its new Astra there in return fot the workers and their union Unite agreeing to a four year pay deal, starting with a two year pay freeze, and more "flexibility" over shift patterns and other conditions as a "victory for Britain".

The other factory in the running to build the new Astra was the Opel plant in Bochum, Germany, now threatened with closure. Presumably the workers there weren't cheap or "flexible" enough. Clearly General Motors had already decided to close a factory in Europe and used the opportunity to play off British and German workers and cut the pay and conditions at the one that they kept open. I'm sure they'd claim that it was necessary to do so in order to keep the factory open but I doubt very much that GM's top executives or shareholders are taking cuts to their pay or dividends.

All this underlines the need for trade union co-operation and solidarity across Europe. Imagine what would have happened if the workers in Britain and Germany had told GM that they weren't prepared to swap their pay and conditions for their jobs and would strike if it shut either factory.

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