xyz | 19.10.2004 07:17 | World
Vauxhall delegation at Bochum car plant
Dear brothers and sisters,
The workers at the German Opel plant in Bochum (Ruhr) downed tools on Thursday afternoon, October 14. Production has been at a standstill since then, including the five shifts up to the weekend. Early on Monday morning, October 18, 2004, a workplace meeting decided to continue the strike. This will have immediate effects on production in other General Motors plants in Belgium, Britain, and Poland, as the supplies of exhaust pipes and axles from Bochum are stopped.
The walk-out last Thursday was the spontaneous reaction of a militant and experienced workforce at the Bochum plant after the brothers and sisters had been informed about management plans to slash well over 10,000 jobs in Europe, above all in the German plants, and to cut wages and other benefits. They fear that the destruction of 4,000 jobs in Bochum alone would mean the beginning of the end of the Bochum plant. In the traditional Rüsselsheim Opel plant, some 4,000 jobs in production, administration and research are at stake, too. The entire community there is shocked and fearful about the future of the town. But unlike in Bochum, there has not been any industrial action so far but rather „business as usual“ as a works council spokesperson told reporters.
The movement of the Bochum workers has found an enormous echo, support and solidarity all over Germany. Many trade unionists from other sectors and unions in the region came along to express their solidarity, messages were received from abroad, too. The workers have put pressure upon their local works council and shop stewards committee to make sure that no deal with the management is made without a prior vote being taken at the workplace assembly and that the assembly should have the final say on the calling off or continuation of the strike.
The German Opel works council wants to make a deal with GM management to exclude compulsory redundancies. Union militants, however, warn that this is not enough as even with solutions like voluntary redundancies and early retirement many jobs will be destroyed forever and there will be no future for the younger generation.
An international day of action has been called for all GM factories in Europe for Tuesday, October 19. GM have a policy of “divide and rule” and want to play off the workforce of different factories against each another. Let nobody outside Germany believe that if they allow the German Opel workforce to be slaughtered they could save their heads. The brothers and sisters in Bochum need your active solidarity. A standstill of production is the only language that the GM bosses will understand. Otherwise they will succeed. Protest action at all GM plants internationally will strengthen the Bochum workers and are decisive to break through the dictate of the GM headquarters.
Let nobody think: I will not be affected. Past experience shows: Even if workforce, shop stewards and unions are prepared to make enormous concessions to the management in terms of job losses and wage cuts and longer hours, the employers will not let us live and work in peace. These concessions on our part would not represent the happy end of the problem, but only the beginning of a downward spiral. As long as workers´ wages in Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and further east are only a fraction of our wages in Western Europe, the GM bosses will insist on pressing wages and conditions down to Eastern European levels. “We should not be surprised if in 15 or 20 years time subcontracted workers and casuals will be queuing outside the factory gates to be picked up and called in for a day´s work”, a worker from Rüsselsheim told us. We must not allow this to happen.
Send messages of solidarity to the Opel workers in the Bochum plant:
Fax +49 234 - 989 2680
Fax +49 234 - 989 3499
Copies to Labournet Germany:
Fax +49 234 – 3254143, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Find further updated information at Labournet Germany: www.labournet.de
Hans-Gerd Öfinger, „Der Funke“ editorial board, Germany