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Longbridge workers still fighting to defend jobs
THERE ARE growing fears that up to half of the workforce at Birmingham's Longbridge car factory could be made redundant as part of a possible joint venture with the Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation (SAIC).
Clive Walder, Birmingham Socialist Party
The company blame falling sales of current models and won't bear the losses for the 18 months before a new model can be produced at Longbridge. SAIC are insisting on the redundancies now because they don't want to pay for them after the deal is signed.
A key part of the deal is the profitable engine manufacturing subsidiary relocating to China. Already casting equipment has been sent to China as part of an agreement already reached to share (or more accurately give away) technology and intellectual property. It is strongly rumoured that the K Series engine production line will also be shipped to China when an agreement to manufacture engines for Land Rover expires next year.
With half of the current workforce going, doubts about the plant remaining open must surface in workers' minds. The plant stands on a huge site and doubtless more money would be made by selling the land than making cars.
This has all the hallmarks of a cynical asset-stripping exercise. The joint venture will be 70:30 in favour of SAIC. They will make a killing using expertise built up by Longbridge workers. The current British bosses will also get a reasonable slice of the action while the workers will get a redundancy cheque and many will never work again.
Not the workers' fault
If people don't want to buy the current cars built at Longbridge, that's not the workers' fault. That's the fault of the incompetent bosses and we should make them pay.
With over-capacity in the car industry world-wide and attempts to make skilled workers redundant in favour of cheap labour, there has never been a more urgent need for a global plan of production.
Workers in Birmingham and the West Midlands didn't throw their weight behind the battle to keep Longbridge open five years ago to see the plant asset-stripped and the destruction of skilled jobs. After the closure of Jaguar in Coventry, workers in the West Midlands don't need any more large scale redundancies.
TGWU general secretary, Tony Woodley, promised a 'bumpy ride' if redundancies are announced. We need a massive campaign amongst the workers of Birmingham and the West Midlands to defend these jobs.
When tens of thousands of workers marched through Birmingham in April 2000, the socialist called for the nationalisation of Rover under democratic workers' control and management. We called for no job losses and no asset-stripping but we also demanded for the bosses' books to be opened to scrutiny. Where have all the profits and subsidies gone?
These demands are even more relevant now as a new set of asset-strippers prepare to take their cut of the profits made by the skills and labour of car workers.
In The Socialist 12 February 2005: