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Show of strength from car workers
THE DEMONSTRATION became more upbeat as it went along and felt the support from the Saturday shoppers, many of whom joined the demo. By the time everybody was funnelled into the centre of the town there was a strong feeling of collective solidarity.
At the rally you could feel the sense of betrayal by the company. Every time anyone on the platform mentioned Vauxhall's promise from two years ago to keep production going in Luton there was a roar from the crowd. Workers listened intently as the platform speakers spoke about GM's broken promises.
Messages of support from GM plants all over the world, including Brazil, Italy, Australia, USA and Austria were met with cheers from the crowd.
Steffen, part of the delegation from the Opel plant in Bochum told The Socialist: "We have come from Bochum today to organise solidarity to fight together against General Motors' plans for closures and sackings. In Germany we are holding rallies on the day of action on 25 January and we are going back after this demo to prepare for that. Workers in Germany are angry at the bosses trying to divide and rule between the British and German workers."
Assembly line workers from the plant, speaking from the platform, were impassioned in their demands that GM be made to change their minds. One of them said why should they be allowed to get away with it "we have done everything they asked of us, we increased production and improved quality but it seems this isn't enough."
One woman said how three generations of her family had worked for Vauxhall and "now after 95 years of Vauxhall in Luton they want to close us down"
The union leaders who spoke made angry speeches about the events leading up to the demo. Bill Morris for example demanded a parliamentary enquiry into what happened to all the government subsidies that the taxpayers have given to GM in recent years.
Tony Woodley's main argument was to weakly challenge GM about over-capacity: "It's not uncommon as one model like the Vectra is run down, there is a gap before the next model comes along. There is no over-capacity in the long term but what happened in this case was the GM shares on the New York Stock Exchange fell from $90 to $50 and the GM board wanted to make a gesture to impress the investors." They promised a new model but instead have announced enforced redundancies. "There has been no consultation at all. This is the unacceptable face of globalisation"
Other union leaders like Ken Jackson of the AEEU made a plea to protect the manufacturing base of the UK economy.
But again and again the union leaders just begged GM to honour their agreements. TUC leader John Monks even called for a national campaign for proper corporate standards of behaviour!
The workers there know they're being betrayed by the multinationals, but many wanted to see more concrete plans from their union leaders for effective action.
- No job losses, no asset-stripping
- Open the books, where have all the profits and subsidies gone?
- Organise a Europe-wide GM strike to defend jobs
- Nationalise the car industry under democratic workers' control and management.
In The Socialist 26 January 2001: