The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Bosses merge VW and Audi to better exploit us

Jun 18, 2007

Volkswagen Brussels has now become Audi. Only 1500 workers are left working there, and their wages have been cut by at least 20%.

Everything is fine and dandy for the stockholders of the Volkswagen group, of which Audi is a part. VW Brussels even announced its 2006 profits were more than 140 million dollars, when there were still 5400 workers in the plant. This amount is almost $27,000 made off each worker. So there are no economic difficulties to give as excuses for the layoffs or the reduction of wages.

Layoffs have also hit the subcontractors. The newspapers estimate that some 700 out of 1700 full-time workers directly employed by the subcontractors have been laid off. But when the temporary and part-time workers are added, the figure is much higher.

At Arvin Meritor, the subcontractor who works exclusively for VW Brussels fabricating the doors for the Golf, all temporary and part-time workers have been eliminated. At the beginning of May, the directors of the company announced that the entire factory would close in July because Audi hadn’t yet signed a contract. The workers at Arvin Meritor, who had already struck for six weeks at the end of 2006, began a new strike in May. Their previous strike had stopped VW production of the Golf for about a week.

Arvin Meritor is in reality another workshop for VW, just an external one. It pays lower wages than VW pays for work that is even harder. It is a legal fiction to call such subcontractors independent. Without them, the cars would come out of the factory without seats, without doors, without roofs. Yet union leaders pressured these workers to go back to work, using the pretext that their strike was taking the Audi workers hostage, since the new strike also stopped Audi production.

VW-Audi workers were sent home due to lack of work, with the excuse that the blockage was out of the bosses’ control. Workers’ wages were cut from 20 to 40%. But it was management, and it alone, that is responsible for the blockage in production, and not something out of their hands like an earthquake.

The explanation given for the layoffs, VW-Audi claiming the cause was “uncontrollable,” was in fact illegal. But illegality doesn’t bother the bosses when it allows them to increase their profits.