Aug 2, 2010
The following is from the July 30 issue of Lutte Ouvrière (Workers Struggle), the paper of the revolutionary workers group of that name active in France.
Two years ago, GM decided to close its automatic transmission plant in Strasbourg, France, saying it was losing money. GM Liquidation Company, which sells off assets that GM wants to get rid of, took over the factory.
Then General Motors got bailout money from the U.S. government and changed its mind, declaring it would resume control of the Strasbourg plant, at the price of one symbolic dollar. When production of transmissions stepped up a lot this spring, GM grew even more interested in its future.
But before taking over the plant, GM insisted on new concessions, including a wage cut of 10%. GM insisted that these conditions be approved by all the different unions, and that they agree to give up any right to protest or strike. If the unions did not agree, GM threatened to move the Strasbourg plant’s production to Mexico.
Facing this blackmail, three of the unions fell in line and supported the company’s plan, not telling the employees what all the concessions were. Out of 1,154 eligible to vote, 959 voted. Seventy%, worried about losing their jobs, agreed; 30% voted NO, a position defended by only one union, the General Confederation of Labor (CGT).
The NO vote was strongest among production workers, where the CGT has majority support. But production workers make up less than a third of all employees in the plant.
Those who voted YES were angry to learn about some of the concessions they only found out about after they ratified the contract, including straight time pay on Sunday and having to work long days without an overtime bonus.
The CGT representatives, as they promised, refused to sign off on the new proposals. Some 200 bosses, security guards and non-production workers then surrounded the CGT militants and held them hostage, threatening them both verbally and physically, to force them to sign the concessions. But the CGT reps refused.
Other production workers came to support these militants, but this attack by supervisors and technicians continued for some three hours. Management pretended to be unaware of the confrontation when the press arrived to report on it. The bosses are fully responsible for the violence that took place. Department heads went through various offices telling their employees that they needed to put pressure on the CGT union representatives to sign the new concessions.
The case of GM shows what the bosses are willing to do to the workers. The bosses try to force workers to accept all kinds of sacrifices so that the companies can continue to make profits despite the worsening crisis of their system. And the government supports the bosses against the workers in order to allow the richest capitalists to continue to enrich themselves.
The GM workers who refused to give in were right. They deserve the solidarity of all workers. And the best way to show this solidarity is for more workers to get ready to fight the attacks of the bosses and their politicians.