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Opel workers urged to join Holden struggle

Red corner: A German politician has called on Opel workers to contact Holden workers who are signed on to new wage deals and “organise a common struggle”.

German political aspirant says Opel staff should support Aussie workers

Holden logo30 Aug 2013

AN ASPIRING German politician has called on Opel workers to throw their support behind Holden’s workforce and fight cost-cutting wage deals.

Achim Heppding, a candidate for the far-left-wing Socialist Equality Party for the Hesse state legislature in next month’s German elections, has warned Opel workers that the German government, led by Angela Merkel, was “softening up the working class for attacks by the corporations”.

“I appeal to all Opel workers and to workers throughout the European car industry: contact your GM colleagues in Australia and organise a common struggle,” Mr Heppding wrote on the World Socialist website today.

“Global corporations such as GM fight ruthlessly for market share and profits at the expense of the workers,” he said.

“The international financial crisis is being used to turn back the wheel of history by 100 years.

“The attacks on GM workers in Australia are part of an international strategy to slash labour costs and reverse all of the gains won by previous generations of workers.” Holden today declined to comment on the article. GoAuto has also asked the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union, which brokered a wage deal on behalf of Holden employees, if it would support the call.

Mr Heppding said car workers worldwide were being pitted against one another with the help of trade unions and work councils to cut labour costs, increase productivity and save jobs.

“In reality, every concession brings plant closures even closer,” he said. “An illustrative example of the sellout of workers' interests is the closure of Opel's Bochum plant (in western Germany), with over 3000 employees.

“For years, Opel workers were blackmailed by GM and the IG Metall union (Germany’s Industrial Union of Metalworkers) and works councils to accept one round of concessions after another, supposedly to save jobs.

“In March this year, when they refused to accept further wage cuts, job cuts and the closure of the plant in 2016, GM said the plant would be closed at the end of 2014. Gearbox production will cease in September.” He said a similar situation was surfacing in GM’s Asian manufacturing hub in South Korea.

Holden’s deal struck with workers at its car-making line in Adelaide, an engine-casting plant in Port Melbourne, and even its proving ground at Lang Lang in South Gippsland, is meant to ensure the car-maker will stick with manufacturing in Australia beyond when the current VF Commodore’s lifespan ends in 2016.

The car-maker’s US parent, General Motors, is expected to make a decision on Holden’s future in October after the results of the September 7 federal election – and long-term support for Australia’s car industry – become clearer.

Under the Australian enterprise bargaining deal struck with Holden’s workers, cost-cutting measures including curbing pay rises, changes to shift work conditions, shorter work breaks and more. The changes to the enterprise bargaining agreement alone help Holden save $15 million a year.

Holden has said if it cannot lower the cost of building its cars – the company claims each Commodore-badged vehicle costs $3750 more to build than the GM average – it will not be able to hold out until the current government’s funding commitment to 2022 expires.

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