Vauxhall workers struck for the day last week against the closure of the Luton plant by giant US multinational General Motors. Luton strikers were joined by workers at the Ellesmere Port plant who also had a solid one-day strike. Socialists, the media, two local Labour MPs and the regional TGWU official swelled the small number of pickets at Luton. Workers argued, 'You won't have a job if you keep on doing what management tell you to do!' with workers who crossed the picket lines, mainly MSF members who voted against action.
A good number of cars were turned away as a result. Many AEEU members also stayed away from work. The question on everyone's lips is, 'What next?' 'I wish I knew the answer to that,' was the most common reply last week, including from shop stewards. 'We have let things cool down too much,' said one. 'We should have started moving things on.'
Another said, 'Our officials are carrying on talking. They are trying to get the whole plant turned into an IBC van plant. But there is no sign of the company accepting that.'
The IBC van plant-owned by GM-is next to the Vauxhall plant. Vauxhall worker Steve Minter says, 'They have combined two shifts together, laid off 1,000 of us for six weeks, and are dangling the carrot of another £2,000 if we transfer to IBC vehicles. I think they want to get people there by the election so that things are done and dusted. From 20 April we will have no shift or premium allowance. That means losing £60 to £100 a week. I've been here 12 years. Where does my future lie?'
Luton worker Keith says, 'The union is not doing enough. It is being too sweet, too cosy. But there is nothing sweet and cosy about a plant closure. 'Just having meetings and calling a few one-day strikes is not enough to stop closure. We need direct action. I want more militant shop stewards. I want people representing me who talk the way I feel. Ford started this, closing Dagenham. If Vauxhall get away with it, somebody else will do it next.'