Socialist Worker

Letters—profit is driving car industry job losses and plant closures

Issue No. 2633

Job losses have come mainly through automation

Job losses have come mainly through automation (Pic: Steve Jurvetson/Flickr)

I used to work for General Motors (GM) at its Vauxhall plant in Luton.

At that time GM was the largest employer in the world. Tens of thousands of people worked in Luton and in its sister plants in Dunstable and Ellesmere Port.

Most of those jobs have gone and the workforce has been reduced to a few thousand, with job losses coming mainly through automation.

The mighty giant GM and other car companies had to be bailed out in the US by the George Bush and Barack Obama administrations.

It and other car manufacturers have however continued to produce roughly the same number of vehicles and remain major employers across the globe. In July 2017 Trump promised car workers in the US that he would save their jobs. “They are coming back,” he boasted.

On that basis he won the votes of a number of auto workers.

It seems however that Trump’s protectionist policies, including tariffs on steel, have led to increased prices and a slump in demand for cars.

The new wave of closures in GM plants across the US announced recently shows the truth behind Trump’s boasts—money for the rich and job losses for working people. In Britain, 850 workers face the sack at Michelin tyre makers in Dundee. This is despite the company making a large profit.

Here, as in the US, the emphasis is on making that profit and not on the needs of workers.

This has nothing to do with Brexit—these redundancies and cutbacks have a long history.

Automobile workers across the world remain a powerful force.

Redundancies at Vauxhall’s Ellesmere Port in Liverpool, now owned by the PSA group, prompted a walkout by the workforce last week.

Car workers still have the traditions and the ability to take the fight into their own hands.

Dave Gilchrist, North London

Right wing normalised on campus

Snowsports, a society affiliated to Lancaster University, had a social last month.

It started in a campus bar and moved to a student union-owned nightclub.

Members of the society wore white T-shirts with handwritten messages.

They wrote messages mocking the Holocaust, endorsing homophobia, sexism, and paedophilia.

The official club photographer took photos of those wearing these T-Shirts, including six members of the society’s executive committee.

It wasn’t reported to the police to begin a criminal investigation and the university did not initiate disciplinary procedures.

Instead the whole weight of the incident was placed on the student union.

One of them was a BME officer who became increasingly uncomfortable with the culture of the investigation and blew the whistle.

What does this tell us? It tells us that we have reached a shocking level of the normalisation of far right ideas on campuses.

There are institutions where a focus on “brand management” takes precedence over the rights of students and staff.

Workers and students must stand together and actively fight for a campus built on equality.

Name and address supplied

Tenants turned away by unfair landlords

At least one in ten rental properties in England could be being unlawfully advertised by explicitly discriminating against people on housing benefit, according to housing charities.

Analysis of around 86,000 letting agents’ adverts by the homeless charity Shelter and the National Housing

Federation in England found 8,710 posts ruled out tenants on housing benefit.

This is outdated, offensive, and causing misery for thousands. Refusing tenants on this basis is grossly unfair and is likely to be unlawful because it overwhelmingly affects women and disabled people.

Many housing associations were created in the 1950s and 1960s in reaction to discrimination and racism.

Today’s discrimination is hardly any different and we must refuse to turn a blind eye.

John Smithee, Cambridgeshire

Engel is wrong about fracking dangers

Former Labour MP Natascha Engel has recently been appointed “shale gas commissioner” by the Tory government.

She was a pro-fracking Labour MP, and she lost her seat to a Tory who was anti-fracking in 2017.

Engel recently wrote a letter to newspapers to claim that earth tremors at Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road fracking site are “nothing to worry about”.

She says these are harmless, but she’s way off the mark. You can’t feel them at the surface, but the damage is done two kilometres down.

And she blames the anti-frackers for “wasting the opportunity” of shale gas.

But the Tories have lowered the tax income or shale gas and given the industry an easy ride. At the same time, they’re making it impossible to put a wind turbine up.

Engel is out of touch and misinformed, and I think she’s getting her script from the fracking industry.

Money talks. Fracking is just illogical given the recent headlines about climate change.

We’ve got 12 years to solve it and they’re pushing ahead with fossil fuels.

Dave Mason, Scarborough

Who joins the Brexit debate?

Is there going to be a real television debate about Theresa May’s Brexit deal?

It looks to me that once again we will only have a half-measure—and with no Scottish voices heard.

Annie Royle, Glasgow

We have had People’s Vote

All those clamouring for a People’s Vote seem to be suffering from collective amnesia.

There has already been a People’s Vote. It was called the referendum of June 2016.

John Curtis, Ipswich

Yellow vests are violent

I support the Yellow Vest protest in France.

But your article should condemn violence by some protesters as well as the police. When protesters use violence it weakens their argument.

John Spurs, Brighton

EU is no way progressive

Given the recent flare-up of violence in Ukraine, it’s important to recall the European Union’s role in contributing to the fighting.

Progressive? I don’t think so.

Mike Killian, Manchester

Don’t turn on each other

I read about Karen Reissmann’s suspension from holding office in the Unison union.

You would think that as we’re heading for another Tory leadership contest and probably another undemocratically elected prime minister, the unions would want to set an example.

Cathy de Veras ,on Facebook

Democrats aren’t left

I laugh when the mainstream media refers to the Democrats as the “US left”.

Yeah, and Tony Blair is a Marxist.

Tony Webb, on Facebook

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