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Honda job losses – the crisis in the car industry is about capitalism, not Brexit

This article is over 2 years, 11 months old
Issue 2642
Visteon car parts workers occupied in response to job cuts in 2009 - but union leaders have failed to call action to defend jobs
Visteon car parts workers occupied in response to job cuts in 2009 – but union leaders have failed to call action to defend jobs (Pic: Socialist Worker)

The threat to the jobs of 3,500 Honda workers in Swindon shows bosses’ contempt for workers. Workers found out on social media that their jobs are to go.

In all 16,000 jobs are at risk, including more than 12,500 jobs in the plant’s supply chain.

The car industry is in yet another major global crisis.

In Britain there have been job losses at Jaguar Land Rover, Vauxhall, Ford and Michelin, with Nissan pulling new models.

Thousands also lost their jobs in the US and Canada, at GM and Ford this month. Why now?

First a trade deal between Japan and the European Union (EU) is phasing out import tariffs on Japanese-produced cars.

Another deal agreed between 11 countries includes Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Vietnam and Malaysia. All have promised to eliminate tariffs on car imports.

Both these deals encourage production to be moved to Japan.

Meanwhile the “dieselgate” scandal arising from falsifying emissions tests has had a seismic effect on the car industry. And diesel sales have tanked.

In the US Donald Trump is set to introduce high tariffs on car imports. The EU could retaliate.


That makes the interlinking of the industry important. German producers export 750,000 cars a year to Britain.

The car industry in Britain—led by Tata, Honda, and BMW—would be hit hard by US tariffs. Sales to the US reached 221,000 last year, making up 18 percent of car exports from Britain.

The underlying problem is overcapacity. The chaos of the market means too many cars are produced—yet bosses’ only solution is to compete with each other and encourage people to buy even more cars.

The boss of Honda said this isn’t a Brexit issue. But every political issue in Britain is seen through the prism of Brexit.

So, the TUC and the Unite union blamed Brexit uncertainty for the job cuts and are now set to do nothing.

National Unite officer Des Quinn said, “We are entering a period of meaningful consultations with the management to examine in detail the business case put forward by the company.”

Which isn’t even empty fighting talk.

For decades unions have failed to protect car workers. Too many deals have been proclaimed to save jobs while attacking conditions—and left the door open to further job cuts.

Bosses and union leaders alike typically blame “globalisation” for low wages and poor conditions in Britain.

But the globalised nature of modern capitalism and “just in time” production can put workers in a powerful position to defend their jobs.

So plants could be occupied, strikes could be called. Workers’ action is the one thing that can save jobs.

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