Saturday, April 01, 2006

More on UAW versus Delphi

This is starting to look like the start of a serious fight. Delphi - the biggest car parts manufacturer in North America - has clearly decided to go for a slash and burn strategy in its fight with its own workforce. Here's what the Financial Times reports today:

'The company, in Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection since October ... announced a restructuring plan that would close or dispose of all but eight of its 44 US plants, and reduce its worldwide salaried workforce by a quarter. Only one plant in Michigan, the American auto industry's heartland, would remain.'

The FT also offers a clear warning to the United Auto Workers trade union and the American working class as a whole:

'Delphi's efforts to cut costs drastically are being watched by US manufacturers as the sector grapples with high pension and healthcare costs and aggressive competition from Asia.'

In other words, if Delphi gets away with this, many other blue collar workers will be in the firing line. Two decades ago, I watched the Thatcher government in the UK win its battle against the miners. The British labour movement has yet to recover from the defeat.

So what have the UAW leadership got to say on this one?

'The United Auto Workers union, which represents two-thirds of Delphi's 34,000 US blue-collar workers, responded angrily yesterday, warning that "it appears that it will be impossible to avoid a long strike" if the labour contracts were annulled.

'But Himanshu Patel atJPMorgan doubted whether the UAW would dare to strike, knowing that a stoppage might push GM, where it has far more members, into bankruptcy. "The rhetoric is high but it is just that - rhetoric," he said, pointing out that of the 24,400 UAW members at Delphi, 18,000 are to transfer to GM plants.'

As an internationalist, I hope Patel is wrong. Any US readers in a position to speculate on what happens next?


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