Although the carmaker Opel is once again making solid profits under the Stellantis group umbrella, the management will be cutting another 1,000 jobs at its German locations in the coming months.
The Opel main plant in Rüsselsheim will be hardest hit. Above all, employees of the development center (ITEZ) and administration are asked to go “voluntarily”. But also at the Eisenach plant, which celebrated its 30th anniversary last weekend, and at the Kaiserslautern plant, jobs are to be cut in a “socially responsible” manner.
The ITEZ has been under fire since PSA (Peugeot/Citroën) took over Opel in 2017. For CEO Carlos Tavares, the engineers who were once considered the “heart” of Opel are now too expensive. He wants to outsource development to external companies.
The merger of PSA with Fiat Chrysler Automotive (FCA) to form Stellantis, announced in 2019 and completed in early 2021, has further accelerated the job cuts. Now, as of October 1st, the previous Opel sales in Rüsselsheim are to be transferred to a joint Stellantis sales organization. At the same time, hundreds of permanent employees were replaced by temporary workers on the Rüsselsheim production lines.
Management justifies its plan with the consequences of the crisis created by the ruling class and the federal government. An Opel company spokesman explained: “Against the background of the rapid change in the industry, the pandemic, the geopolitical situation, fragile supply chains and massive increases in energy and raw material prices.” The aim is to “sustainably strengthen the company’s competitiveness”.
In other words, workers who have often exhausted themselves in car production for decades are now said to suffer from the consequences of Germany’s involvement in the Ukraine war and the NATO-led economic boycott against Russia.
This is in conditions where hundreds of thousands have already paid with their lives and health for the government’s refusal to contain the coronavirus pandemic by pursuing herd immunity policies that allow the virus to spread in the interests of business and financial elites to spread. Now they too are supposed to give up their jobs voluntarily.
What is striking about the latest bad news is not only the lack of interest on the part of the media and established politicians, but above all the silence of IG Metall. There is a simple reason for this. The most recent job cuts merely continue the policy of slash and burn that has long been agreed with IG Metall and the Opel works councils.
When the takeover of Opel by PSA was planned in 2017, IG Metall and its works council representatives agreed to cut thousands of jobs. At that time, around 19,000 people were still working at Opel. 7,000 employees once worked in the ITEZ alone; now there are fewer than 3,000.
At the end of 2019 – PSA had just announced the merger with FCA to form Stellantis – IG Metall and the works council gave the go-ahead in a position paper for at least another 4,000 jobs to be cut. As always, she agreed to gradual job cuts without the consent of the workforce. By the end of 2021, another 2,100 jobs would be cut through so-called voluntary programs, i.e. partial retirement, early retirement or severance pay. The works council pushed through these cuts with a commitment from management to refrain from redundancies until the end of 2025.
But that’s not all: the position paper gave the company two further options. Stellantis may shed another 1,000 jobs at will in 2022 and 2023. The group only has to promise to gradually extend the protection against dismissal until 2029.
The bare numbers show how much this alleged protection against dismissal is worth. Within six years, i.e. from the takeover by PSA until the end of 2023, 11,000 jobs will be cut without replacement. Compared to the 19,000 employees before the takeover, this is a reduction of around 60 percent.
The Hessian news portal VRM aptly stated: “Anyone who drew up this bill a few years ago was accused by both the company and the unions of spreading horror scenarios. Opel is still not far away from such scenarios.”
That World Socialist Web Site predicted this development early on. The giant Stellantis, which today employs around 410,000 people and operates plants on almost every continent, is now the third largest car company in the world. That World Socialist Web Sitewrote at the time of the merger in January 2021:
“The merger of FCA and PSA was fueled by the bitter struggle among auto giants to dominate both new technologies, including electric and autonomous vehicles, and markets. The merger itself will prompt other companies to seek further consolidation and cost savings. The big banks and investors have put relentless pressure on automakers in recent years to accelerate cutbacks and restructuring plans with the aim of squeezing every drop of profit from the working class.”
Carlos Tavares, CEO of Stellantis, is notorious as a restructurer and cost-cutter responsible for destroying thousands of jobs at PSA’s European operations in France, Germany and the UK. Now he’s conducting similar attacks around the world so Stellantis can continue to pay big dividends to its shareholders and compete against its competitors in the fast-growing electric vehicle market.
Without IG Metall and its group-related works councils, Opel/Stellantis would not be able to implement the job cuts. With the help of the union, it has already been possible to close the Opel plants in Antwerp and Bochum and cut thousands of jobs at the remaining locations in Rüsselsheim, Kaiserslautern and Eisenach. The works councils have suppressed any resistance or opposition from the workers. She and IG Metall deliberately fueled nationalism and work-against-work policies in order to divide workers and play them off against each other.
It is time to confront this corporate and union conspiracy and take up the fight to defend all jobs. To do this, auto workers at Opel need to take matters into their own hands and network with their colleagues at other Stellantis locations in Europe and around the world.
Workers around the world face the same problems and face the same opponents: unions who join governments and corporations in shouldering the burden of the capitalist crisis. For the war that NATO is waging against Russia in Ukraine, working people are being paid in energy bills that are skyrocketing because of sanctions against Russia and raging inflation.
Just last week, workers at the Stellantis plant in Hordain, northern France, resigned independently of the local CGT union against the sharply deteriorating economic situation. The wildcat strike lasted three days before the CGT was able to force the workers back onto the assembly lines.
Opel workers in Germany must form grassroots action committees to combat the nationalist and pro-corporate policies of IG Metall and its works council representatives, and join forces with their brothers and sisters in France, Italy, the US, Mexico, Europe and the rest of the world.
You can look to the example of autoworkers, educators, railroad workers and other sections of the working class in the US and internationally who openly rebel against the corporations and their junior union partners. These workers have formed grassroots committees independent of the corrupt unions to mobilize the world’s most powerful force, the working class, at the local, national and global levels.
The highest expression of this movement is the campaign of US auto worker Will Lehman, who is currently running against the United Auto Workers bureaucrats in the union’s first-ever direct election for president. His campaign aims to “build a mass movement among ordinary workers to break the dictatorship of the UAW apparatus and restore power to workers.”
Building independent grassroots action committees is the only way to break free from the grip of union bureaucrats, defend jobs and wages and fight the urge to go to war. Stellantis workers in Europe must form their own action committees, modeled after their brothers and sisters at Sterling Heights Assembly in the US, Ford workers in Saarlouis, Germany fighting the closure of their plant, and US railroad workers.
Workers interested in joining this crucial fight should contact the WSWS, either via WhatsApp on +491633378340 or using the form below.