A day after General Motors threatened to ramp up of production of the Equinox SUV at two of its Mexican plants unless Unifor shut down the month-long strike at GM’s CAMI factory in Ingersoll, Ontario, the Canadian auto union dutifully followed its orders, announcing Friday evening it had reached an undisclosed agreement with GM to end the strike.
So much for the bluster from Unifor President Jerry Dias about not taking these threats “sitting down”. Unifor didn’t sit down, it rolled over.
Displaying the same contempt for rank-and-file workers they have shown since the beginning of contract negotiations, Unifor officials have said they would not release any details of the deal until today’s ratification meeting and that they expect workers to approve it.
Why haven’t the full details already been released? GM knows the content of the deal, and so do the Unifor executives. The only ones who don’t know are the CAMI workers whose livelihoods are at stake.
Before any ratification vote is taken, rank-and-file workers must insist they get the full contract, including all secret appendixes and letters of agreement, and have a full week to study it. No worker would buy a car or a house without fully inspecting it, so why should they be forced to approve a contract that will dictate their working lives for the next four years without have sufficient time to examine it?
Autoworkers have been through the routine of such “ratification/information” meetings before. Instead of releasing the full contract, union officials will pass out a bogus “highlights” brochure, which presents the deal in the most favourable light while concealing its real content. National and Local 88 officials will insist this is the best they could get and they will try to stampede workers into ratifying it by pointing GM’s gun at workers’ heads: “If you don’t vote for it, you’ll all be out of jobs”!
To this day, most workers in Oshawa, Oakville, Brampton and other factories who voted in record numbers against last year’s sellout deal have still not seen their contract.
CAMI workers have not stood out on the picket lines for a month to accept yet another concessionary contract from an auto giant that made $11 billion in profits last year and is showering its Wall Street and Bay Street investors with billions in dividends and stock buybacks.
The corporate executives want to deliver a humiliating blow to CAMI workers in order to impose another precedent setting giveback—like the elimination of defined benefit pensions for new hires in 2013—that the company can use to whipsaw other autoworkers.
CAMI workers should elect a rank-and-file strike committee, made up of the most militant and self-sacrificing workers, to take over the conduct of the negotiations and the strike. Workers should vote for an immediate tripling of their strike pay and appeal to all 20,000 GM, Ford and Fiat Chrysler workers in Canada to break the isolation of the CAMI strike and turn it into an industrial counter-offensive to reverse decades of union-backed concessions. This should include abolishing the hated two-tier wage and benefit system, rehiring all laid off workers, hiring all part-time employees as full-time workers, and immediately increasing wages by 30 percent to make up for the loss of COLA and the decade-long decline in real income.
Any threats by GM to shift production, lay off workers or close the plant must be met with the full mobilization of the working class in plant occupations, mass demonstrations and joint industrial action.
It is not possible to beat GM without an international strategy. The mobilization of autoworkers in Canada must be combined with an appeal to autoworkers in the US and Mexico to wage a common fight against the relentless whipsawing by the global auto giants and the corporate-controlled governments in Ottawa, Washington and Mexico City.
Under capitalism no one’s job is safe as the transnational corporations scour the globe for cheap labour. This includes in Mexico where Ford decided to cancel plans to build a new factory to produce the Ford Fusion, only to shift production to China. A direct appeal must be made to workers at GM’s Ramos Arizpe and San Luis Potosi plants to refuse extra work and join in a common struggle to defend all jobs.
Far from uniting North American workers in a common fight, Dias and the Unifor officials are telling workers to rely on the Trudeau government and the Trump administration to defend their jobs by renegotiating a “fair” NAFTA trade agreement. But there is nothing fair about capitalism, and nothing will come from appealing to these big business politicians. Trudeau represents Canadian capitalism, and corporations such as Magna International, which rely on the super-exploitation of Mexican workers. As for Trump, he is ramping up trade war measures not just against Mexico but Canada too, including by demanding a 50 percent US production requirement for tariff-free NAFTA vehicles.
A new political strategy is needed based on the independent interests of the working class. This means a political break with the capitalist Liberals, Tories and New Democrats, and building a mass political movement of the working class, based on an international socialist strategy, and the fight for a workers’ government. The giant industrial empires, built by the labour of generations of workers, can no longer be the playthings of corporate executives and financial speculators. They must be transformed into public enterprises under the collective ownership of the working class.
Everything depends on the independent initiative of the working class. CAMI workers must take a stand. Organize rank-and-file committees to take the conduct of the struggle out of the hands of the Unifor company stooges, and mobilize the working class in Canada, the US and Mexico to defend the right of all workers to good-paying and secure jobs.