General Motors, the EU and Opel

Together we fight!

1939 Opel Kapitan, German US cooperation 1939 Opel Kapitan, German US cooperation
An ever closer union? That depends on many things. Opel for example, where to start? Well today the workers at Opel in Germany are on strike. Industrial action in Germany is rare and so Germany is held up as an example to us all. But the workers are on strike because the parent company is in recovery so need not proceed with the sale of Opel. From this we may deduce that the German workers preferred the takeover by a Canadian conglomerate funded by a Russian bank with a bit of history. What sort of example is that?

I wonder if the distant relatives of the strikers who watched General Motors take responsibility for the company in 1929 groaned with despair, preferring unemployment instead? Opel was first registered in 1863, so that was 66 years before the Yanks came. Had they been forced to sell up and go this year, that would be 80 years. But perhaps in Germany there are no prizes for long service. So are the Germans a funny lot? Let Jürgen Rüttgers have his say,"General Motors' behaviour shows the ugly face of turbo-capitalism. That is completely unacceptable."

Rüttgers is President of North Rhine-Westphalia, the state where General Motors proposes closing a factory. I suggest to you Rüttgers simply fails to get it, he's not having a laugh. Germany loves to portray itself as the motor of the European economy and is quick to bask in the glory of being Europe's premier car producing nation. Yet, out accelerated at the lights by the parent company from the USA, Germany in the form of Rüttgers, plays the victim card like a pro, it's pathetic.

By contrast the General Motors workers at the Vauxhall plants in Luton and Ellesmere Port, England, took a different view, they welcomed the news the Magna deal was off. And the UK union's spokesman, Tony Woodley said, "General Motors was once the biggest company in the world and we have no reason to believe that it cannot restructure itself to address its present difficulties," Woodley went on to say -

"My worry is that they would be forced to spin off their UK business to Magna, which simply does not have the expertise to run a global car company."

An ever closer union? The two different attitudes above highlight the futility of pretending that a 'one size fits all' policy is viable. There are General Motors' plants in Spain and Belgium too, Germany is not General Motors' back yard, it's not that simple.

The fact is Germany and Angela Merkel thought they could buy into a settlement with General Motors which would benefit them alone. Merkel thought that what's good for Germany is good for the EU. The way Merkel has conducted relations with General Motors is straight from the Hamid Karzai way of winning elections in Afghanistan. It remains to be seen if there is any sanction applied to anyone here. And remember our political élite here in the UK would have us believe we cannot possibly survive without the EU to help us. Only together can we meet the challenges of the modern world. Go tell that to the workers at Luton and Ellesmere Port!