Auto industry seeks international gravy train
by Peter Mac Speaking at a public inquiry into Federal assistance into the automotive industry after 2005, the president of Ford Australia, Geoff Polites, has called for the establishment of a single union to cover all workers in the industry. Polites stated that the structure of such a union should be determined by a working party comprising unions, auto companies and "other parties". He declared, furthermore, that if the working party could not reach agreement on such a union within a reasonable time frame, an "eminent" independent person would be appointed to make the decision for them, and that if necessary the government should pass legislation to determine the structure of the union and its operation. This astonishing series of demands was dismissed last week by ACTU President Sharan Burrow, who made the point that the nature of unions in Australia would be decided by union members, and not by the captains of industry. Nevertheless, the submission by Polites indicates the way that automotive employers are seeking to gain major advantages, particularly by way of assistance and concessions from governments and by locking out genuine trade unions. All of this, of course, is with a view to maximising profits. The industry is dominated globally by a small number of transnational corporations, with components made in various countries and shipped around the world to the assembly plants. As major employers of labour, auto manufacturers invariably seek concessions from the host country for the privilege of having the company's plants operate there. This is done with an absolutely straight corporate face, even when the demands are contradictory in principle. For example, US manufacturers have long demanded a "free trade" regime from other nations, while simultaneously demanding billion dollar handouts from governments in the US and elsewhere.