The Guardian August 7, 2002


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.

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