Stellantis announces more indefinite layoffs as rising gas prices and interest rates slow auto sales

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Sterling stamping plant workers remove the roof from a van after it was stamped in a 180 inch transfer press [Photo by Stellantis Media]

Indefinite layoffs were set to begin this week at the Stellantis Sterling Stamping plant in the northern suburbs of Detroit. Far from opposing the cuts, the United Auto Workers (UAW) union is collaborating to move displaced workers to other Stellantis plants tens or hundreds of miles away, including the Jeep plant in Toledo, Ohio, and the transmission complex in Kokomo, Indiana.

Neither the UAW nor management has disclosed how many jobs will be cut, or what proportion of those laid off will be full-time or contract workers. According to a letter circulated by UAW Local 1264 to Sterling Stamping, there were 90 positions available for displaced workers at Detroit-area Mopar parts and distribution facilities, as well as 150 at Toledo Assembly, 39 skilled trades positions in Kokomo and 50 transportation pieces. jobs at FCA Transport. The UAW also announced that Stellantis is adding 460 temporary jobs.

In a statement on the cuts, Stellantis spokeswoman Ann Marie Fortunate said: “In order to operate the plant in a more sustainable manner, Stellantis confirms that there will be indefinite layoffs at the Sterling Stamping plant. in Sterling Heights, Michigan, beginning June 20. There are more than 2,100 workers at Sterling Stamping, which Stellantis says is the largest stamping plant in the world.

The layoff announcement comes as new vehicle sales have been hit by rising gas prices and higher interest rates, making car financing more expensive. New car sales in the United States fell to an annualized rate of 12.8 million in May, from 14.6 million in April. Historically, car sales picked up in May.

This month, the US Federal Reserve raised its key interest rate by 0.75 percentage points, the largest single rate hike in nearly 30 years. Interest rate hikes, ostensibly to fight inflation, are actually aimed at driving up unemployment in order to curb the militancy of workers demanding wage increases to compensate for rising prices.

Stellantis and the other Detroit automakers reaped bumper profits despite constant production disruptions due to parts shortages. At the same time, regular factory closures, along with soaring inflation, have taken their toll on workers’ incomes.

By the end of March, 98 workers had been made redundant at Sterling Stamping. Warren Stamping had laid off an unknown number of workers in April.

Stellantis also announced indefinite layoffs at other plants earlier this year, including the Belvidere Assembly Plant in Illinois and Windsor Assembly in Ontario, Canada.

At Belvidere, management announced a target to reduce employment to just 800 workers, down from the current number of 1,800 and well below the 5,000 employed by the plant in 2019. Stellantis is still threatening to cut the second shift at Windsor Assembly, although he extended the change until the end of 2022.

Workers posting on social media reacted angrily to news of job cuts at Sterling Stamping. The UAW’s announcement that laid-off workers would have the “opportunity” to transfer to factories outside the Detroit metro area also didn’t sit well with many.

A worker wrote on Facebook: “They keep hiring Tpt [temporary part-time workers] by the 100. Worst thing we could have allowed the company to do. This must be a strong point in contract negotiations, return to a percentage of the workforce.

Another worker posted, “This is how your slave owners save themselves, by sacrificing their slaves! Wait till they post “We’re Hiring” at half what the slaves they sacrificed earned! Wake up people….. YOU GOT THEM RICH, THEN THEY THROW YOU AWAY! Do you think you deserve it?! They do!”

Referring to the Stellantis management statement announcing the job cuts, another worker commented, “’In a more sustainable way?’ No, that means investors are not making enough money. Therefore, they order to remove employees so that their income increases.

“That’s what it all happened to be. It’s about working in a small team.

The cuts are taking place under conditions where automakers are devoting huge resources to the development of electric vehicles (EVs). To generate the capital needed to dominate electric vehicles and other new technologies, all automakers are striving to reduce labor costs and get the most out of their existing workforce. .

Ford announced production cuts at four major assembly plants over the summer, according to a recent memo sent to workers at Chicago Stamping. The cuts will impact workers at the Chicago Assembly, Kansas City Assembly, Kentucky Truck Plant and Louisville Assembly. Chicago Stamping workers will face layoffs starting Monday and continuing through September 11. The company asked workers to volunteer for temporary layoffs over the summer.

Ford is also apparently considering closing Louisville Assembly due to parts shortages. News reports did not say for how long.

Stellantis and other automakers have turned to hiring more and more temporary workers, both to reduce costs and to cover labor shortages due to illness, disability or death. retirement of older workers. The ruthless disregard for worker safety by the UAW and Detroit automakers was underscored by the announcement this week that masks will no longer be required at any factory, even in areas of high transmission. of COVID-19 like Detroit.

On top of that, the workers face dangerous conditions. In 2021, Sterling Stamping crane operator Terry Garr died in a tragic accident at the facility. A year later, the UAW has yet to release the results of the accident investigation.

A veteran Ford Assembly worker in Kansas City told the World Socialist Website that temporary workers at his factory were leaving due to recent record heat and generally poor working conditions.

“There is no air conditioning on the assembly line but fans,” he said. “I can barely work under my fans. I’m always out of my cool zone grabbing doors and loading up their shitty machines every day for 11 hours.

Other Ford workers described similar conditions. A Ford Ohio Assembly worker told the WSWS that in some areas of the plant, the heat index reached 118 last week. “It’s brutal… the humidity makes it hard to breathe here. Several people have fallen and been taken to hospital. You shouldn’t have to risk your health to keep a job. Same with COVID. People see how useless we are.

Ford and the UAW trumpeted the company’s recent announcement that some 3,000 temporary workers would be converted to full-time positions. Workers reported that automakers have struggled for months to hire and retain employees and stem high turnover, given the grueling working conditions that have become widespread.

According to the Detroit Bureau, an auto industry news site, Ford’s move to convert temps to full-time also allows older, better-paid workers to take their place for voluntary layoff.

There is no doubt that auto executives, in consultation with Wall Street analysts and senior UAW officials, are already well advanced in planning their strategy for the expiration of the Big Three-UAW contracts. next year. In Europe, Ford has given a taste of what it is preparing. The company has workers in a fratricidal race to the bottom, fueling a ‘bidding war’ between factories in Spain and Germany to see which factory can offer the most cuts, with promises of investments in electric vehicles and job security in return.

But opposition to any new concessions is already high and growing among autoworkers. A militant mood has also emerged among heavy equipment workers at CNH Industrial – where workers are approaching their second month on strike, in a struggle that has been isolated by the UAW – and Caterpillar, where outrage has erupted. earlier this month following the horrific death of 39-year-old Steven Dierkes.

To fight corporate and UAW plans to carry out new attacks on jobs, wages and working conditions, new organizations are needed: rank-and-file factory committees, democratically controlled by the workers themselves. same. The endless saw-theft across borders and the nationalist poison pushed by the trade unions must be countered by an international strategy and the solidarity and coordination of workers on a global scale, which is the perspective defended by the International Workers Alliance of Rank-and-File Committees. (IWA-RFC).

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