On November 12, the union at the Mercedes-Benz (Daimler) factory in São Bernardo do Campo (SMABC) in the ABC industrial region succeeded in approving a program of layoffs and outsourcing. The cuts have been in the works since early September when the company announced its target of 3,600 layoffs and the outsourcing of several areas of the factory.
Throughout this period, the union has worked alongside Mercedes to push through the cuts, suppressing workers’ struggles while claiming to negotiate in their interests with the bosses. In recent weeks, after returning from a visit to the company’s headquarters in Germany, union officials have touted the layoffs as the only alternative to the company closing the plant.
Holding workers hostage to what the company says is “possible,” SMABC fraudulently touted a Voluntary Layoff Plan (VDP) as a “victory” and promoted approval of the cuts as “the deal that secures the future of the São Bernardo plant. ”
After rallying workers outside SMABC headquarters on November 12, the union’s executive director, Aroaldo da Silva, said he convinced Mercedes management to extend the cuts to the entire plant to “reduce the ‘impact’ of outsourcing. Silva cynically said, “We didn’t want to happen what we’ve seen in the last period: very sad times for autoworkers, for our region, like the closure of Ford, Toyota and so many other companies in the industry. And guaranteeing the future of the factory meant discussing this restructuring plan that the company was proposing.
Moisés Selérges, president of SMABC, also tried to sell the layoff program to workers. He said in an interview with Rede TVT, “In the negotiation process, we reduced the impact of outsourcing. That is to say that the company dreamed of outsourcing the entire logistics sector and we guaranteed at the negotiating table that part of the logistics would remain with Mercedes.
Two months ago, union bureaucrats ended a strike against cuts at Mercedes after three days, assuring workers that the union “will not accept redundancies”. They lied to the workers. When, on the same occasion, Selérges declared that “in a process of negotiation, not everything the union wants will prevail, but also everything the company wants will not prevail”, he was already determined to impose the layoffs .
Far from being an exception, the role of the union at Mercedes in suppressing workers’ struggle is the same throughout the industry and in other sectors as well.
In April this year, maneuvers by the same SMABC derailed a three-day strike by 600 Toyota workers in São Bernardo against the closure of their plant. On April 11, after the regional labor court in the state of São Paulo created a “negotiating table to sound out the viability of the remaining factory in the city”, the union presented the court’s decision as a ” victory” and called for a return to work. The crackdown on the workers’ strike enabled Toyota to complete the plant closure in June.
As part of the global restructuring of the automotive industry and the race to produce electric and autonomous vehicles, several factories have been closed and thousands of jobs destroyed. In 2021, Ford closed all of its manufacturing operations in Brazil. The cuts were imposed after companies raked in large profits while workers were forced to stay in shuttered factories tainted by successive outbreaks of COVID-19.
Far from protecting jobs and “mitigating the impact”, the subordination of workers to corporate interests by unions and the “mediation” of the courts have only prevented an organized response and allowed companies to implement cuts and closures.
Today, in the midst of the turn towards world war, with the escalation of the conflict of the imperialist governments of the United States and Europe against Russia and China, the main Brazilian trade union federations are preparing to suppress any opposition to the new government of Luis Inácio Lula da Silva of the Workers’ Party (PT), which will be completely subordinated to the interests of large transnational corporations.
During the PT’s presidential campaign this year, as Lula announced he would bring “political stability” and attract foreign investment to the country, the CUT and Força Sindical presented the corporatist “Industry 10+” plan to the new government. . One of its central proposals is the creation of “multiparty” commissions, made up of trade unions, businessmen and government authorities.
An important reference to the current union proposal is the policy of the “sectoral chambers” created by the Brazilian bourgeoisie in the late 1980s and early 1990s as new corporatist bodies to control the immense economic crisis and, above all , the response of the working class.
Establishing collaboration between the state, companies and unions to define sectoral policies, the sectoral chambers served to divide the working class, to allow large-scale privatizations and to prevent a resumption of the massive wave of strikes from the beginning. of the 1980s which had fatally wounded the military regime. The PT supported this as a crucial policy for the stability of Brazilian capitalism, with then-representative Aloizio Mercadante (now technical coordinator of Lula’s transition of government) presenting the amendment that included unions in sectoral chambers in 1991.
As in the past, the current proposal for “multiparty” commissions would also serve to control all industrial labor movements and suppress the strikes and protests that emerge as the Brazilian and international working class faces the immense increase cost of living and years of pay cuts.
Workers should not accept union-imposed layoffs at Mercedes as a fait accompli. Workers were prevented from mounting a struggle against these attacks because the union deliberately sabotaged their organizing efforts and lied about their goals.
Workers at Mercedes and other companies must organize themselves into rank-and-file committees to carry out a real struggle against the cuts imposed by the unions, break the isolation imposed by these organizations and form an alliance with the workers of the ABC industrial region. . , the country and internationally.