THE INTERESTS OF SHAREHOLDERS AND WORKERS ARE NOT THE SAME
On GKN’s website we are told that the company is “a global engineering business. Every time you travel by road or air almost anywhere in the world it is likely that GKN is helping you on your way. We design, manufacture and service systems and components for original equipment manufacturers around the world.” The company, which employs 58,000 globally and 6,000 in Britain, works with Airbus and Boeing on defence projects and supplies equipment to the RAF and the Army, whilst its automotive division supplies parts to around half the companies manufacturing cars and trucks. But right now all is not well with GKN.
Rumbling financial problems at the global company came to a head in the US aerospace sector when news broke at the end of 2017 that the company “would have to write off mountains of overvalued inventory and unpaid bills”, revealing a black hole in the company’s finances which has given shareholders the jitters. Subsequent panic-stricken management switches have failed to calm nerves, exposing the whole of GKN to a series of hostile bids from Melrose, a band of vulture capitalists. Melrose specialises in sniffing out businesses in trouble, breaking them up and selling parts quickly on. Unite calculate that if Melrose’s hostile bid succeeds GKN will end up over £1.3 billion in debt.
Hoping to forestall this ignominious conclusion to an industrial career which began in the eighteenth century, GKN first announced plans to hive off its automotive division, then days later proposed that said division be merged with Dana, a company with which GKN had previously collaborated. Whilst some see this as a smart move by the GKN board, others caution that separating the automotive from the aerospace sector could weaken the ability of the latter to resist being snaffled up in a future hostile bid.
Undeterred Melrose made what it said was its final bid for the whole of GKN on 12 March, hoping to get support from key shareholders.
Whatever the fat cat shareholders decide about the Melrose bid, and whether or not the merger of GKN’s automotive business with Dana goes ahead, what is clear is that the fate of thousands of workers depends upon decisions being taken in boardrooms and back offices by unelected managers and bureaucrats and shareholders for whom nobody voted. These decisions can affect not only the jobs and pensions of those in Birmingham and the West Midlands, but also can have a knock-on effect on those working for plants relying on parts and systems supplied by GKN such as Toyota and Jaguar. This is the real face of British “democracy”, in which the lords of capital dictate the whole productive existence of society on a throw of dice.
Workers need to organise to defend their jobs, their pensions, their rights. Resistance to capitalism will flourish when it is fought out as class against class, not “British jobs” versus “foreign jobs”, and certainly not “national security” versus the world.
PROTECT JOBS NOT PROFITS