Ford Saarlouis works council and union force plant closure

As the immediate grief and anger over the planned closure of Ford’s historic Saarlouis plant wanes, it is essential to learn from the experiences of the past few years, and the past six months in particular. The jobs are not yet lost, but a fight must be started now. But that is exactly what the management, the works council, the IG Metall trade union and the government of the Social Democratic Party (SPD) want to prevent.

Ford-Saarlouis workers after the company meeting of June 23, 2022 [Photo: WSWS] [Photo: WSWS]

When Ford announced on Wednesday that it would produce its future electric models in Valencia and not in Saarlouis, the 4,600 workers in Saarlouis reacted with anger and indignation. However, the works council considers that its main task is not to defend the jobs of the factory, but only to ensure the smooth running of production until 2025, and to guarantee the orderly closing of the factory by then.

This is the result, both of the company meeting, which took place from 7:30 a.m. until almost 2 p.m. Thursday, and of the numerous press interviews that the chairman of the works council, Markus Thal, apparently gives continuously since Wednesday.

Thursday morning, even before the start of the company meeting, the management had released the declaration of the European boss of Ford, Stuart Rowley, in which he made all kinds of empty promises to his “colleagues”. Ford, he said, was working on “practical alternatives” including producing parts for Ford or recycling batteries or electric vehicles, selling the plant to other companies, including d other car manufacturers, and “commercial activities in partnership with the government of Saarland”. This is all hot air. A grassroots Ford Action Committee worker immediately denounced any proposals made by Ford that amounted to “cheap labor”.

After the works meeting, the works council brought in Minister President Anke Rehlinger (SPD) via video as she read her official statement to the state parliament. Ford of Europe chief Stuart Rowley had previously announced that Ford was “ready[ing] to create a working group that will concretize the aforementioned options with the Saarland government,” she said.

Rehlinger herself criticized the scenarios presented by Ford as being too vague. But she didn’t offer anything more concrete either. She demanded that Ford come up with “its own ideas and proposals” on how “as many jobs as possible can be secured at the site beyond 2025”. For employees, the state wanted to set up “a central point of contact with all important information” within the state-owned “processing company”.

Autoworkers were to be empowered through “skills development and training”. The state government was also considering buying the land currently held by Ford. So, “it’s also possible that new, scalable jobs could be created quickly at Ford’s current site,” Rehlinger said.

In her speech, she also repeated the narrative developed by the works council and IG Metall that they had been deceived by the company. Rehlinger described the internal bidding war between the Saarlouis factory and its Spanish counterpart in Valencia as unfair and seedy. There is no doubt that it was, but it is not just the company, but also the works council and the union that are responsible for pitting Ford workers against each other.

For six months, they sat down twice a week with Ford’s top management in Cologne and discussed how they could bring wage costs down to the point where they were even lower than in Spain. They were ready to sacrifice the jobs of workers at all other German sites, especially the almost 19,000 employees at the Cologne headquarters, by making these cuts. And the Valence works council acted in the same way. Workers there will now also face job losses, wage cuts and deteriorating working conditions.

At the company meeting, Thal had said that the Saarlouis offer was 1.4 billion euros higher than the Spanish offer. Members of the Ford Action Committee told the WSWS that they would like to know through what enormous sacrifices on the part of the works council this figure was reached. Because the cuts offered to Ford in Saarlouis must include the 1.4 billion euros in cuts in addition to the 1 billion euros contained in the Spanish offer.

Thal and other works council and IG Metall representatives present at the company meeting also tried to push the workers away with vague promises and a “collective social agreement” that has yet to be worked out. In an interview with sol.de, Thal said he was “firmly convinced” that things would “one way or another continue” in Saarlouis after 2025. One way or another! While the future of the workforce is uncertain, one thing is certain: no representative of the works council of IG Metall will fall into the abyss. They will enjoy a soft landing.

Sleeping pills and empty promises are meant to persuade workers to shut up. While the company uses unfair and shabby methods to unscrupulously advance its interests, the workers are expected to calmly and quietly submit to the fate determined by the company and the works council.

The workers were visibly touched following the work meeting. On Wednesday, they had learned of the end of their factory and were very worried for themselves and the future of their family. On Thursday, their concerns were further exacerbated by the works council. Many workers found it difficult to talk about the meeting or make statements, or only with difficulty. In particular, the older workers the WSWS spoke to immediately after the company meeting were visibly upset and at times on the verge of tears. One, who had worked at Ford for 35 years, said: “My heart is bleeding!”

The initial disappointment and discouragement are understandable. But now is the time to fight back, otherwise workers will face factory closure and be handed “transfer companies” and, at best, lower-paying replacement jobs.

This is possible to defend the factory and the jobs, but this requires a break with the unions, the works council and the government, all of which have an interest only in keeping the workers docile while they organize the liquidation From the factory. Ford Saarlouis workers’ allies are workers everywhere who are resisting corporate and government attacks everywhere.

Near Chennai, the capital of the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, more than 1,500 Ford workers have been on strike for more than four weeks. Last September, Ford announced that it would cease operations in India and close its plant in Chennai, which employs 4,000 people, and another in the state of Gujarat.

Indian workers, too, face a conspiracy of management and unions. Because 1,400 cars are still awaiting completion, Ford has tried to use scabs, increased its offer of severance and has already twice postponed the ultimatum to implement mandatory layoffs. .

The Indian unions only belatedly claimed their support for the strike, initiated by young workers. And they only did it so they could block him in negotiations where they only advocate higher severance packages. Meanwhile, the unions categorically reject an extension of the strike to the other Ford factory or to other factories in the region.

Ford workers in India have a strong interest in organizing independently and establishing international collaboration. They have already chatted online with colleagues in the United States and want to exchange ideas with German Ford workers.

To defend the plant and the jobs in Saarlouis, Ford workers in Germany must also take the initiative. The works council and IG Metall are just as ready as their Indian counterparts to force the closure of the plant. Ford workers must unite independently and internationally. Contact the Ford Action Committee by sending a WhatsApp Message to +491633378340.

About Jimmie T.

Check Also

US downgrades Russia to non-market economy in bid to further isolate Moscow

The US Commerce Department announced on Thursday that it had removed Russia from its market …