Ford Europe has announced that it will impose savage attacks on workers’ wages and working conditions no matter which plant – Almussafes in Spain or Saarlouis in Germany – “wins” the intercompany one-upmanship backed by German unions and Spaniards.
The announcement confirms the WSWS warnings. Since Ford announced the bidding war in December 2021, the WSWS has called on workers to reject the blackmail and brutal competition instituted by unions between workers at different plants, insisting that playing against each other is not would only lead to disaster and open the door to an endless downward spiral. In the end, there will be no “winning” factory.
The WSWS has insisted that the only way for workers in Germany, Spain and around the world to defend their jobs is to wage a common struggle against the unions and works council representatives, who have passed all the company’s attacks on workers in recent years with their nationalist attitude. policies of divide and conquer. The WSWS warnings have been fully justified.
In an open letter to employees, Ford Europe President Stuart Rowley warned that “it is foreseeable” that both plants “will have to undergo a downsizing from their current structure”, regardless of which plant produces the Ford’s new electric cars. Europe. “Saarlouis and Valencia should suffer a reduction in the workforce compared to their current structure. Exact details will not be available until we select a preferred plant,” Rowley added. This date is June 2022.
Rowley said cynically that winning a plant will not mean “a decision to close” the losing plant, since the multinational is “actively seeking future opportunities for the plant that is not selected”, which will require “an effort which includes several parts”. , including local and national governments. Rowley also noted that the job cuts “will be a difficult process for many of the employees involved.”
In other words, Ford Europe will implement massive job cuts at the losing plant, while the winning plant will have “won” through union-sponsored wage cuts and deteriorating working conditions. . Rowley’s assertions that plant closures are not on the table should be taken with a grain of salt. Over the past decade, production has already been halted in Belgium, France and Wales, and four factories have been closed in Russia. Just recently, Ford announced that it was ending production in India and Brazil.
Rowley also noted that “whichever plant is ultimately selected, it is important to remember that this is not yet a product investment decision” and that after the selection of the plant, there will be “a lot of work to do to secure the product for Europe. This means that even the winning plant will be called upon to make additional cuts to secure Ford’s investment in the plant.
Rowley’s letter underscores the reactionary role of the unions and the impasse from a national perspective of struggle. IG Metall in Germany and the General Union of Workers (UGT) in Spain collaborated on the company’s projects, supporting Ford’s outbidding. The unions’ strategy has meant that not only could one of the factories close, but the “winning” factory will lay off additional workers in addition to suffering further labor and wage cuts on top of those previously agreed with these same unions.
In Germany, IG Metall did not provide any details on its offer. We know that he proposed to include all workers in Germany in the cuts, including, in addition to those in Saarlouis, at the main factory in Cologne which employs 21,000 people.
In Spain, the UGT, the majority union in the Valencian factory, signed the so-called electrification agreement with Ford management, in which it undertakes to reduce wages, make working hours more flexible and increase 15 minute working day. With the current rate of inflation, workers could lose €4,000 this year alone with the implementation of the electrification agreement.
The union declined to hold a vote on the deal, fearing mass opposition. To save face, the UGT staged a fraudulent consultation where workers had to register with their name and ID to vote electronically through an app controlled by the union itself in order for their vote to be counted. known to union bureaucrats, exposing them to possible future reprisals. .
The agreement was denounced by the local union of metalworkers STM along with the two other minority unions, the General Confederation of Labor (CGT) and the Workers’ Commissions (CCOO). However, these unions are not opposed to one-upmanship. The STM said: “we ask that the parties come together again to have another agreement that does not leave the workers so badly off”. That is to say that they accept the framework of the attacks – the one-upmanship with Saarlouis – but hope for slightly better conditions.
Since Rowley’s letter, unions have unabashedly continued to serve business interests. The UGT and IG Metall-led European works council ridiculously called for 30-minute breaks to let off steam.
These judgments do not even aim to oppose the announced job cuts but to “alert the local and European management of Ford before resorting to the legislation in force in each country”. [to enforce job cuts] undertake to seek all possible solutions and on a voluntary basis. Unions say they are “aware” that “once the transformation to electrification begins, a significant surplus of staff will be generated across Ford Europe”.
That is to say, they support the measures proposed by Ford and only ask that before laying off workers, they carry out the staff reductions by voluntary departures if possible.
None of this is new. The unions have been preparing these cuts for a long time with the management of the company. In November 2020, the European Works Council had already signed a declaration with Ford committing itself “wherever it is necessary to make staff adjustments”, but “where possible, apply a voluntary approach”.
But voluntary layoffs, if they finally happen, are not a solution and will do little to limit the wider disaster. A 2016 study by the European University of Valencia indicated that for every job created at the Almussafes plant, another 5.8 are created in the Valencian Community and 11.7 in Spain as a whole. Thus, the 6,038 workers of Ford Almussafes generate some 70,644 jobs in Spain. So any reduction in the workforce will have a significant impact on Valencia, just as closures or job cuts in Saarlouis would devastate the working class in Germany.
Last March, the Digital Economy The newspaper published leaked information from the company indicating that although Almussafes would manufacture the new Mustang electric vehicle model from 2026, 3,000 jobs – half of the workforce – would be lost.
For workers to fight Ford Europe and defend their jobs and purchasing power, it is essential to break with rotten union bureaucracies and organize an independent struggle, uniting workers in Spain, Germany and internationally.
Ford’s rank-and-file committee in Saarlouis has called for an independent struggle uniting workers in Germany and Spain against job cuts and plant closures. Union bureaucracies like Ford’s management are terrified of a united struggle in the working class. In response, in a video released in February to justify its anti-worker role, the UGT slandered the WSWS, which supports the Ford Rank-and-File Committee in Saarlouis, accusing its coverage of falsifying the content of the negotiations.
Against the slanders of union bureaucrats who negotiate behind the workers’ backs, the rank-and-file Ford committee demands an immediate end to the one-upmanship, the disclosure of all agreements or declarations of intent reached so far and the withdrawal of all concessions.