The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Ford workers in France fight plans to close factory

Mar 3, 2008

The following article is translated from Issue #2065 of Lutte Ouvrière (Workers Struggle), the paper of the revolutionary workers group of that name active in France.

On Saturday February 16, hundreds of workers from Ford's FAI (automatic transmission) plant in Blanquefort, Gironde blocked delivery of parts to two plants, closed down the gates to the factory and began to shut down production.

At the end of 2007, Ford Europe management had finally announced it would close this automatic transmission plant that employed 1800 workers by 2010 at the latest.

During the past week, more and more workers joined the strike for several hours each day, or joined in the gate demonstrations before or after their work hours. The workers are demanding that all jobs be protected from elimination. If there are job eliminations, the workers want a severance payment of 120,000 euros, or the equivalent of the $150,000 amount that Ford paid when it offered buyouts to Ford workers in the U.S.

The plant directors shut down the plant last week on a technicality and threatened to close down the factory permanently if the blockage of the gates continued. The company also filed charges in court against the unions, asking that they be fined 1000 euros for every hour the gates are blocked. So the workers on strike decided not to block trucks entering the work site. But they have continued to picket the entry gates of the two sites, GTF and FAI, the site where management had already laid off some workers. On Monday, February 25, management of FAI filed charges against the picketers.

Ford Europe makes hundreds of millions of euros of profit. And that amount doesn't even count the millions in grants that Ford sucked up when it decided to locate in the Gironde region near Bordeaux. Ford certainly has the means to keep all the jobs at these plants, changing over to another kind of production.

Workers will only win their demands when Ford management and public officials fear that the mobilization and determination of the workers is becoming contagious. That's the only time bosses give severance packages – when they are forced to do so.

Ford workers are letting other workers know about their situation. Their mobilization has taken a step forward. Other workers in the Bordeaux region are aware of what they have done and can now show solidarity with them. Because when Ford attacks the workers at Blanquefort, it is also threatening to ruin the entire region.