Jun 22, 2009
The following article is based on an article in the June 12 issue of Lutte Ouvrière (Workers Struggle), the paper of the revolutionary workers group of that name active in France.
On June 6, 700 workers approved an agreement between a union committee and the top management of the Continental AG tire company. There was strong emotion in the general assembly of the workers, each feeling they had won an important victory in their struggle that began on March 11.
This included big demonstrations outside the plant and in the town, as well as at the company headquarters in Paris and the parent company's stockholders' meeting in Hanover, Germany, where the Continental workers joined with German workers. And the Continental workers joined with the struggles of other workers in the area who were fighting layoffs.
As a result, the 1,200 workers at Continental's Clairoix factory forced the company to rescind the layoffs of 650 workers set for October 2009. Instead, the company guaranteed pay until 2012. The government will pay unemployment compensation when their hours are reduced.
Further, workers are going to get a large lump payment and double the ordinary severance pay depending on years of service. This adds up to $70,000 for a just-hired unskilled worker and goes to $140,000 for the most senior. The higher skilled will get more.
For those age 52 or over on December 31, 2009, Continental guarantees that they will get an early retirement pension.
The Continental workers continued to mobilize after winning these gains. They joined the 800 workers from a Goodyear tire plant in Amiens, who are also threatened with layoffs, in a rally in front of the Continental tire factory. The Goodyear workers had come to thank the Continental workers for supporting their cause at a rally in front of the Goodyear plant a week before. Later that same day, 1,500 workers went to a neighboring town to support other fights against plant closings and job cuts. These included the struggle of the Lear auto parts workers who have been on strike for nine weeks, as well as workers at Smile and UTI, two auto subcontractors, who are also threatened with layoffs. At this demonstration, the workers spoke of the necessity of a struggle of all the workers.
Two days later, more than 900 Continental workers held a meeting in front of the factory. They unanimously adopted a motion proposed by the struggle committee to continue their mobilization, especially since seven workers still face trial on trumped up charges from an earlier demonstration.