The Spark

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

Belgium:
Ford in Genk
– Make the Capitalists Back Off

Nov 12, 2012

The following article was published in the November 2nd issue of Lutte Ouvrière (Workers Struggle), the paper of the revolutionary workers group of that name active in France.

On October 31st, the 4,300 workers of the Ford factory in Genk, Belgium, and 6,000 to 8,000 workers for Ford subcontractors learned that management wants to close the factory in 2014. And yet, last September 19th, Ford management had again assured them that the new car, Mondeo, would be assembled in Genk.

The Mondeo model is going to be assembled in Valencia, Spain, where management promises to create only 1,600 jobs, compared to the 4,000 eliminated in Belgium. The European director of Ford explained that the goal was to regroup production at one site, operating it near maximum capacity. Laying off workers on the one hand, while exploiting other workers more, is the capitalists’ formula.

The Belgian media endlessly repeated Ford’s line about bad European sales figures, explaining that the factory only operated at 33% of capacity. They said Ford expects to lose 1.9 billion dollars in Europe.

But no one, in the media, among politicians or union leaders, asked why the workers should pay for a crisis they didn’t cause. Further, no one mentioned that poor Ford, with all its “difficulties,” had a profit of 9.8 billion dollars in 2011. Clearly the company could continue to pay all workers’ wages, having everyone work fewer hours by sharing the work.

The bosses’ organizations used the occasion to denounce Belgium’s “high labor costs” – another lie. In fact, since 2000, Ford eliminated more than 7,000 jobs in Genk, in part transforming them into subcontractor jobs. These companies offer workers no job security and low wages. And in 2008, 12% cuts were imposed on the workers remaining at Ford.

The Flanders region of Belgium has already given Ford 72 million dollars in subsidies for the Mondeo model. This money was given in the name of saving jobs, even though Ford has plenty of money to finance its own investments. In the end, the money will be used to finance the severance costs of lost jobs.

Some 300 workers are demonstrating daily in front of the factory. Some workers express rage; others think it’s impossible to defend themselves against this company that operates on a world scale.

Nevertheless, Ford workers and many others who have been laid off or who risk losing their jobs could impose a different relationship of forces, one that goes in their favor, by causing the bosses and government to be afraid, to make them think again before pursuing policies disastrous for the working class.