The Multinational Monitor


G L O B A L   N E W S W A T C H

Brazilian, Cutch Workers Win Concessions From Ford

Workers at one of Ford Motor Company's three Brazilian plants scored a partial victory after an eight-day walkout to protest the firing of 450 Ford employees early last month. As in previous autoworkers' strikes in Brazil, the major demands of the 9,000 strikers were job security and union recognition, as well as the reinstatement of workers laid off since the beginning of the year- 1,274 of them.

Rather than allow a Brazilian government labor court to declare the Ford strike illegal, the Sao Paulo workers decided to return to their jobs without a settlement after seven days.

But when the labor tribunal met anyway and voted, I S to 2, to pronounce the strike illegal, the workers vowed to strike again. The same day, Ford executives came to the negotiating table and struck a bargain with the workers.

Ford agreed to the formation of an in-plant workers' grievance committee, a 120-day moratorium on firings, and partial pay compensation to workers for days lost during the strike. No commitment was made, however, to rehire the laid-off employees.

Ford has pointed to declining car sales in the Brazilian market, due to 12001o inflation and the nation's worsening economy, to justify the layoffs. But exports of Brazilian-made Fords to other Latin American nations have skyrocketed, from 2,837 cars in 1980 to 8,854 in the first six months of 1981. And the Michigan-based automaker reported net profits of $52.3 million in 1980.

General Motors and Volkswagen have also laid off thousands of workers in the past six months; nearly 10% of Brazilian autoworkers are currently out of jobs.

Workers at a Ford Motor Company plant in Amsterdam won an important victory recently in their efforts to prevent Ford from shutting down the factory and throwing the workers out of jobs.

To protest the announcement by Ford that on September 30 it would close the plant, the 1700 workers there went on strike on June 25 and occupied the plant for two weeks. The workers belong to the FNV, Holland's largest union.

Help came from three affiliated European unions. IG Metall of West Germany and CMB-ABVV of Belgium announced that they would not deliver parts, cars or trucks to Ford or its dealers in the Netherlands. And the General Workers and Transport Workers Union in Britain joined these two unions in announcing that no member of their unions would accept jobs at the Amsterdam plant to replace the striking workers.

The strike ended July 8 when a Dutch court barred Ford from cutting production or dismissing employees until a special court investigation into the plant closing is completed, which won't occur until after September 30. The court has made Ford liable to pay $400,000 a day if it pushes ahead and disobeys the order. The court also ordered the strikers to return to work, which they have done. Ford is appealing the decision.

Ford claims to have run up a deficit of $25.3 million in its Amsterdam plant during the last fiscal year, and sees little hope of turning the losses around. "Our proposal to close the manufacturing plant was taken with genuine concern for those involved," said Ford general manager, Staff Laurent. "But we also have had to weigh the effects of the continuing losses... against the future of all those employed in Ford Netherlands and in Ford dealerships in this country."

The Dutch union, FNV, appointed outside experts to produce seven detailed plans for running the plant profitably; Ford rejected them all.

The Ford workers are pleased at the outcome, at least for the moment. The "combined pressure paid off," said Herman Rebhan, general secretary of the International Metalworkers Federation, to which the unions involved in the strike belong. "Putting together industrial pressure at the base, using outside expertise to blow holes in company arguments and to advance positive, workable alternatives and using the strength of international solidarity," the workers were able to defend against plant closure, said Rebhan. "It is a good example of how to fight back. I hope Ford Europe learns the appropriate lesson."

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