On Wednesday, the Social Democratic Union of Spain, the General Workers’ Union (UGT) and Ford-Spain signed the 18th collective agreement at the Almussafes plant in Valencia. The most brutal attack on workers in the 46-year history of the Valencia factory. This deal, concluded between the unions and Ford management, cuts wages and divides Ford workers in Europe across national borders. The aim is to make a big profit from the transition to electric vehicle production.
Ford aims to convert its production in Europe to fully electric vehicles by 2030. Ford of Europe, Almussafes, Spain and Saarlouis asked factories in Germany to submit proposals aimed at reducing wages and working conditions as much as possible. These offers will be available at Ford headquarters in Detroit next month. The “losing” factory risks closing after 2025 and threatening tens of thousands of jobs in Spain or Germany.
The collective agreement was signed by Dionisio Campos, the director of the Almussafes plant, and on the UGT side, by the works council chairman Carlos Faubel and the secretary José Luis Parra behind the workers’ backs.
The unions refused to give the draft collective agreement to the auto workers, giving them only the outlines. On Monday, the UGT and management gave minority unions just 24 hours to review the collective agreement before it was put to a vote by the UGT-controlled works council and signed on Wednesday. Minority unions also refused to explain the deal to workers.
UGT sources told EFE news agency: “The deal should enable Almussafes to be a successful bidder for the two electric vehicle models Ford will produce in Europe. The German factory in Saarlouis is also trying to do that.”
The collective agreement includes the so-called electrification agreement signed in Cologne on 27 January between UGT and Ford Europe. The resulting deal promises savage cuts in exchange for securing production of new electric vehicles:
* A wage freeze for the next four years, which means deep cuts in real wages as inflation rises. Spain’s latest consumer price index (CPI) figures showing 9.8 percent inflation would mean a 20 percent or more loss in workers’ purchasing power by the end of 2026.
* Extending the daily working time by 15 minutes and removing the 4-day holiday. Workers would work 11 more days a year.
* Work on Saturdays up to 18 days of the year. Eight of these Saturdays will not be eligible for the additional weekend bonus.
* Introducing flexible night shifts.
With food, fuel, shelter and other needs soaring and inflation approaching 10 percent, workers will cut their wages by thousands of euros. Sources at Ford have confirmed that the pay cut will be around 4,000 euros this year alone.
Last February, UGT submitted this agreement to a bogus vote. Workers were kept in the dark as the full text was not available, and the vote could only have been an anti-democratic farce. Workers were compelled to vote, discarding the traditional ballots that had existed since the factory was founded in the 1970s, through a UGT app, so counting the votes was impossible; Ford employees told the WSWS that it is possible to vote multiple times in the app.
After the vote was announced, the union sent dozens of company-funded bureaucrats to the factory to force workers to register. Workers were asked to provide their full names, identification numbers and email addresses. This meant that union bureaucrats, who influenced decisions about promotions, bonuses, and other benefits through behind-the-scenes talks with management, could see how each worker voted in practice.
To counter the fake voting in advance, the UGT posted a YouTube video attacking the WSWS for opposing the union’s reactionary cooperation with the Ford administration. The WSWS has always opposed the German and Spanish unions, each involved in a single supremacy organized by the Ford management against the workers. Meanwhile, the WSWS has fought to unite Ford workers across national borders against wage cuts and factory closures.
That vote is currently in court after the minority Metal Workers Union (STM) challenged the minutes of the works council made up of unions and management that approved the deal on February 14th. STM says the voting was “lack of transparency”.
If Ford Spain does not receive the contract, CGU is preparing to close its Almussafes plant. According to the collective agreement, workers will be “relaxed” with a wage increase corresponding to the consumer price index (CPI) for 2022 plus 1 percent if Valencia “does not win” the electric vehicle production competition. The overall annual rate of CPI in March was 9.8 percent, a record not reached since 1985, which means an 11 percent increase valid only for 2022. Between 2023 and 2024, wages will not be tied to inflation, ie wage cuts in the face of real Inflation.
UGT is used to impose layoffs. In April 2021, he agreed with the management to lay off 600 workers.
The union is now working with German unions on Ford’s European works council to thwart a united workers’ struggle against extremist bids and planned factory shutdowns. Like their German colleagues at IG Metall, who lead the Ford Saarlouis works council, the UGT fears that workers will organize themselves independently and lead a real fight against the threat of plant closure and layoffs and wage cuts.
An unnamed UGT official told Europa Press that Ford’s decision “will be fundamental as Ford will only produce electric cars at one of the two factories.” The official added: ‘At Ford’s European Business Council meetings, we try to persuade management to look for viable alternatives for the factory that will inevitably stop producing cars.’ He stated his deal for layoffs and factory closures. The official said that once Ford’s decision became clear in June, “it will be necessary to seek solutions for the excess personnel that will arise in Europe as a result of this transformation.”
In other words, the German and Spanish unions represented on the European works council will continue to pit German and Spanish workers against each other. By not implementing wage cuts large enough to keep its factory open, the union will help the company cut jobs and possibly shut down its factory.
This purely reactionary role of the unions underscores the need for the Ford grassroots committee’s call in Saarlouis for workers in Germany and Spain to engage in an independent struggle to defend jobs. This committee demands an immediate end to the bidding war, the disclosure of all agreements or statements of intent reached so far, and the withdrawal of all concessions.
most World Socialist WebsiteHe urges Valencia workers to oppose the odious maneuvers of the UGT, contact the Saarlouis base committee, and form the International Base Committee Workers’ Alliance (IWA-RFC) to organize the response to Ford.
To contact the WSWS about the fight against Ford, send a WhatsApp message to +491633378340.
(The article was originally published in English on April 22, 2022)