The following appeal was issued and distributed prior to the factory meeting held at Ford Motors in Saarlouis, Germany on December 14.
Dear brothers and sisters :
Today is the last factory meeting of this year. In the more than 50 years of our factory’s existence, 2022 has been by far the most eventful and enlightening year. But based on a courageous understanding of the lessons of the past year, 2023 will also be the most important year yet. This will be the year when Ford workers in Saarlouis break free from the stifling control of the IG Metall union and its works council by taking up the defense of our livelihoods.
The central lesson of the past year is clear: our jobs cannot be defended by IG Metall and its works council headed by Markus Thal. If the fight remains in his hands, it will lead to disaster.
As early as autumn 2021, it was clear that the Ford group was planning to close its plant here in Saarlouis. The latest letter published by outgoing General Works Council Chairman Martin Hennig announced a divisive tender for Spanish Ford workers in Almussafes, Valencia, in early October 2021.
Thal supported and organized this shameful maneuver. On Jan. 27, he and his Spanish counterpart, works council president José Luis Parra, delivered their respective offers to management. The two worked together on Ford’s European Works Council for years.
Thal and Parra claimed there was no alternative to pitting our workforce against each other and made huge cuts in conjunction with their respective leaderships, without even informing us. Thal has still not told us what major cuts he intends to impose on Saarlouis and other Ford workers in Cologne and Aachen.
Luego, cuando se anunció la decisión contra Saarlouis, el sindicato y el comite de empresa organized a pseudo protest lejos de las puertas de la fábrica, evitando así cualquier posibilidad de ocupar las puertas o incluso toda la fábrica para hacer cumplir nuestra demande de mantener nuestros jobs. Subsequently, the mood of many of us hit a new low in June.
Although Thal never tires of pointing out how cheated he feels, he continues to work closely with the “cheaters” to finalize a “socially acceptable” deal, i.e. the liquidation of the plant. We are told that we have to trust Ford, the administration of Saarland, IG Metall and the works council. Anyone who criticizes Thal and his agents must be silenced, and any opposition to their careers is met with intimidation. This was particularly clear in this year’s works council elections, the results of which are reminiscent of the kinds of elections held under dictatorships.
At the last factory meeting in October, when Ford promised to keep a measly 500 jobs, Thal announced that by the next meeting, which is today, “Ford’s compass for the first half of 2023 must point in the right direction”.
Its own “compass” only points in one direction: in two and a half years, it will end the production of Ford cars in Saarlouis. He doesn’t care what happens to us, our families and our livelihoods. Thal will probably try to sell us so-called replacement jobs to finally seal the closure of the factory. In return, Thal and his colleagues no doubt expect to be paid for their services with new positions, financial compensation, or both.
This year, however, he not only confirmed the treacherous role of the works council, but also showed the way to fight back. In early January, several workers came together to form the Ford Action Committee to fight not only against the company, but also against its puppets in the works council and the union.
In our first statement of January 29, 2022, we clarified that: “Concessions do not save jobs! All of our concessions in the past and all of the concessions already made at all Ford locations no longer count today. As a matter of principle, we reject the blackmail and the brutal competition that takes place between us and the workers of other factories. Playing against each other leads to disaster.”
We did so in full awareness that the attacks of which we are victims at Ford in Saarlouis are part of an international development. Amid our own struggles, Ford announced plans to lay off 9,000 workers in the United States, while in India Ford’s plant in Chennai was closed.
The international attacks on Ford workers are in turn part of a general offensive by companies around the world. Jobs are being cut, wages are being reduced and working conditions are getting tougher in all sectors: in the automotive industry, but also in chemicals, steel and aerospace, among railway workers, in health and education, etc Attacks on the living conditions of workers around the world have been intensified first by the coronavirus pandemic and now by the war in Ukraine.
In all countries, trade unions side with “their” companies and governments. Here in Germany, this has taken the form of “concerted action”, where the various parties involved in the coalition government – the Social Democrats, the Greens and the neoliberal FDP – work with big business and trade unions to impose new attacks on us, the workers.
This universal experience of workers around the world testifies to the fact that there is no single solution. We face problems that we can only tackle and solve together. A handful of jobs kept at Ford and other automakers and/or a new investment partner is not the solution, but simply postponing the task ahead of us: to unite internationally against corporations and subordinate their interests to ours.
Those of us who sit on the Action Committee have not only spoken of international unification, but also initiated it. Colleagues from Saarlouis spoke in July with Ford colleagues in India who had been on strike for weeks to defend their factory, against the wishes of their unions.
At the same meeting, we also spoke with Will Lehman, the Mack Trucks autoworker in the United States who bravely took up the fight against UAW (United Auto Workers) union bureaucracy. He ran for president of the UAW on a platform to abolish hated bureaucracy and return all power to shop floor workers.
In our last statement, we explained the importance of their fight. At our July meeting, he emphasized, “It’s not enough to be angry; We have to fight. I can’t do it for you; You have to do it yourself! On this basis, he calls for the creation of action committees in the United States and internationally to organize the necessary struggle. Despite all the efforts of the UAW bureaucracy to silence him, he got 5,000 votes in the election.
The results of the Ford Action Committee are also positive. We don’t have to take back a single sentence that we addressed to the team. All our assessments and warnings have been confirmed. However, we cannot rest on our laurels. There is still a lot to do.
So again, we ask you to join the action committee. If we want to defend our jobs, we have to organize ourselves, no one else will do it for us.
The conditions for waging an international struggle are more favorable than ever. Wider and wider sections of the working class are leading protests and struggles around the world against war, inflation, layoffs and rising work rates. These struggles must be united and coordinated to succeed. The unions are trying to prevent this by trying to confine us within national borders.
We oppose it!
Contact us via Whatsapp message at: +491633378340 or fill out the form. This is the only way to make 2023 the most important year in our factory’s more than half a century of existence.
(Originally published in English on 15 December 2022