Ford employees in Saarlouis at a rally on Wednesday
Photo: Oliver Dietze / dpa
The decision by the US car company Ford not to invest in new electric cars at its Saarlouis plant caused outrage among those affected.
The employees spontaneously vented their protest after a works meeting on Wednesday: Around 3,000 participants then took to the streets and marched in a long procession to a rally on the B51 - including employees from the supplier companies, steel workers and politicians.
The state parliament had interrupted its session and was on site with cabinet members and MPs.
Ford announced its decision against Saarlouis on Wednesday.
Instead, an electric car platform is to be built in Valencia, Spain.
There is "the best positioned plant" to produce vehicles based on an electric architecture, the group said.
The decision hits the 4,600 Ford employees in Saarland hard.
Because car production at the site is only secured until mid-2025, then production of the combustion model Ford Focus will be phased out.
From then on, the production lines stand still – unless Ford puts other plans on the table after all.
Many participants had tears in their eyes, but outrage prevailed.
Lars Desgranges from IG Metall Völklingen said he only had four words for how the management behaved: “Breach of word, lie, delaying tactics, failure.” But you will not give up: “This is not a funeral, it is one Declaration of war.« The Ford works council chairman Markus Thal said: »We were lied to, cheated and taken for a ride.«
The workforce had hoped that, thanks to investments in electronics, jobs would still be largely secure after 2025.
Among other things, 2,500 jobs have been cut since the end of 2018, said Thal.
“Because we listened to management.
Because we trusted,' he said.
"We delivered!" The only ones who didn't deliver were the management - "except for the shareholders".
There was also sharp criticism from politicians.
Saarland Prime Minister Anke Rehlinger and Economics Minister Jürgen Barke (both SPD) described the decision as a "farce".
One gets the impression that the internal bidding process was never fair.
In fact, Saarlouis is “clearly ahead” compared to Valencia.
The fact that the workforces of both locations were played off against each other in the bidding process is "shabby".
"It's outrageous, that's not how you treat employees," said Rehlinger at the rally.
In Rehlinger's view, it was "per se an undignified process to send employees onto the catwalk and say, now show what you have to offer so that you can keep your jobs".
However, if it doesn't matter at all what you deliver and it was only a sham procedure to justify a previously made decision afterwards, "then you have discredited yourself as a manager".
Habeck demands concrete plans from Ford
Federal Economics Minister Robert Habeck (Greens) demanded that Ford “promptly make concrete plans for the future of the Saarlouis plant”.
As the owner of the plant, employer and major automobile manufacturer, the group has a special responsibility in Germany, Europe's largest automobile market.
Ford Europe boss Stuart Rowley said the decision to go to Valencia was not a decision to close the Saarlouis site.
"We are now trying to find ways to give as many affected employees as possible a future." In technical and strategic terms, the two locations were on par, but financially Valencia had an advantage.
When asked whether Saarlouis still had a future in the Ford Group after 2025, Rowley said that a task force would be set up and further action discussed with employee representatives and the state government.
Look at opportunities that lie inside and outside of Ford.
He wasn't more specific.
Regarding the accusation that the decision-making process was unfair, Rowley said: “That is not correct – we have invested a lot of time in six months in consulting with the decision-makers from both locations.”
The works council no longer believes in similar offers from Ford. "They're tranquilizers, we've had enough of them," said Thal.
Now you have to see what legal options there are within the framework of the collective agreement.
Ford is in transition.
In the age of electromobility, the US automaker initially lagged behind its competitors and seemed to have ignored the signs of the times.
In the meantime, however, Ford is investing heavily in electromobility in order to be able to compete in the future.
The European headquarters in Cologne plays a major role in the Americans' plans, the group wants to invest a total of two billion US dollars there in the coming years and manufacture electric cars, with production scheduled to start at the end of 2023.
Ford has around 15,000 employees in Cologne.
There, the planned Stromer are based on the electric platform from VW.
Ford wants to install its own platform in Valencia in order to build more electric models.
It is unclear when the first Ford Stromers will roll off the assembly line there - "later in the decade," it says vaguely.
The trade unionist appealed to his colleagues in Valencia, who, according to Desgranges, were just as deceived as those in Saarlouis: “As soon as the investments are with you, as soon as the systems are set up: get your wages back, get your standard of living back, get yourselves back your dignity back and show this Ford company how powerful unions can be."