On the Picket Line

Autoworkers in Russia start ‘work to rule’ against layoffs

By Janet Post
April 29, 2019

The autoworkers union at the Ford Sollers plant in Vsevolozhsk, Russia, in the Leningrad region, launched a “work to rule” job action April 8. Some 900 workers are protesting their coming layoff and are demanding a two-year severance package after Ford closes the plant. Ford Sollers bosses have offered a severance of five-and-a-half to 12 months to workers who agree to a “voluntary leave program” by April 22.

“If at least half the factory’s employees begin ‘playing by the rules,’ it will be very painful for the factory’s management,” Mikahil Sergeev, the local’s chairman, told the Moscow Times. He said the union was prepared to mount pickets and demonstrations. Other union activists said they were ready to call a “proper strike” if they have too.

“We will be using every possible method to knock the ground from under the feet of the factory’s management so they understand that their time is over and their conditions are unacceptable,” Sergeev said.

Management announced that by July, three of Ford Soller’s four Russian plants will be shut down — the Vsevolozhsk assembly plant, which makes the Ford Focus and Mondeo; the Naberezhnye Chelny assembly plant in Tatarstan; and an engine factory in Yelabuga in Tatarstan. Ford says these plants are losing money. The assembly plant for light commercial vehicles in Yelabuga will remain open. The four plants employ 3,700 workers.

Detroit-based Ford and Russian-based Sollers began a 50-50 joint venture in 2011 after taking out a $593 million Russian bank loan. But “Ford is incurring heavy losses from its operations in Russia,” Reuters reported March 5.

In fact Ford’s international divisions are all losing money. “After running up four-quarter losses in all regions outside North America, Ford is making cuts in Europe, closing down vehicle lines in South America and laying off thousands of workers in China,” Reuters said. Ford bosses announced they will cease production at its plants in Bordeaux, France, and Saarlouis, Germany.