Thousands of autoworkers have gone on strike in Spain and France demanding their jobs back after both Nissan and Renault bosses announced factory closings and layoffs.
As auto bosses and others gear up to resume production after lengthy government-mandated closures, cutthroat competition amid decimated world markets and depression conditions are driving them to dump workers. They see this downsizing and consolidation as the only road to restore profit rates.
A thousand strikers massed outside the entrance to the main Nissan car plant in Barcelona May 28 after bosses announced they will close all Nissan car production in Spain by December. Workers chanted, “If this is not fixed — war, war, war!”
After the plants were shuttered by the Spanish government’s coronavirus lockdown in March, bosses reopened them May 4. When they refused to say whether they would keep them open, some 3,000 Nissan workers represented by four unions went on strike May 6. Parts plants employing another 20,000 workers could also be shut down. Workers reacted in anger after Nissan bosses finally admitted they intend to close the plants.
As part of reducing its workforce by 20,000 worldwide, Nissan’s management is shifting all its production in Europe to its big Sunderland plant in the United Kingdom. They also plan to shut a factory in Indonesia.
For their own reasons, both the Spanish national government and the Catalonia provincial administration — who have sharp differences over Catalonian national rights — are offering new incentives to Nissan, or any other auto boss who promises to keep the car plants running.
Some 2,000 workers struck Renault’s Maubeuge factory in northern France May 29, after bosses announced plans to close the factory and shift some production to another plant, slashing 4,600 jobs across the country. A union protest rally the next day drew 8,000.
The government of French President Emmanuel Macron, which has a 15% stake in Renault, is going ahead with an $8.8 billion handout to the auto bosses to cut down their expected losses and to boost production of green electric vehicles.
Renault chiefs have tried to defuse workers’ anger, claiming they might reconsider shutting the Maubeuge plant. But they made it clear they have not altered plans to cut production by a fifth and slash 14,600 jobs worldwide. This includes pulling out of production in China.
Bosses at Nissan and Renault, as well as Mitsubishi, had been ballyhooing a planned worldwide alliance, but now are instead divvying up their markets and production. Nissan is retreating from Europe and Renault from Asia, in hopes of offsetting intensified competition.
The assault on autoworkers at Nissan and Renault foreshadows what millions of workers the world over will face as the bosses try to cut workers’ jobs while putting the squeeze on those who remain to work harder and faster for less.