ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: « La solidarité internationale fait peur aux patrons »
by Thomas Lemahieu
Translated Sunday 2 February 2014, by
The TRW plant has been threatened with closing for almost a year. For the 148 workers at the auto parts maker in Longvic in Burgundy, resignation is not on the agenda.
Dijon (Burgundy), from our special correspondent.
For the 148 workers at the TRW plant in Longvic, which has been threatened with closure since March 2013, yet another hearing at the court complex in Dijon has just ended on this Jan. 21. At the bar, drinking from big glasses, a few workers are going back over the hearing. The lawyer for the auto parts maker, who accused them of using delaying tactics to “negotiate a planned reduncancy scheme,” the judge who requested that they “shorten” the defense speeches, and Ralph Blindauer, their lawyer, who got hot under the collar: “Your honor, I know that you have a lot of cases on the docket, but we’re not talking about a camping car that is in the way of someone or another, we’re dealing with the future, with the jobs of 150 people, and this does deserve a bit of attention, all the same!”
The workers, more confident than not, engrave the dates of the next court sessions, on February 10 and 11, on their memories. An adjournment of the information and consultation procedure could be decided then.
Heading for Poland in late February
Many are already elsewhere. Ralph Blindauer phones the IG Metall trade unionists with whom the Dijon workers plan to travel to Poland in late February, to meet with fellow workers of the U.S. multinational: “Robert, you’ve got to call me back to set the date for our trip,” he says in German.
Olivier Mauchamp, the works council treasurer, goes back over the “to do” list for the big January lottery. The militant workers, together with the inter-union committee made up of the CGT, FO, CGC and CFTC unions, are organizing the lottery to pay for their European trip.
One of Mauchamp’s colleagues is getting news about his cousins at the Schirmeck factory in Alsace, which, they say, might be the next on the list of plants that are threatened in France.
A little later, in Longvic, in a municipal hall being used for the general assembly of the TRW workers, Christophe Depierre, the CGT steward and the inter-union committee’s polyglot spokesman – he speaks fluent Polish and English – harangues the crowd. “They can’t chuck us like a pair of old socks. We’ve kept the factory running for years. We’ve shown that it can be profitable and viable. But now, things are being played out Europe-wide: our Spanish and German mates are suffering in their countries, too… In Belgium, it’s the same thing! It’s at that level that things are being played out now. Our bosses are in Michigan, and we won’t succeed in making ourselves heard except by us all uniting, Europe-wide!”
“Thwart the bosses’ plans”
The corporation has been pitting its factories in different countries against each other for years, and has been getting out of Western Europe little by little. TRW’s Burgundian workers are sparing no efforts: these past months, they have already traveled to Germany, Belgium, and Poland.
“It’s important to meet each other, it makes it possible to thwart the bosses’ plans,” Laurent says. “A few years ago, the company asked three factories to draw up cost-cutting plans, and they promised that they wouldn’t close the plant where the workers dropped their trousers the most… They told the Italians that the English were making a better offer, while simultaneously telling the English that the French were giving up more, and telling us that the Italians were better than anyone else.”
Ralph Blindauer is a partisan of and an artisan in this concrete solidarity, and he is playing a key role in the struggle. “We’ve got to be brutally frank at the Europe-wide works council, and we’re beginning to do it,” he tells the general assembly. “It couldn’t remain a salon where you chat over cakes with icing and champagne in the evening. The bosses have been working on a Europe-wide scale for 150 years. While the German and French workers were ripping each other’s guts out in the trenches during World War I, their bosses continued making juicy deals together. For the workers, it’s time to scale up: it’s international solidarity that scares the bosses.”
For Christophe Depierre, the whole point of the trip to Poland is to convince their fellow TRW workers to demand better wages and working conditions. “We’ve got to hit management hard and show them what we’re capable of doing… We don’t much see why TRW should be able to make the Poles slave away for 300 euros a month, transferring work there … until they decide to shift work from Poland to some other country!”