Ford-Saarlouis: Lessons from 50 years of car manufacturing

Ford-Saarlouis: Lessons from 50 years of car manufacturing

The Ford Group’s decision to end production at the Saarlouis plant in 2025 is part of the biggest global attack on social benefits and workers’ rights since the 1930s.

At stake is not only the future of the families of the 4,600 directly employed workers, another 1,500 in neighboring supplier companies, as well as the economic life of the entire region, where tens of thousands of jobs depend on the automotive industry. Ford-Saarlouis workers represent workers around the world whose lives are being destroyed.

Automotive companies operating around the world are using the switch to less complex electric motors to reorganize the entire production process and squeeze every last bit of profit out of workers. Ford reported a profit of around 9 billion euros for 2021 on sales of 115 billion euros. CEO Jim Farley announced that the group wants to achieve an operating profit of 10 percent by 2026.

The most important supporters of organizations are trade unions and their works councils. These agree with organizations on wages and job cuts, suppressing any opposition to this and dividing workers by playing one area against another. The “bidding competition” between the Ford plants in Saarlouis and Valencia, in which Germany’s IG Metall and Spain’s UGT participated, is the worst form of this setup.

The reform of the auto industry is only one part of the capitalists’ global attack on the working class. Hyperinflation – the result of the government’s trillions in gifts to the financial markets and NATO’s attack on Russia – is driving many working-class households into poverty and misery. The “benefits before life” policy of this pandemic has claimed millions of lives worldwide and caused more life-threatening illnesses. Huge sums of money spent on rearmament and war are returned through cuts to education, health and social services.

While millions of workers around the world lose their livelihoods, the fortunes of shareholders and the salaries of executives grow relentlessly.

50 years of the automotive industry in Saarland

Saarland, which is located in the border triangle of Germany, France and Luxembourg and has almost one million inhabitants, has been particularly affected by this crisis. Its economic development shows a strong correlation with the Ruhr region.

Here and there, the mining industry was the center of economic life in the post-war period. In 1960, more than 125,000 people were employed in Saarland’s mining and metal industry; by the early 1970s, that number was less than half and the unemployment rate rose to more than 15 percent.

The mines began to die in the 1960s and lasted until 2002. The announcement of the closing of the Ford plant in Saarlouis fell on the same day that the last mine closed 20 years ago. The bankruptcy of the Saarland steel industry went hand in hand with the factory’s demise. Meanwhile, only about 7,000 steelworkers from Saarstahl and Dillinger Hütte remain among more than 125,000 workers in the coal and steel industry.

With the closure of the coal and steel industry in the Saarland, Oskar Lafontaine, as prime minister of the SPD, and Peter Hartz, the works director of Dillinger Hütte and Saarstahl, gained their reputation for higher jobs. IG Metall and SPD member Peter Hartz, whose brother Kurt led IG Metall in Völklingen for three decades, became head of HR at the VW Group in 1993 and in 2002 worked for Chancellor Gerhard Schröder (SPD) on “labour market reforms ” which they were. his name.