US union United Auto Workers, IndustriALL and Chennai Ford Employees Union have managed to secure a decent severance package for workers at auto giant Ford’s plant in Chennai, India.
In 2021, Ford India announced that it will stop manufacturing vehicles in India. Of the two plants in Sanand, one was bought by Tata Passenger Electric Mobility Limited, and the engine plant stays open. Two plants one closed one open. Sanand Ford Employees Union with support from United Auto Workers (UAW), IndustriALL, and unions in TPEML successfully retained their job along with pay, other facilities and continuous years of work experience.
The assembly plant in Chennai were to close as no buyer was found, leaving the workers unemployed and many facing economic hardship. The negotiation process lasted for a year, with Chennai Ford Employees Union (CFEU) raising concerns with management and demanding job security.
A global trade union alliance under the leadership of US affiliate UAW had actively supported the recognition of the CFEU in 2011. In the anticipation of the closure of the plant in 2021, UAW and IndustriALL firmly stood with the union, which represents 2592 workers, in its fight to secure fair compensation for the workers.
In September 2021, representatives from UAW, IndustriALL, and the unions representing Ford workers from the Chennai and Sanand plants formed a working group coordinated by IndustriALL’s South Asia regional office ahead negotiations with Ford management. Weekly meetings were held to discuss the list of demands prepared by the Ford unions. Alliances with unions in Tata Motors were also explored for potential support. When needed, UAW would communicate with Ford management in the USA.
However, severance negotiations reached a deadlock and the union approached the labour department for conciliation in July 2022. After several rounds of tripartite negotiations, the union and Ford management finally reached an agreement on the severance package for the Chennai plant workers. Workers will receive a package equivalent to an average of 140 days of gross pay for each year of service completed, a one-time payment of 0.15 million INR (US$1,837), and wages until 30 September 2022.
“Even though we could not secure the jobs, it’s a big win for us as the union has managed to negotiate a satisfactory settlement. We especially welcome the clause stating that if the Ford brand is re-launched in India within the next three years, we will be given priority based on merit,. We express our gratitude towards our colleagues at IndustriALL and UAW for their encouragement and support during this difficult time,”
says Suresh S, general secretary of CFEU.
“We believe that multinational companies have a social responsibility to ensure the wellbeing of workers and their families and a year-long struggle has finally paid off. IndustriALL welcomes the agreement which is a remarkable example of international solidarity across workers’ unions that underlined the process of negotiation,”
says Georg Leutert, IndustriALL automotive director.