Ford workers call for strike at a Russian factory slated to close

Ford logo in their auto plant

Employees at the Ford Sollers automobile plant outside St. Petersburg will start a partial shutdown of production next week, a regional Ford labor union leader stated Friday, to protest hundreds of impending layoffs at the plant as it moves to close the production.

Ford Sollers, the American automaker’s joint venture in Russia, announced late last month it would shut down its assembly plant located in Vsevolozhsk in the Leningrad region — which has hired more than 900 people and produces Focus and Mondeo models — as part of a larger cost-cutting measure due to falling sales. By July, three of Ford’s four plants in Russia will be closed and the company will stop all production of passenger vehicles in the nation.

At a meeting with around 300 employees on Friday, Mikahil Sergeev, the chairman of Ford’s local labor union in Vsevolozhsk, called for a so-called “Italian strike” — or work to rule — to start on Monday morning to pressure the factory’s management to consider negotiations over the conditions of layoffs.

Under the strategy, that has been employed by the union in the past, employees follow labor regulations to such a scale as to massively reduce production.

“If at least half of the factory’s employees start ‘playing by the rules,’ it will be very painful for the factory’s management,” Sergeev described in an interview with The Moscow Times.

The labor union has demanded severance packages that consist of two years’ salary for employees who are laid off – citing payments that Ford has made to employees in Germany and Romania.

Ford Sollers on Thursday offered severance packages equal to 5.5-12 months’ salary to all employees who accept to a “Voluntary Leave Program” by April 22.

“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 not acceptable,” Sergeev stated.

He added that the union was ready to organize protest actions including pickets and demonstrations, along with an appeal to Ford’s subsidiaries abroad.

“I’m confident that we’ll get the attention of Ford Europe and Ford USA, and when their representatives come here and acknowledge the small degree of our demands, we will reach an agreement very quickly.”

Other union activists, who asked not to be identified, informed The Moscow Times that they were prepared to call for a “proper strike” if progress wasn’t made in the negotiations.

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