Brazil: Volkswagen workers on indefinite strike

Workers at the Sao Paulo plant approved the strike in a mass assembly of 10,000 workers, starting immediately in “direct response” to the firings.

Submitted by Joseph Kay on August 30, 2006

The 1,800 layoffs are seen as the first wave of cuts at the 12,000-worker Sao Bernardo do Campo car plant. Workers will decide on a day-by-day basis the course of the strike. The main demand is guarantees of job security, which runs counter to bosses plans. The cuts are due to be made effective in November.

Last week Volkswagen had threatened to close the plant - the oldest in Brazil - altogether. It also said last month it may lay off between 4,000 and 6,000 workers until 2008 in order to increase profitability, which prompted immediate slowdowns by workers. Bosses have been trying to impose a settlement involving firings and pay cuts by the threat of closure unless unions accede to their demands.

The factory is considered unprofitable because of “high labour costs”, and the closure threats and layoffs are seen as an attempt by management to attack the conditions of all the workers in order to shift the balance of power on the shop floor.