Meanwhile, Ford India’s management informed the employees’ union that its decision to close down the plants was final, and there would be no change.

Ford manufacturing unitFacebook/ Ford
Money Automobile Wednesday, September 15, 2021 - 08:03

The Chennai Ford Employee Union will be approaching the state government to not give permission to shutter the company’s plant in Chennai, according to its president R Suresh. This comes after talks began between employees and company officials on Monday, September 13, but remained inconclusive. During Monday’s meeting, the union had requested Ford to continue operations as well to safeguard the jobs of the employees, and refused to have a conversation regarding a financial settlement. Ford India’s management informed the employees’ union on Tuesday, September 14, that its decision to close down the plants was final and that there would be no change, and it cannot invest more money. 

Speaking to TNM, Suresh said that the employees on Monday had demanded that they wanted their jobs. He said that the union has now reached out to the state government, as it is yet to give permission to Ford to close down.  PTI reported that some employees wearing factory uniforms, backed by the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU), resorted to protest on Tuesday by raising slogans demanding the state government's intervention.

Suresh added that representations have been made to Tamil Nadu Minister For Rural Industries TM Anbarasan. He added that they reached out to Tamil Nadu Industries Minister Thangam Thennarasu as well.  Chief Minister MK Stalin, Industries minister Thangam Thennarasu and senior government officials reportedly held a meeting at the Secretariat to decide on a further course of action.

“The government is yet to give permission for Ford to shut down, so we [the union] told the [Ford India] management that we will reach out to the government and tell them about the number of people who will lose their jobs,” Suresh added.  The ministers have been informed that approximately 30,000 families were in jeopardy due to the closure — with 4,000 direct employees and over 25,000 indirect employees who are likely to be affected by the move. Suresh says that jobs are a requirement, and is firm on the demand. “Jobs are hard to come by. Most people who work here [at Ford’s plants] have between 12 and 20 years of experience. If these technicians go out and look, it’s doubtful if all of them will get jobs,” he said. 

Employees want to be guaranteed employment either by Ford itself continuing or the sale of the plant to someone else.  In a statement on Monday, the Chennai employees union had said that the announcement came as a shock, and that the union didn’t accept the decision and also condemned it. “Ford has to assure the livelihood of all the employees working currently,” it said. 

A report in The Times of India said that the state government is open to offer the same benefits to an investor in the plant that would be granted to an entity that sets up a greenfield plant in the state, as well as is open to accelerating approval timelines. Earlier, N Muruganandam, principal secretary (industries) told Business Standard that talks are ongoing between Ford and other entities, and that the state government will facilitate any deal that is reached.

On September 9, Ford said it would shut its two manufacturing facilities in India and would sell only imported vehicles in the country as part of a restructuring exercise. Ford said it will wind down vehicle assembly in Sanand by the fourth quarter of 2021 and vehicle and engine manufacturing in Chennai by the second quarter of 2022. Ford accumulated more than $2 billion of operating losses over the past ten years and demand for new vehicles has been much weaker than forecast, Ford Motor’s CEO Jim Farley said in a statement.

The company, which invested about $2.5 billion at its Chennai and Sanand (Gujarat) plants, would stop selling vehicles such as the EcoSport, Figo and Aspire produced from these factories. 

Meanwhile, AIADMK coordinator O Panneerselvam sought Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin's immediate intervention in the issue to ensure the company's facility at Maraimalai Nagar is kept afloat. He appealed to the Chief Minister to provide relief to the employees by sustaining the industrial climate in the state. Ford has been struggling for years to make a mark in India's automotive market. Ford India has an installed manufacturing capacity of 6,10,000 engines and 4,40,000 vehicles a year.

With PTI inputs

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