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Outrage Over Continental Tyre's Belgian Closure Plan

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9 August, 2005ICEM News release No. 12/2001

Trade unionists from across Belgium and international delegates converged on an industrial suburb of Liège, Belgium, this morning. They were protesting over plans by tyre giant Continental to shut down production of truck tyres there.

After a meeting outside the gates of the Continental plant, hundreds of workers marched round the industrial estate. Later, a motorway was blocked by demonstrators.


Continental's closure plan jeopardises 700 jobs in an area that has already suffered greatly from the delocalisation strategies of the multinationals.

Today's demo was organised by Belgian general workers' union the Centrale Générale-FGTB and salaried staffs' union SETCa-FGTB, both of which are affiliated at the global level to the 20-million-strong International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers' Union (ICEM). Co-organiser was the chemical workers' union CSC-Chimie.

"The workers around the world are watching," ICEM General Secretary Fred Higgs told the demonstrators, "and they are insisting that workers in Belgium be treated with respect and dignity." An ICEM contingent took part in the demonstration, carrying the banners of the international.

The ICEM has launched a worldwide solidarity campaign in support of the Belgian Continental workers.

Continental's announcement has caused widespread outrage in Belgium. Its plant there is one of the most modern in the company, and its Belgian workers had accepted a whole series of job cuts and pay reductions since 1997 in order to safeguard the Belgian operation. "Today," says the Central Générale, "the workers note that all this simply served to generate profits for the multinational, which invested them elsewhere."

The unions had called for a moratorium on the closure until the end of this year at the very earliest, so as to give time for serious negotiations on job preservation measures and compensation. The management's response was to speed up the closure plans. "A provocation," say the unions.

There is no doubt where the real responsibilities lie, Michel Nollet told the demonstrators this morning. He is the President of the Belgian national trade union federation FGTB. Multinational companies had undertaken closure after closure, Nollet said. This proved that governments had lost control of their economies. Noting the absence of politicians from today's demonstration, Nollet challenged governments worldwide to reassert their authority over the multinational corporations. And he called for international trade union solidarity to fight Continental's closure plan.