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Spain: Saint-Gobain workers fight plant closure

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22 May, 2024Workers at the Saint-Gobain SEKURIT plant in Avilés, Spain, launched a three-day strike on 20 May opposing the company's decision to cease windshield manufacturing operations at the facility. The negotiation process regarding the plant closure is set to conclude on 24 May, and the closure would mark the end of over 70 years of production that has significantly benefited the company.

Despite the plant's demonstrated productivity and the expertise of its workforce, Saint-Gobain cites the economic downturn during the pandemic, a component supply crisis, and uncertain future market conditions as reasons for the decision. When the company announced a restructuring plan for the replacement windshield manufacturing in 2022, they initiated legal procedures for layoffs instead of entering into dialogue with the union. When the workforce responded with a strike, the layoffs were retracted and negotiations with the union were held.

To transform the business, Saint-Gobain proposed a EUR10 million investment into the Avilés plant. However, this came with conditions: workforce reductions, wage restrictions in the collective agreement, and lower wages for new hires. While the workforce gradually reduced, and a wage agreement was reached, the third condition to pay lower wages to new hires was unacceptable to IndustriALL affiliate CC.OO UGT and the corriente sindical de izquierdas (CSI).  

The last two years have seen production gradually shift to Saint-Gobain's plant in Kenitra, Morocco, where labour costs are lower. This has left the Avilés facility in a precarious situation with insufficient orders to meet profitability requirements. The company now wants to shut down operations without offering any alternatives.

In a letter sent to Saint-Gobain SEKURIT, Atle Høie IndustriALL general secretary expressed that

" IndustriALL stands in solidarity with the workers of Avilés. We support their efforts to preserve their jobs and urge Saint-Gobain to reconsider its decision for the sake of the community and its dedicated workforce." 

Unions have suggested various activities to preserve local employment, but the company has consistently rejected these proposals. Workers are currently participating in partial strikes, demonstrations, and meetings with political leaders to mitigate the social impact of the closure. Unions call on Saint-Gobain to uphold its social responsibility and sustainability commitments, highlighting the environmental repercussions of such a move.

Spain's Labour Minister Yolanda Díaz has criticized the company's justifications as inadequate and labelled the closure as a poor practice. She emphasized that relocating industry solely for increased profitability at the expense of higher labour costs is unacceptable. Minister Díaz also announced that public subsidies received by Saint-Gobain would be scrutinized and potentially reclaimed if linked to job delocalization.

Shutterstock Photo ID: 2130304655 FEBRUARY 2022 - LA DEFENSE - FRANCE: view on the Saint Gobain signboard