Hundreds of workers of Ford Motors gathered in front of the plant in Sanand, about 25 kilometres from Ahmedabad, Gujarat to protest against the closure of the company.
The workers demanded primarily that the company should not shut down. If it has to, the workers sought intervention from the state government to ensure that Ford’s employees will get a priority for jobs at the same wage in the company that replaces the Ford Motors.
"Our primary demand is that the plant should not be shut down. If the company is going to shut down the Sanand plant, we request the Gujarat government that we should get priority for jobs at the same wage in the company that replaces Ford Motors in the coming future,” said a protesting employee of the auto company.
Notably, independent MLA Jignesh Mevani met the protesting workers at Sanand on September 24 and lent his support to their cause.
“I stand by your cause and will fight for you till we arrive at a situation favourable to you (workers). I do not know about the remaining 181 MLAs, but I assure you that you have my full support,” said Mevani in a speech at the location of the protest.
“The state government and the Centre should intervene in the matter and see to it that the company negotiates fairly with the workers who are staring at uncertainty and unemployment. It is not a matter of a handful of workers; 1,200 workers and their families are about to lose their livelihood,” added Mevani who is the first politician to reach out to the workers at Ford Motors since the company announced its closure.
The auto company had announced earlier this month that it will shut down its vehicle assembly unit in Sanand by the fourth quarter of 2021 and vehicle and engine manufacturing in Chennai by the second quarter of 2022.
About 1,200 permanent employees of Ford stand to lose their livelihood by December 2021 if the company sticks to its plan. The auto Sanand plant spread across about 460 acres in North Kotapura village, touching the Tata Motors plant, once had 3,000 employees working at the plant.
“Since the pandemic began, the production has gone down considerably. So, on most days, only 400 to 450 workers would be working. But the information of closure came all of a sudden for us. One day before announcing publicly, the management of Ford Motors called its employees and held a meeting with the workers’ union. But nothing was discussed about the future of so many employees. All of a sudden, workers were left with no option but to find a new job in three months,” Vijay Bapodra, a worker and the union leader of Karnavati Kamdar Ekta Sangh, a union of 850 workers of Ford Motors, told reporters here.
“We were told that the company will sit with the employees to decide the future of the workers,” added Bapodra, who claimed there are 2,000 permanent workers currently working at the Ford Motors, all of whom stand to lose their job once the company shuts down.
Apart from the employees, the announcement of closure of Ford Motors have also left the car dealers worried about clearing their existing inventory. As per the Federation of Automobile Association (FADA), the auto company has around 22 dealers across the state.
“Dealers have already invested Rs 200 crore and an inventory of Rs 150 crore at least is left to be cleared out,” Pranav Shah, Chairman of FADA said in a statement.
Notably, Ford Motors will be the second automobile company to shut down its operations in Gujarat in the last five years. In 2017, General Motors had closed down its plant at Halol, near Vadodara, selling its plant to MG Motor India, a subsidiary of China’s SAIC Motor Corp.
Ford flagged off its plant at Sanand, second in India (first being in Chennai) in March 2015, as a part of ‘Make in India’ programme, a pet project of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The then chief minister of Gujarat, Anandiben Patel, had said during the inauguration, “This is going to be amongst the biggest automotive clusters in the Asia-Pacific region, making it the Detroit of India in making.”
As the Ford Motors started its unit by manufacturing 2.4 lakh cars and 2.7 lakh engines with an investment of around Rs 6,200 crore, the officials of the company had stated that the company is looking to establish India as an export hub for the company and triple its exports from the current 37 countries to 50 in the next five years.