Even after two days of an ‘official’ strike at VDL Nedcar in Born, the Dutch VDL Group still didn’t want to meet the union’s ultimatum to double the social plan, resulting in the unions extending the strike further on Wednesday and Thursday. According to the unions, willingness is high with the Nedcar workers to continue the fight.
Meanwhile, news broke that VDL is going to build hydrogen trucks for Toyota Motor Europe, but that affects only the smaller division VDL Special Vehicles in Eindhoven. Toyota wants VDL to do the conversion to a fuel cell drivetrain for a number of trucks used by its logistic partners. The first hydrogen truck is scheduled for the summer of 2023, followed by more vehicles in autumn.
VDL rejects the unions’ demand for the social plan to be doubled to 240 million euros instead of the €120 million proposed in a plan drafted some years ago. The management only wanted to offer some additional extras.
The workers at the VDL Nedcar’s plant in Born, Netherlands, near the Belgian border, are ‘extremely angry’, the unions say. On Friday, they reluctantly resumed work after two days of ‘outlaw strike’ after negotiations between unions and management failed on Tuesday.
Feeling fobbed and abused
The unions say they tried to have informal contacts with VDL Group on Saturday but ‘got no reaction’, which the company denies. VDL top guy Willem van der Leegte says the unions’ demands are ‘unreasonable’ and said before he’s willing to offer outplacement for the Nedcar employees in other factories of the VDL group. But layoffs will be inevitable.
This is hard to swallow for the workers who feel fobbed off and abused as word got out that the van der Leegte family has paid itself a dividend of €300 million lately. Van der Leegte himself denies that, saying the €300 million from Nedcar was transferred to VDL Group to invest in the transformation of the Born car factory.
The Dutch family-owned VDL Group has been looking for new contracts for its car assembly plant in Born for some years since the news that BMW would finish production of the MINI in the Nederlands and transfer it to its own factories. But after several failed contracts, the hope for a new future at Nedcar has vanished into thin air with the employees and unions alike.
The unions – both in the Netherlands and in Belgium – fear the worse for the current 3 800 employees at VDL Nedcar, among which some 600 Belgians living just over the border. Most came from the Ford factory in Genk, where nearly 6 000 people lost their job when the plant was closed in 2012.
Work for 350 people?
Even with the latest contracts for Electricbrands, the assembly of battery packs and hard coating of brake disks, and other subcontracts for VDL’s other (bus) factories, the unions estimated there will be work for 350 people at most in the worst-case scenario. The new order for the hydrogen conversion of Toyota trucks won’t create that much new jobs either.
Negotiations for a global social plan for the workers failed on Tuesday, after which the wildcat strike started with angry employees. The latest word from the management was that British Gordon Murray Automotive, a manufacturer of exclusive hypercars, was interested in having a ‘large’ model built by VDL Nedcar by 2026. A delegation of the British manufacturer was to visit Nedcar in Born on Thursday.
According to VDL, the visit took place, but they didn’t manage to get some production lines operational for the demo. According to some employees, an attempt to hire in interim workers to restart production failed, which is denied by VDL management.
The Dutch subsidiary of automotive supplier International Automotive Components (IAC) is the first victim of BMW withdrawing production of the MINI at VDL Nedcar in Born. The factory, also located in Born, will close in February 2024, with 100 people losing their jobs.
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