The automotive supplier ZF is pressing ahead with the 15,000 job cuts announced last summer. Now around 500 employees in Diepholz, Lower Saxony, fear for their jobs because the “Electronic Interfaces” area and plant are to be sold. In a letter to the workforce, the top management threatens that the number of jobs will decrease significantly.
Founded in 1915 as a “gear factory” in Friedrichshafen on Lake Constance, ZF is now the world‘s fifth largest automotive supplier and an international leader in the field of driveline and chassis technology.
At the end of May 2020, the group announced that it would cut up to 15,000 jobs worldwide in the coming years. The savings are intended to refinance more than 12 billion euros in investments in e-mobility and autonomous driving. In addition, they should secure the loans with which ZF has been buying up companies and companies that fit into the targeted changed business area, such as the truck supplier Wabco for 7 billion euros.
The corona pandemic serves as a pretext to justify the attacks on jobs and wages. Consolidated sales in 2020 of 32.6 billion euros were only 11 percent below the previous year’s figure of 36.5 billion euros. The net loss amounted to 741 million euros.
Nevertheless, ZF boss Scheider was not dissatisfied. “2020 was an ambivalent year. But we have mastered the crisis together, advanced the company’s transformation and secured substantial new orders in the strategically important fields of future technologies, ”he said about three weeks ago when the balance sheet was presented. By the end of 2020, ZF had won orders for electric drive components worth 14 billion euros for the next few years. This positive trend continued in the first few months of this year with further new orders.
The losses are mainly due to the provisions for the reduction of 15,000 jobs. In Germany in particular, jobs are usually destroyed through severance payments and social plan regulations.
Last year around 6,500 jobs were cut in this way. After taking over the Belgian-American brake manufacturer Wabco with 12,000 workers, ZF employed 153,500 people around the world at the end of the year.
Nevertheless, the group is sticking to the announced job cuts. Now it hits Diepholz. One of two locations there no longer fits the group and should be sold, according to the letter to the workforce.
ZF press spokesman Florian Tausch speaks of a “customary process” that has been initiated. ZF regularly reviews its business areas and product lines from the point of view of how well they fit in with the Group’s strategic direction and whether they can develop profitably and future-proof within the corporate strategy in the medium and long term.
Tausch stated that this focus is necessary in order to successfully master the challenges of industrial change over the next few years. “Some business areas can contribute more to the implementation of this strategy, others less.” For the ZF product line “Electronic Interfaces”, the examination showed that the area is not in the strategic focus of the group, said the ZF spokesman. Around 500 workers at the Diepholz plant for switching systems are affected.
The location in Diepholz was founded around 25 years ago. In addition to the plant, which is now threatened with sale or even closure, the automotive supplier still employs around 450 workers in a plant for chassis components in the district town. Around 3,600 people are employed by ZF in the region around Dümmer See – in Dielingen, Diepholz, Damme, Wagenfeld and Lemförde.
The Diepholz works council was surprised. “That pulled the rug out from under our feet,” claimed Eduard Haab. The works council ordered the workers to cut wages last year and claimed that this would safeguard jobs.
In reality, IG Metall and its works councils are in cahoots with companies in destroying jobs. For example, the ZF general works council, chaired by supervisory board member Achim Dietrich, agreed a “transformation collective agreement” with the company in summer 2020, which provides for up to 20 percent shorter working hours with no or only partial compensation. To this end, “compulsory redundancies” at the ZF locations in Germany should be excluded until the end of 2022.
This is the well-known formula with which jobs are being cut in Germany. The workers are not fired directly, but forced to cut wages and then put under pressure until they “voluntarily” leave the company with a meager severance payment. The jobs are then irrevocably gone.
The workers’ announcement by the Diepholz works council in Haab that they would coordinate with IG Metall and the general works council should therefore be understood as a threat.
At the beginning of the corona pandemic, the works councils first approved short-time work and then wage cuts because parts of production and administration had been shut down. A short time later, they advocated resuming production in order to make up for the initial losses. While the workers were ordered back to the plants under the dangerous conditions of the corona pandemic, the works councils played off the individual plants against each other and set a downward spiral in motion, which now falls victim to one plant after the other.
The development site in Kressbronn on Lake Constance is also to be closed in two or three years. The development teams are to be relocated to Friedrichshafen and the Kressbronn location is to be sold. A total of 250 employees are involved. Two UK locations and one in France are also on the closure list. CEO Scheider explained that locations that are not profitable are being questioned, that is, they are being closed.
IG Metall supports the downsizing, even if it does not openly admit it. The union and its works councils work with the corporate boards to work out plans to enforce plant closings and wage cuts, divide the workforce and suppress any resistance. Workers who seriously want to defend their jobs, wages and working conditions as well as their health against the corona dangers in the companies must organize independently of the trade union and its works councils.
In order to prepare for this and to expand the struggle across Europe, the Network for Safe Workplaces and the Network for Safe Education have scheduled a joint meeting on Monday at 7:30 p.m. Take part and discuss with us a politically independent, socialist perspective.