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Date: Thu, 4 Feb 1999 23:14:37 -0600 (CST)
From: Julietbeck@aol.com (by way of Michael Eisenscher <meisenscher@igc.org>)
Subject: Brazil workers claim early victory in Ford dispute
Article: 54131
To: undisclosed-recipients:;
Message-ID: <bulk.8816.19990206061614@chumbly.math.missouri.edu>

Brazil workers claim early victory in Ford dispute

By Noriko Yamaguchi, Reuters, 3 February 1999

SAO PAULO (Reuters) - Workers at Ford Motor Co.'s key factory in Brazil claimed an early victory Wednesday in a labor dispute after a plant occupation and strike forced Ford to review a plan for mass layoffs.

Thousands of workers at the Ford do Brasil plant in Sao Bernardo do Campo ... Brazil's Detroit, near Sao Paulo ... went back to the production line after a month-long occupation that included workers' wives and children ground output to a halt.

We're still in the middle of a long battle. But we've won a great victory, and we're proud, said Carlos Grana, secretary general at the Metal Workers' Union for the greater Sao Paulo region. We've done something extraordinary ... making a major automaker suspend a mass layoff.

The dispute began just before Christmas when Ford announced it would fire 2,800 of the factory's 6,000 workers because of a sharp slump in demand for cars in Brazil.

But the fired employees decided to show up for work anyway, and bring their families into the plant in a protest that stopped production and generated sympathy across Brazil.

Ford responded by closing the factory for two weeks starting Jan. 18. But when the company tried to resume output Feb. 1, all the workers went on strike.

Company officials agreed Tuesday to delay the layoffs until Feb. 18, after giving workers a chance to leave the company with a bonus under a voluntary retirement program.

Ford will review how many workers will actually apply to the new proposal and take it from there, said a Ford spokeswoman, without saying why the company changed its stance.

Union leader Grana said the protest succeeded mainly because it was peaceful. We were pacifists and people sympathized with us. We didn't damage a single car. We were very disciplined, he said.

Union officials said that during a period of labor tension 10 years ago when Brazil's auto industry experienced more than 180 strikes a month, Ford do Brasil workers demanding a pay increase destroyed 60 cars.

Labor experts said Brazilian workers today were less rebellious because of the nation's tight job market.

With unemployment at about 20 percent in Sao Paulo's industrial center, workers are more interested in keeping their jobs than in higher pay. Joblessness is expected to grow as the country battles a currency crisis.

Workers were also increasingly aware that automakers could shut their Sao Paulo plants and move to other Brazilian states, where labor is cheaper and less organized.

Carmakers in Sao Paulo have cut their work force by 40 percent in the past 10 years to about 116,000 workers.