Member of Brazilian Metalworkers Union of São Jose dos Campos voted on Thursday to strike at GM’s factory to protest the automaker’s decision to discontinue the Zafira and Meriva minivans. The move, according to the workers, threatens about 1,500 jobs at the São Jose dos Campos plant and a strike may take place as soon as Monday.
In addition, workers stopped production for two hours at the plant on Thursday ahead of a meeting with GM executives and the country’s labor officials. However, the “meeting accomplished nothing”, according to union chief Antonio Ferreira de Barros. “The company won’t make any assurances. They are cutting production here and want to shut down the whole assembly line.” Barros added that another meeting between the union, GM, and the labor minister is set to take place, even though the union has already submitted (on Thursday) its intent to strike within 48 hours.
The topic is especially sensitive given that the Brazilian government is running an auto stimulus through the end of August that involves a decrease on industrial taxes for automakers; the stimulus was initiated on the condition that automakers maintain the size of their workforce.
GM isn’t violating that stipulation, since the company’s overall payroll in Brazil is in fact growing. Last week, a General Motors senior vice president told Reuters that the automaker is offsetting cuts at some factories with hirings at others. Staying the line of the New GM to keep production in line with true market demand, the executive added that jobs in São Jose dos Campos would rely on demand for the models produced there.
In June, GM initiated a voluntary buyout program at São Jose dos Campos, which 350 workers have accepted. The move comes in the face of the plant adding a third shift to increase production of the Chevy S10 truck, known as the Colorado elsewhere around the world. Instead of hiring new employees, the automaker transferred workers from other shifts to fill the third shift.
The Zafira and Meriva minivans both launched over a decade ago and are essentially rebadged the two-generations-old Opel designs by the same name. Both vehicles are being replaced by the recently-announced Chevrolet Spin minivan designed for developing markets; Spin is based on a modified variant of GM’s Gamma architecture.
In addition to the vans, São Jose dos Campos currently employs 7,500 workers and produces the S-10 (Colorado) trucks, Montana car-based pickup, as well as engines. Production of the Zafira represents less than 10 percent of the line’s production volume.
The GM Authority Take
As difficult as it may be, the workforce at São Jose dos Campos needs to face the music and realize that the Zafira and Meriva are outdated products that are no longer competitive, and that The General is actively phasing them out in favor of the new Spin MPV, which will be made at the São Caetano do Sul plant. A strike won’t accomplish anything in this case, as the (Zafira/Meriva) train has already left the station, even though that should have taken place years ago.