Zombie manufacturing

The death agonies of the car industry in Barcelona’s Zona Franca district.

Graffiti from late 2007, when management went nuclear

Graffiti from late 2007, when management went nuclear

Lunch with someone who claims the redundancies in early 2008 at Frape-Behr’s Barcelona Zona Franca auto cooling systems plant were preceded by the following sequence of events:

  1. Summer 2007. Head office in Germany says 30% of the workforce must go for the plant to remain economic. Productivity is poor, and workers don’t like getting up in the morning–problems also experienced by the neighbouring Nissan and Seat factories.
  2. An internal management debate leads to this being presented to the workers as a need for a plant-wide 30% salary cut. The expectation is that self-interest will lead workers to call for 30% job cuts instead, relieving management of this task.
  3. The unions–bolshie but not very bright–tell management where to stick it.
  4. Management has foreseen this eventuality and says, OK, we’re sacking all 295 of you and moving production elsewhere.
  5. Lockins and direct action follow, and the regional government lurches on-stage like a pantomime horse.
  6. Unions and workers agree to 92 jobs going, which is to say 31% of the workforce.

Act II opens with a half a billion euro aid package for the local car industry, which was announced a few days ago and which has served inter alia to claw back some production that was Morocco-bound. Everyone except perhaps the regional government is apparently clear that Brussels will eventually declare much of this illegal, but for the moment the charade continues.

This excellent site by Fernando Abad contains much historical documentation and photos of the area and its people, including this history of Seat by José Sanz. This walk traverses briefly one of the district’s stranger residential developments, but things are a lot quieter now the gypsies and the attendant junkies have gone.

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