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November 10, 2005

EXCLUSIVE: SPAIN: Seat offers strikers better redundancy deal

Seat has improved a redundancy package aimed at cutting 1,346 jobs or 8% of its workforce, most of them blue-collar workers at its largest factory in Martorell, outside Barcelona.

Seat has improved a redundancy package aimed at cutting 1,346 jobs or 8% of its workforce, most of them blue-collar workers at its largest factory in Martorell, outside Barcelona.

The plan includes job transfers and higher compensation for laid-off workers. The plant workforce began a 24-hour strike yesterday (November 9) and staged a huge, “16,000-strong” walk-out in Barcelona today, unions said.

The scheme was introduced to save costs at the money-losing Volkswagen unit, whose global sales are slumping.

“We have introduced measures to reduce the negative effects of the plan including job relocations inside the group,” a company spokeswoman told just-auto. The company will also consider increases over the legal 20-day compensation rate (per year worked) for the departing staff.

It is too early to say how many workers will leave Seat and how many will go to new jobs elsewhere in the company, the spokeswoman said, adding that Seat will next meet with its workers on 15 November.

“Obviously most workers will go and then they’ll begin to move others around,” said David Matellan, head of the CCOO union’s metals and automobile federation in the Catalonia region.

Seat’s situation is worsening, Matellan added, and unions expect negotiations to get “much uglier” and drag on for months.

They are unsatisfied with Seat’s “tricky” new offer and will continue to press the Catalonia regional government to pressure Seat to negotiate flexibile terms –not job cuts, Matellan said.

Under Spanish law, Seat must win government approval for the plan or face “huge law suits and fines,” he added.

“We want the Generalitat to go to Volkswagen and demand a new future for Seat. To save Seat,” Matellan said. “We have huge vehicle stocks and the [recently redesigned] Toledo and Altea are selling poorly.”

The Seat spokeswoman denied this, saying: “Our stocks are at opportune levels and we are working hard to optimise them.”

To save Seat, VW needs to market the brand as “a more premium, sportier Audi,” Matellan pointed out, reflecting the wider view of the country’s unions, which are pressing politicians to convey this message to Wolfsburg, where executives are working on a new strategy for the brand.

For the sake of Seat’s workers, let’s hope it comes soon.

Ivan Castano

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