Agreement reached on closure of Lear plant

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In May 2002, after over three months of dispute, an agreement on the closure of a Lear Corporation cable plant at Cervera in Catalonia, Spain, was concluded by the workers' committee and the company, following mediation by the Catalan regional government. The 928 workers at the plant will received enhanced compensation and be offered various redeployment possibilities.

It was announced in early 2002 that the US-based Lear Corporation was to close its plant at Cervera (in Barcelona, Catalonia), which produces cables for the automobile industry (ES0203204N), and move production to Poland, due to the relatively high labour costs at the Spanish plant (though the Cervera workers are thought to have relatively low pay in terms of the Spanish metalworking sector).

When the multinational proved unwilling to reconsider its decision, and amid claims that it had the tacit agreement of the Catalan labour authorities for the closure, the workforce's action focused on two fronts: obtaining as much compensation as possible; and leaving the 928 workers in a good situation for redeployment in the same county or nearby. After a total of over three months of dispute, an agreement was reached in May 2002 between the Cervera workers' committee and the company, following mediation by the Catalan regional government (Generalitat), which was subsequently supported by almost 90% of the workforce.

Under the deal, the workers have obtained compensation of 60 days' pay per year worked (the statutory 45 days' pay plus 12 for seniority and three representing bonuses). Furthermore, 17 workers may take early retirement without a reduction in their pension. With regard to relocation and redeployment, some of the agreement's provision are arguably less substantial. Lear has offered to relocate 100 workers at its Avila plant (500 kilometres away from Cervera) and 50 at its Valls plant (70 kilometres away), with a small allowance for transfer and housing. With regard to the remaining workers, commitments have been made by both the company and the regional government. For its part, Lear has signed an agreement with Adecco, an employment services company, which will provide consultants and specialists to train and prepare the Cervera workers of Lear for employment in other companies. At the same time, the Generalitat has agreed to carry out a series of industrialisation projects in the county.

According to the trade unions and the opposition political parties, 'they obtained what was possible, or they accepted the lesser evil.' The possibilities for relocation in the county are limited and the arrival of new companies will depend on many factors in addition to the favourable attitude of the regional government, as has been seen in many similar cases. However, there is another group of workers who have not, it is claimed, been taken into account: those in the small workshops that work for the multinational or the bars and restaurants that base their business on it, and will at least have to reduce their workforces.

The Cervera plant will finally close its doors on 31 December 2002. The operation will cost Lear EUR 18 million, which it is thought that it will recover by moving to Poland. Once again, according to critics, it has been shown that governments offer substantial facilities to multinationals (Lear obtained very favourable conditions to set up its plant in Cervera) without obtaining in return guarantees of stability, at least for a certain time.

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