‘Large shock’: Chennai Ford staff who had been there since ’90s react to closure


The influence of Ford’s exit may also be felt by a whole bunch of sellers, ancillary industries and MSMEs which have supported the plant up till now.

Padmanabhan* by no means anticipated to lose his job in the midst of a pandemic. At 46, he’s labored half his life in a significant multinational vehicle agency which is one among the many USA’s Huge Three — the Ford Motor Firm. Ford first employed him as a everlasting manufacturing line operator in its Chennai plant in 1998. Padmanabhan* grew throughout the firm over the a long time, drew Rs 50,000 a month and in addition obtained elected because the labour union treasurer.

However impulsively, he and almost 2,700 different staff had been knowledgeable that they are going to be shedding their jobs subsequent yr. Ford is winding down its India operations in Q2 2022 and its meeting items in Chennai and Sanand (Gujarat) will probably be closed down. For these like Padmanabhan, who’ve been related to Ford’s Chennai plant for the reason that 90s, the announcement has come as a shock.

“We by no means had a clue concerning the plant shutting down. It was one-way communication. On Thursday (September 9) afternoon, we had been referred to as in for a gathering the place Ford India MD Anurag Mehrotra knowledgeable us that the plant is closing down. This actually was surprising and it’s a matter of our livelihoods,” Padmanabhan tells TNM. Ford’s Chennai labour union stated that roughly 2,700 staff and some hundred contract workers in Chennai (other than Sanand) will probably be affected by the corporate’s resolution. Ford put the overall impacted staff at roughly 4,000.

A number of months in the past, automakers with factories in Chennai reminiscent of Renault-Nissan and Hyundai needed to shut down manufacturing for a couple of weeks within the wake of protests from staff who complained that they had been made to work in unsafe situations. 

Padmanabhan says that Ford had been an excellent employer throughout these instances. “We had been paid our salaries, we obtained our leaves after we requested them they usually (administration) made certain we by no means labored in unsafe situations. Ford’s work tradition has all the time been nice,” he says. However now, he and his fellow operators concern that their firm goes to depart them excessive and dry, with no livelihood choices in hand. 

Suresh, the president of the Chennai Ford Staff Union, earlier advised TNM that the union will now have a common physique assembly to debate the phrases of the settlement, after which talks will probably be held with the administration. Staff are involved about employment and getting them a good discount would be the union’s process, he stated. 

“The imply age in our plant (labourers) is 35. Many of the males who work right here have youngsters in highschool (eleventh, twelfth), youthful youngsters in major and homemaker wives. They’ve devoted their careers to Ford and this plant and now really feel deserted,” says 43-year-old Murugan* who has labored within the manufacturing unit for 21 years. 

Murugan says that it’s close to inconceivable to seek out jobs in different vehicle meeting items as a result of pandemic shrinking the auto market and excessive demand for jobs. Furthermore, most different firms solely rent contract staff. “Most automakers reminiscent of Hyundai and Nissan don’t make use of everlasting workers. They rent contract labour to work of their meeting items and contract labourers don’t earn sufficient and might be terminated anytime,” Murugan explains.

Ford stated it took the choice after taking a look at choices together with partnerships, platform sharing and contract manufacturing with different OEMs. It’s nonetheless taking a look at the potential for promoting its manufacturing crops, it added.

Nevertheless, the influence of Ford’s exit is not going to be restricted to staff and contracted staff on the manufacturing unit alone, but in addition sellers, ancillary industries and MSMEs which have supported the plant up till now. 

Federation of Vehicle Sellers Associations (FADA) chief Vinkesh Gulati stated that whereas Ford has assured to adequately compensate sellers and proceed to service clients, it isn’t sufficient. 

“Although this can be a good starting, it isn’t sufficient as there are ~170 Sellers who in flip have ~391 retailers and have invested ~Rs 2,000 Cr for organising their dealerships. Whereas Ford India employs 4,000 folks, Dealerships make use of round 40,000 folks with out displacing them from their house areas thus being repeatedly expert and up-skilled all this whereas,” he stated. 

“Ford India Sellers presently maintain ~1,000 autos which quantity to ~Rs 150 Cr through stock funding from reputed Indian Banks. Additionally they carry Demo Automobiles that are 100’s in numbers. Furthermore, Ford India additionally appointed a number of sellers till 5 months again,” he added, stating that for these sellers, this would be the “greatest monetary loss of their whole life”.  

The Convenor of Consortium of Indian Associations (CIA) KE Raghunathan tells TNM that Ford’s exit is a symptom of a bigger malaise, and issues might solely worsen from now within the vehicle trade, additional impacting MSMEs and ancillary industries. 

“Usually in an auto sector, the ratio between direct and oblique employment is roughly 1:3, and one other 2 gig staff. That is what’s going to be the most important fallout – the place roughly 4,000 staff of Ford will lose jobs, then the employment alternative misplaced goes to be very excessive,” Raghunathan says. 

He pegged the variety of oblique staff being impacted by Ford at 12,000-13,000.

“So many ancillaries have been created just for provide to Ford. For MSMEs, some is probably not dependent solely on Ford however on the car sector as an entire, however one wing of theirs is minimize off. They’ve already been impacted by COVID-19 and if they’ve been catering to 3 vehicle giants, and even one leaving will considerably influence them,” he added. 

“We have to get up, we are able to’t write this off merely blaming Ford,” he says. 

Ford is hardly the primary international automaker to depart the Indian market. Normal Motors and Fiat additionally exited the nation.

Ford, in an announcement, stated its resolution to exit the nation will value it $2 billion. The corporate additionally stated it additionally suffered $2 billion in working losses within the final decade. Regardless of coming into the Indian market 25 years in the past by organising its Chennai manufacturing unit, Ford solely has rather less than 2% of the Indian passenger automobile market. It stated that after present seller inventories are offered, it’ll stop the sale of present merchandise reminiscent of Figo, Aspire, Freestyle, EcoSport and Endeavour. 

With the continuing slowdown within the vehicle trade together with the influence of things reminiscent of the worldwide scarcity of semiconductors, commodity costs, BS-VI laws and extra, issues concerning the future influence on the Detroit of India stay.

*Names modified to guard identities


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