Over 400 French and British workers lobbying the Peugeot shareholders’ Annual General Meeting in Paris on Wednesday declared they are determined to fight the closure of the Ryton plant in Coventry.
News Line travelled overnight with a delegation of twenty Transport and General Workers’ Union and Amicus trade union members from Coventry to Peugeot’s Paris head office near the Arc de Triumph.
The British unions had also received a letter of support from the Emil Machyna, president of Oz Kovo Metalworkers Federation, Slovakia.
Machyna said: ‘We express our full solidarity with our colleagues in the United Kingdom in their fair fight for keeping production in their territory.
‘Our activities are targeted to get higher incomes for our employees the way that any other colleagues in economically stronger countries do not need to face the jobs losses just because of the fact in other countries the labour is cheaper.’
Terry McGowan, TGWU deputy senior steward (days) Parts division, said on the coach: ‘I’m here to protest against the greedy shareholders who are only looking for the best dividend.
‘I want to tell our French brothers and sisters if Ryton goes, you can be next.
‘We are strongly recommending strike action.’
John Somers, also from Parts division, said: ‘I feel very angry about the situation, the way the company scythe down people’s lives.
‘It is time to “fight the power” as Public Enemy said.
‘I’m looking for a modicum of respect from the company, which up to now has been missing.
‘Workers have been treated badly. Our union representatives are recommending strike action and I will follow their recommendation.’
Terry added: ‘It’s about time we all got together to take on companies that sack people to make extra profit abroad.
‘I also wish our brothers and sisters at Vauxhall all the best in their fight to save jobs.’
Amicus member John Walker told News Line: ‘I’ve come to help preserve manufacturing in the Coventry area.
‘Industry in this country is being eroded at such a rate there will be nothing left for future generations.’
Peter Bates, B shift Amicus deputy convenor, Ryton maintenance tradesmen, said: ‘It’s deplorable the way the government hasn’t helped us over the past ten years.
‘If we had a level playing field with Europe it would be harder to sack us.
‘Labour has kept all the Tory laws. They way we’ve been heading they’ll be no manufacturing left.
‘Unless we make a stand, there’s no future for our children or our children’s children.
‘I was in London last week at the launch of our union’s “Who’s Next?” campaign.
‘I was amazed that, with the number of MPs we’ve got, the lack of influence we’ve got with the government.
‘There’s got to be action, otherwise we’ve got no future.’
Ralph Hawson said: ‘I retired 18 weeks ago. I spent pretty much all my life working at Rootes and at Peugeot.
‘When I think back, Peugeot hasn’t acted any different than Chrysler acted.
‘They’ve all been asset-stripping right back to the Rootes days.
‘Chrysler ran the company down, milked it, took a lot of money from the Callaghan Labour government, then sold it to Rootes for a dollar with £400 million of debts.
‘Peugeot are doing what the others have done, milked us, and now they are moving on, for a few more extra euros at the stroke of a pen.
‘But that job is needed for the next generation.’
Amicus deputy convenor, Ryton production, John Cummings said: ‘People have children, families, mortgages and have made commitments on what they were promised by a company that’s made £12.2m in 2004, at the Ryton plant alone.
‘The only reason Peugeot is moving is to make more money out of socially unacceptable wages in Slovakia.
‘I’ve worked at Peugeot for seven years. It’s all agency work they are going to be offering in the future.
‘The whole drive is to casualise.
‘I’ll definitely support industrial action. We have to take a stand, or there’s nothing for the up and coming generation.’
Speaking at the Paris lobby, Amicus member, maintenance supervisor Frank McAllister said: ‘I’ve worked at Ryton 23 years. There’s five other members of my family worked there, so I’m the sixth member of my family to work at Ryton.
‘I’ve got four children, one is getting on to apprenticeship age.
‘He wanted to do robotics and automation and there’s nowhere else in Coventry, or anywhere near, that he can learn those skills.
‘I will vote for a strike to defend jobs and get our comrades in other factories to understand it will be them next if Coventry closes.
‘If Peugeot want to sell in the UK, they need to support the UK industry.’
Ryton engineer, Amicus staff convenor Fintan Collins added: ‘I’m here to emphasise to the French public, particularly the shareholders, that the betrayal and industrial vandalism at Ryton is unacceptable.
‘Absolutely, I will support action. I feel however the ballot goes there will be action.
‘People are being intimidated by management but action will definitely take place to hit Peugeot in the pocket and send a message to all other manufacturers – if you don’t build here, you don’t sell here.’
Ray Cross, paint shop worker and TGWU shop steward, said: ‘I feel I’ve been stabbed in the back.
‘The company haven’t been honest with the workforce about what’s happened and the reason why.
‘They’ve just used us. They’ve had the best years out of us and just thrown us away. It’s not right.
‘They’ve taken advantage of Britain’s weak labour laws and are exploiting people in the East.
‘They’ve used Slovakia’s entry into the Common Market to get grants at the cost of our jobs, grants that Britain’s probably given them.
‘I support a Yes vote in the industrial action, we can’t take it lying down.
‘The government haven’t reacted to the closure announcement.
‘Apart from a couple of comments from Mr Brown, they’ve done nothing for us or manufacturing in general.
‘You can see them encouraging companies to come here, but for cheap labour.
‘Our standards of living are falling. At the job fairs they are holding, they are offering jobs at £5 to £6 an hour for a manual worker, which is a massive drop.
‘The so-called cushion will not last five minutes.’
Amicus convenor Tony Johnson told News Line: ‘I’ve been 30 years with the company.
‘I’m here at the Peugeot AGM because I don’t like a company that treats the workforce in the manner they’ve done.
‘They’ve betrayed them and the the union.
‘We’re here to raise the issue with the shareholders, that their investment for the future will end up being reduced because the trade unions will step up their campaign within the UK and Europe to have an impact on their market share.
‘I definitely support industrial action and we’ve been promised support from the EMF (European Metalworkers Federation) who say they are prepared to take action.
‘They will be calling a day of action throughout Europe.’
Among the CGT trade union members from across France, Fabrice Lucas, a technician from the Peugeot-Citroen Rennes plant, told News Line: ‘I support the comrades from England because the workers in France, Spain, England and Slovakia are in the same situation.
‘Today the French management attacks the English workers but tomorrow they will attack the French workers.
‘We support the English workers to take strike action and maybe we’ll strike in France. This concerns us all.’
Bardon Ludovic, from Peugeot PSA, Sochaux factory added: ‘We are fighting against a company which is seeking to move production for cheap labour.
‘All the smaller factories are concerned with the “delocalisation”.
‘Peugeot sacrifice the workers for profits.
‘Many many families are affected by this. Many people are worried for their jobs.
‘We support the British workers striking and we will make a day of action throughout Europe.’
Christian Pilichowski, of the CGT, EMF International Secretary told News Line: ‘It’s important to have a European demonstration to protest against the willingness of Peugeot to close Ryton.
‘We need to manufacture cars all over Europe.
‘Peugeot and the international unions, including the CGT, signed two years ago an agreement about corporate social responsibility.
‘The way Peugeot announced the closure of the Ryton plant is exactly what is unacceptable, according to the agreement.
‘By fighting to protect jobs in Ryton we know that we also protect jobs in France.
‘Decreasing the workforce in England is just the first step to decreasing the workforce in Western Europe.
‘We support the British workers taking industrial action.
‘We are working to develop common action throughout Europe.
‘Today’s demonstration is the first step towards common action.’