Europe’s reindustrialisation policy must challenge market orthodoxies and shareholder greed
A pattern of closures and relocations of manufacturing operations has plagued some European countries, threatening mass layoffs with potentially disastrous consequences for thousands of workers and their families.
The Council and the Commission delivered statements today in Parliament on the need for a European reindustrialisation policy following announcements from Caterpillar and Alstom of impending closures of their factories in Belgium, France and the north of Ireland.
The debate was added last minute to the Strasbourg session agenda at the request of MEPs. A pattern of closures and relocations of manufacturing operations has plagued some European countries, threatening mass layoffs with potentially disastrous consequences for thousands of workers and their families.
Reacting to the statements, GUE/NGL MEP Thomas Händel, chair of the Employment Committee (EMPL), offered a progressive alternative to Europe´s struggling industrial sector:
“Profitable companies must take responsibility over the economic losses resulting from the destruction of jobs. Europe needs a comprehensive and forward-looking industrial policy that prevents profit-driven job cuts while generating employment with structural change. The Commission would be better advised to focus on job-creating reindustrialisation instead of negotiating so-called ‘free trade agreements' like TTIP and CETA that create job insecurity."
Caterpillar announced that it is closing down its Gosselies factory near Charleroi in Belgium resulting in a collective loss of 2,200 jobs. The US-manufacturing giant has also declared the dismissal of more than 250 workers in the north of Ireland and the closure of its Monkstown factory. French multinational Alstom made a shock announcement that it will close its historic Belfort plant where it built its first steam locomotive back in 1880. It is expected that 400 workers will lose their jobs.
Meanwhile, French MEP Patrick Le Hyaric proposed going beyond the debate on social mitigation into a European policy for reindustrialisation:
“How can one accept that Caterpillar should be making people redundant when its shareholders are going to receive 1.4 billion euros in dividends? How can Alstom say it has no future when there is high demand for its passenger and freight equipment? The EU should use its funds for investments that promote employment and productivity. For the case of Alstom, an intra-European railway policy is needed so that companies are not pitted against each other. We need to protect our jobs just like other countries do and we should give power to workers so that they have a say in the management of their companies.“
While condemning the complicity of Caterpillar in the bulldozing of Palestinian homes, Irish MEP Martina Anderson declared her support and solidarity for the Irish workers affected by the closures:
“As an MEP, I support the workers of the Monkstown Plant in Newtownabbey, which had 250 jobs axed, with plants in Belfast and Larne under threat. Taking into account profits and shareholders' dividends, one way of saving these jobs might be to spread production over different plants and limit shareholder dividends. Will shareholders and millionaires receive a little less, or will well performing industrial infrastructure be destroyed, and thousands of families thrown into disarray? Unfortunately, in a world that caters for greed and not need, greed triumphs.”
The Irish MEP expressed discontent that the EU Globalisation Adjustment Fund is out of reach to her constituents:
“There will be no opportunity for my constituents to tap into the EU Globalisation Adjustment Fund, because the British Government has control of accessing it and has consistently denied the use of the Fund for redundant workers in the north of Ireland.”