All job hopes doused, Ford’s Chennai unit workers seek separation package

Since the employees at the unit are all between 32 years and 48 years old, they say the probability of getting a job in the same field is close to impossible

Ford management held three rounds of talks with employees between May 9 and 13. The first round of talks over the separation package is likely to begin on Monday.

After the car manufacturing giant Ford shelved its plans to manufacture electric vehicles in India, employees at the Ford’s engine and vehicle assembling plant in Chennai are gearing up for talks with the company over separation package and other financial settlements.

“Do you think we have any other option,” asks 48-year-old P Senthilkumar, who joined the unit in 2000. “Everything has gone for a toss and we have nothing left in our hands now. We can only negotiate a decent separation package,” he says.

It’s not just Senthil. As many as 2,600 workers of the unit are left to fend for themselves after the company announced on September 9 last year to cease its operations in the Chennai unit in the second quarter of 2022. “When the company announced its decision to cease its operation, it came as a shock for us and we held several rounds of talks. But the only solace then was the company’s decision to restructure the business and exploring options for electric vehicles. Now that the company has called off its plan, we have to look for the settlement package,” Senthil adds.

Last week Ford announced its decision to call off its plan to pursue EV manufacturing for exports from plants in India.

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Also read: Months after quitting India, Ford considers making EVs in the country

“After careful review, we have decided to no longer pursue EV manufacturing for exports from any of the Indian plants. We remain grateful to the government for approving our proposal under the Production-Linked Incentives and for being supportive while we continued our exploration,” Ford India said in its statement.

According to the employees to whom The Federal spoke to, the Ford management held three rounds of talks with employees between May 9 and 13. The first round of talks over the separation package is likely to begin on Monday.

“There is no point in demanding for a job and it won’t work out as well. We have to get a settlement and think of something else,” says Muthukumar, another worker at the Ford unit in Maraimalai Nagar, who joined the company in 2004 soon after completing his Diploma in Automobile engineering.

Age a barrier

Since the employees at the unit are all between 32 years and 48 years old, they say the probability of getting a job in the same field is close to impossible.

“I joined soon after completing my Class XII and I was given the diploma training here. Now I am 48-year-old and my salary is Rs 70,000. In our industry, nobody is ready to take an experienced candidate and pay them this much salary,” says 43-year-old M Saravanan, whose two children are still in the high school level.

Stating that they have been hunting for a job for over a year, Saravanan said that he could not even get to the interview stage. “There is limited scope for us. Only if this company survives, MSMEs will have automobile works, including production of car parts like dashboards, clutches, brakes, handles, upholstery, etc.., Since the unit itself is going to be shut, nobody is ready to take us,” shares Saravanan.

Tough for blue-collar workers

However, S Srinivasan, who has been in the manufacturing field for over two decades, says that companies don’t prefer to give the blue-collar jobs to people above 30.

“In Ford, we all joined when we were young. Even if we are ready to join for a package offered to a fresher, the company will not recruit us since we have aged. We are just manpower for them. But, on the other hand, supervisors and people in the managerial positions are getting jobs,” he shares.

Meanwhile, the company has said that it still continues its business restructuring process, including exploring other alternatives for their manufacturing facilities. “We continue to work closely with unions and other stakeholders to deliver an equitable and balanced plan to mitigate the impacts of restructuring,” a spokesperson from Ford India said.

Also read: Ford drops India EV plans; to exit Chennai and Sanand facilities

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