Caterpillar | Our battle for workers' rights

06/10/2016
Caterpillar | Our battle for workers' rights

Led by MEPs from the Socialists and Democrats Group, the European Parliament this week called for a strategy to reindustrialise Europe following the brutal announcements on the closure of the Caterpillar plant in Belgium and the Alstom site in France.

06/10/2016

Led by MEPs from the Socialists and Democrats Group, the European Parliament this week called for a strategy to reindustrialise Europe following the brutal announcements on the closure of the Caterpillar plant in Belgium and the Alstom site in France.

The resolution was adopted in the Parliament in Strasbourg by a large majority – 472 votes for, 103 against and 99 abstentions – and notably it supports penalties against companies who make redundancies based on the stock market. MEPs also want member states to take inspiration from the 'Florange law' in France which means multinational companies who wish to close a site must seek a new buyer.

The president of the S&D Group, Gianni Pittella MEP, welcomed the result of the vote:

"We can no longer accept the cynicism of multinationals like Caterpillar. More than 5000 direct and indirect jobs are threatened by the closure of this site. And behind these figures real human dramas are being played out.

"The company decided overnight to close its factory, with little regard for the situation it left its employees in. Meanwhile Caterpillar continues to reap the benefits and pay dividends to its shareholders, and has benefitted from advantageous tax schemes thanks to tax optimisation.

"It is vital that we develop a real industrial policy for Europe, with an investment strategy, a new competition policy and a trade policy to tackle social dumping. The European Commission and the member states will be accountable to European citizens."

After the vote, Belgian socialist MEP Marie Arena, the co-author of the resolution, said:

"Today the European Parliament has sent a strong political signal to the Commission. Europe must act to protect its industries and its jobs. At our initiative, the European Parliament voted in favour of sanctions for companies that make redundancies based on the stock market. These sanctions could, for example, take the form of repaying public funding received by the company or the suspension of access to certain European programmes. We call for all the workers and sub-contractors to be stakeholders in the process of collective redundancies.

“Caterpillar is emblematic of how the multinationals' economic model can be destructive for workers. Here is a company that continues to make profits but decides to put the dividends of its shareholders above the interests of its workers at Gosselies.

"The site is modern, has a young, highly trained workforce and has benefited from public investment to develop. We understand this is a bitter pill to swallow for the workers at Gosselies. That's why we call on Europe to act now to stop this happening again."

French socialist MEP and co-author of the resolution Edouard Martin added:

"Industry is vital for the European economy. We must defend and protect it to be able to face competition from 'low-cost' countries. Today we are proposing strong measures to reindustrialise Europe. This must not just be empty words – the pressure must be put on, again and again.

A ‘Florange law’ is needed at a European level. This law requires multinationals who want to close sites to first search for a buyer – and it works. No fewer than 285 jobs were saved at the KME site at Givet in the Ardennes.

"But we have to go further. We must review the rules on competition in Europe and implement environmental responsibility for companies. We must force companies that close to revitalise brownfield sites so that these sites can be used again.

"Above all, Europe must definitely turn the page and reject the austerity that is still preventing the development of investments that the European economy so desperately needs."