A strike at its Brazilian car plant took the largest US automaker – and the third biggest in the world – General Motors, by surprise late on Friday as workers walked out in a protest against an announced plan to furlough and layoff of a large part of the staff.
This is the latest disruption in the country’s slowing auto industry – Brazil, even though it remains South America’s largest economy and auto market, has turned from a promising emerging market that attracted almost all major automakers in a lost cause in a matter of a few short years. The car plant strike at the GM factory is being observed by the company now, with GM saying it opted to seek mediation through a labor judge, with a hearing already established for later on today in the afternoon. According to the local metalworkers union, the staff has voted to enter an indefinite strike, effectively halting car production at the facility in protest of GM’s decision to furlough almost 800 people for two months and then lay them off in April. “The decision was a surprise, since GM’s proposal was not fully presented to employees by the union. As a result, GM will take necessary legal measures,” commented a GM spokesperson, without giving any details on the measures the automaker intends to take.
The plant in Sao Jose dos Campos, about 55 miles (90 kilometers) outside of Sao Paulo is only the latest to strike in what has become a rising wave of industrial action this year in Brazil’s auto industry – after in 2014 the companies laid off 7 percent of the total workforce due to slumping output. The metalworkers union of Sao Jose dos Campos, set to elect new leaders this week, has repeatedly clashed with the US automaker as GM lowered the worker count at the plant from around 7,500 workers in 2012 to about 5,200 today.