SAO PAULO – Hundreds of workers from the Ford factory in the Sao Paulo suburb of Sao Bernardo do Campo gathered Tuesday and voted to go on strike to protest the US automaker’s decision to shut down the plant, which employs 4,500 people in all.
Ford Motor Co. announced last week that it would be closing its plant in Sao Bernardo do Campo in November following a strategic decision to halt production and sales of pick-up trucks in South America.
The 2,800 permanent Ford employees in Sao Bernardo are represented by the regional Metalworkers Union, which hosted Tuesday’s assembly of roughly 400 people.
During the assembly, the union decided to formalize the work stoppage that began immediately following Ford’s Feb. 26 announcement.
Led by union president Wagner Santana, the Ford workers marched to the Sao Bernardo city hall.
The union expects to meet next week with Ford CEO James Hackett at the company’s global headquarters in Dearborn, Michigan, hoping to persuade him to keep the factory open.
Former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who became a national figure as the leader of the Sao Paulo Metalworkers Union in the 1970s, again expressed support for the Ford workers on social media.
Lula wrote on Twitter that workers should pressure the current government, led by rightist President Jair Bolsonaro, to bar imports of Ford products made elsewhere if the company decides to move forward with the closure in Sao Bernardo.
Fabinho, one of the Ford workers who attended the assembly on Tuesday, told EFE that the announcement was “a shock for everyone” and expressed concern about his ability to continue to provide medical care for his daughter, who suffers from a rare illness.
“We are not giving up and we will pursue this to the end,” Fabinho said.
Besides the 2,800 Ford employees, the Sao Bernardo plant is staffed by 1,700 contractors doing cleaning and maintenance, and the union estimates that the shutdown will affect 27,000 people in all, taking into account the numerous local businesses that depend on the factory and the spending by employees.
Opened in 1967, the plant currently produces F-Series pick-ups, heavy cargo trucks and the Ford Fiesta, a subcompact car.