Félix García, 24 March 2022
Production line of the Cupra Formentor at Seat Martorell
Volkswagen and Seat workers warn Catalan government that its clumsiness has been one of the keys to the battery factory’s move to Valencia
The Volkswagen Group’s battery factory will be in Sagunto (Valencia). Why won’t it be in Catalonia near the Seat Martorell plant where 500,000 electric cars a year will be made?
Thomas Schmall, chairman of the board of Seat and Volkswagen Group’s chief technology officer, was clear yesterday when he made the announcement that Valencia “makes it easier for us to start building the plant this year”.
Less red tape and more agility. In short, less political interference.
More forceful was Matías Carnero, president of the Seat works council, who gave his traditional press conference parallel to that of the company’s board of directors at the presentation of Seat’s financial results in 2021. He was blunt in stating that “the Generalitat’s offer came late for the battery factory because there were already three projects on the table”. These projects, including the winning Sagunto project, were also those of Extremadura and Aragon, three autonomous communities governed by the PSOE. Carnero blamed the Generalitat for not having been astute when it came to presenting the projects.
“The Tarragona project arrived late, and the Lleida project also arrived late.
“However, 80% of the project will be in Catalonia because here we will make the cars, the engine, and the assembly of the batteries, in addition to the fact that 80% of the suppliers have to be local,” said Carnero.
As for the workforce surplus due to the arrival of the electric car, which has 30% fewer working hours and which Wayne Griffiths has estimated at between 2,500 and 2,800 people, Carnero was categorical in saying that “we are not going to allow PERTE aid to be used to make workers redundant”.
Part of the surplus created by the arrival of electric vehicles are the 1,200 workers at Seat Componentes, a factory that makes manual gearboxes, a part that disappears in battery-powered cars. Electric motors are not going to be made here and, according to Griffiths, “we are looking at different possibilities”. But there is nothing concrete and the future is not rosy. “We will have to look for non-traumatic solutions for this surplus from the 24th or 26th year, which is when the decline of combustion cars will come. And the formula of partial retirement and the ERE are not valid formulas. We must take advantage of the formation of new jobs within the circular economy generated by the electric vehicle”.
“What is not understandable is that if 800,000 cars are going to be made in Spain between the Martorell and Pamplona plants, the electric motor is not made here but in Hungary. It is a geopolitical position within the group. Germany has employment problems, and they are saving their own backs by providing jobs. They take an engine away from Hungary and take it to Kassel and give Hungary something. It is not a question of costs between Hungary and Spain”.
On the 30th and 31st of next month, the Wolfsburg headquarters will decide on the saturation of the production of the 50 plants and the 57 models of different brands. At this meeting, the production planning and the allocation of orders for the next five years should be decided.
“We have to bear in mind that all of the group’s factories will suffer from employment surpluses because we are moving towards electric vehicles. It is no good for us to talk about net job creation with the project if our factories in Catalonia are going to lose jobs and you are going to create them in Valencia”.