Volvo Cars Gent: factory down ‘for two seconds’
Workers at the Volvo Cars factory in Ghent went on strike on Monday morning after the decision of the management to increase the speed at the assembly line from 73 to 71 seconds to complete a task at assembling the new XC40 SUV, replacing the XC60. They fear the rhythm that should go to 57 seconds after a period of time, will be to stressful combined with the loss of 250 interim workers to help.
It may seem outrageous to outsiders to shut down a factory for having to work two seconds faster, but experienced workers like union man Gino Hautekeete, who is working for Volvo for 29 years, explains routine is key when working at the assembly line.
Keeping fingertips intact
“The first days at the assembly line mounting a brake pipe system is painful on the fingertips and two seconds can make the difference in keeping them intact or not”, says Hautekeete.
The transition to building a new model is always difficult and the new XC40 requires people to switch from working post and adapt to new techniques. “This causes stress, pressure and mistakes, weighing on the whole factory”, Hautekeete says.
Increasing with 2 seconds a day
That’s why a factory like Volvo increases the speed at the assembly line by 2 seconds nearly every day to reach 57 seconds, when all workers can fall back on routine for their tasks. Other factors are playing too, like the cutting back in staff of 250 interim workers and the decision of the Swedish management that staff needed to work two Saturdays in September to catch up with production arrears.
Talks with the management resulted on Monday in a proposition to retain the assembly line speed at 73 seconds for now and keeping the interim workers longer, but this was judged ‘too little guarantee’ for the workers. On Tuesday the morning shift refused to start working again and new negotiations between unions, sector federation Agoria and management were programmed.