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Yamaha closes its factory in Catalonia and fires 388 workers

At the end of January, the Japanese motorbike company announced its decision and this week it issued its mass layoff plan. Yamaha will concentrate all its European production in its French factory. The Catalan factory was making profit and trade unions have stressed that the decision is only based on the company’s strategy. Yamaha will keep its commercial offices in Catalonia.

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04 March 2011 08:45 PM

by

ACN / Gaspar Pericay Coll

Barcelona (ACN).- Yamaha will close its factory in Palau-Solità i Plegamans (in Barcelona\u2019s Metropolitan Area) and will transfer its production to its Saint Quentin factory, close to Paris. However, the commercial branch, which has its headquarters in Catalonia, will be maintained. The decision represents a mass layoff of 388 workers. Yamaha announced the decision of closing the Catalan factory on January 26th through the media. The same day it confirmed to the Catalan Ministry of Business its unchangeable decision and a day later it officially told the workers. The workers were surprised by the decision, as the Catalan factory made profit in 2010 despite the bad year for the motorbike sector. However, the company justifies the decision alluding to \u201Clogistics and efficiency\u201D as it says having too much production capacity in Europe. Yamaha only has 2 factories in the continent, the Catalan one and the factory close to Paris. In fact, the Yamaha Catalan workers emphasised that out of the profits of the Barcelona factory, the Paris plant was built. As the decision was definitive, the Catalan Minister for Business and Employment, Francesc Xavier Mena, negotiated with the company a way out that would not excessively harm the staff and the supplying companies. During the last 5 weeks, trade unions demonstrations and political quarrels on the issue occupied quite some media headlines.


In the end, Yamaha turned its words into actions. The company presented its Mass Layoff File to the trade unions and the Catalan Minister for Business. 388 workers are affected. 100 workers will be transferred to the French factory, the rest will be fired or will be offered early retirement. Workers aged 58 or more will be offered an early retirement. Those fired will receive 45 paid days per year worked in the company. The 100 staff working in the commercial department will maintain their jobs as Yamaha has decided to keep the Catalan offices open.

From June on, Yamaha will be gradually transferring the production to France. By 2012, all the production should be concentrated in France and the Catalan plant will be closed. Yamaha is performing this concentration process in America and Asia as well. After closing the Catalan factory, the Japanese motorbike company will only have one factory left in Europe.

Negotiations to buy the plant and hire the staff

The trade unions said they will not accept the decision and will be the protests. They also asked the Catalan Government to refuse Yamaha\u2019s Mass Layoff File. However, the Catalan Minister already said weeks ago that Yamaha\u2019s decision could not be changed and that his ministry\u2019s work will be to find the best possible way out to the staff and supplying companies.

Mena said he will try to facilitate the acquisition of the factory and the hiring of the Yamaha staff to other companies working in the same industrial area. In fact, some companies had expressed their interest to expand their facilities in the Palau Solità i Plegamans industrial area on many occasions, but no space was available. Now, they may be interesting for the Yamaha factory. The Catalan Minsiter also stated he would try to convince Yamaha to keep working with the Catalan supplying companies. There is still no confirmation on these aspects.

Japanese companies in Catalonia

In 2008, the former Catalan President José Montilla travelled to Japan to secure the presence of Japanese companies in Catalonia. They all reacted positively to the visit and back then they stressed the strategic qualities and the logistic facilities Catalonia was offering. However, in the same year, Sony announced the closing of its factory in Viladecans (South of Barcelona). In 2010, Nissan, which has a large factory in Barcelona\u2019s Metropolitan Area, threatened to reduce its production. After negotiations with the Catalan Government and the acceptance by the trade unions to reduce their working conditions, Nissan accepted to allocate the production of its new pick-up model to the Barcelona plant.

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  • Workers assembling a motorbike in Yamaha's factory in Catalonia (by ACN)

  • Workers protesting in front of Yamaha factory in late January (by J. Ventura)

  • Workers assembling a motorbike in Yamaha's factory in Catalonia (by ACN)
  • Workers protesting in front of Yamaha factory in late January (by J. Ventura)