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The Partial Success of Return Incentives for Guest Workers (December 14, 1974)

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All of the Turks participating in the conversation had heard from television and newspaper reports that foreigners would be let go before Germans, but they had not heard this from colleagues at Ford. No one is familiar with the phrase “social plan” [Sozialplan], nor does anyone have the slightest idea what this plan means in the context of the announced mass layoffs.

Udo Reinhold, a Ford plant spokesman, refers to this social plan at Ford. In the event of layoffs, Reinhold says, the company will follow guidelines established by the works council [Betriebsrat] years ago; these guidelines state that actions must be undertaken without regard to skin color or nationality. Decisions would be made according to “social points” [Sozialpunkten], such as marital status, number of children, seniority, and age protection. Accordingly, a German with two children would be laid off before a Turk with four children, provided that their point total was otherwise equal.

Reinhold says that reduced hours have helped “make ends meet” at Ford. The planned cuts – meaning the roughly 5,000 voluntary or non-voluntary terminations – are supposed to save the remaining jobs.

At the Workers’ Welfare Association (AWO) office in Cologne, the counseling agency for Turks, Abdullah Kocabiyik believes that his compatriots at Ford accepted severance packages in a frightened panic only because they thought they would be laid off anyway. Ninety percent of them, Kocabiyik said, knew nothing about the social plan, and it was never explained in conjunction with the information they received this week. There are, he said, no new employment opportunities for Turks – either in Cologne or in other cities – except in mining. Half of those who just resigned at Ford will probably accept work in the mines, Kocabiyik said. In the dormitory, however, the Turks assured me that they would not go into mining. They would rather seek work “on the ground” in Turkey.

“The number of available jobs in mining is declining, but we still have 229 open.” This is what the employment office in Gelsenkirchen said in response to an inquiry. At the moment, the Hugo coal mine is “like a magnet,” the office said, attracting unemployed foreign workers from automobile factories, because the mine also offers dormitory accommodations. But most of the Turks from the automobile industry do not speak German, and “good German” is a requirement for mining work.

Staff members at the Cologne employment office look calmly upon the possible wave of unemployed Turkish autoworkers. Thus far, roughly 3,000 of the 12,000 unemployed workers registered at this office are foreigners (out of a total of 450,000 workers, including 65,000 foreigners). Director Heinz Fetten and personnel manager Alfred Iser say that unemployed Germans are given priority over foreigners for job placements. No action will be taken in cases where foreigners with expired residence permits still hold jobs. And decisions will continue to be made “on the basis of reasonable criteria.” If Ford were to lay off Germans before foreigners in accordance with the social plan, then this, the office said, would be a matter for the collective bargaining agents, and the employment office would have no legal grounds to function as an arbiter. They are relieved by this, since this scenario might actually arise. As to whether Germans will have to yield their jobs to foreigners – this will probably never be put to a test. Prompted by fear, the Turks have already made this decision for the Germans.

Source: Key L. Ulrich, “In großer Sorge nehmen viele Türken die Abfindung und unterschreiben ihre Kündigung“ [“Extremely Anxious, Many Turks are Accepting Severance Pay and Signing their Resignations”], Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, December 14, 1974, p. 5.

Translation: Allison Brown

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