Tuesday, March 21

From the reconversion of steel to sustainable reindustrialization

The workers’ struggle lasted 430 days. Between 1983 and 1985, the city of Sagunt and its region, Camp de Morvedre, faced the Government’s decision to close the Mediterranean Blast Furnaces. There were 24 strikes in the company, nine general strikes in the region, 11 demonstrations in Valencia, seven marches to Madrid, 80 days of occupation of the factory by the workers keeping the blast furnaces on… The factory around which there had been Formed a century before, the urban center of the Port of Sagunt closed due to the oversized capacity to produce steel and the three integrated steel mills existing on the peninsula, Altos Hornos de Vizcaya, Ensidesa in Asturias and Altos Hornos del Mediterráneo in Sagunt, it was decided to dispense with the latter and leave its 4,000 workers on the streets, a surplus labor force that could only be partially reabsorbed into other trades and occupations.

It was a traumatic decision of the newly arrived socialist government, which was responsible for facing what was described as “industrial reconversion” in the perspective of future integration into the then European Economic Community. To get an idea of ​​the panorama, it is enough to point out that in the years prior to Felipe González’s arrival at Moncloa, from 1977 to 1982, the period of the UCD government, Spanish industry had lost around 600,000 jobs. In any case, the memory of those convulsive times is part of the history of the Saguntine city, which has just received the news that once again a large factory will be at the heart of its industrial vocation.

It is easy to understand what the announcement by the Volkswagen company that it will build its battery factory for electric cars in Parc Sagunt II with the support of European funds channeled through a project that the Government has already called represents for Sagunt and its region. . A kind of symbolic return of the big industry with the capacity to generate thousands of quality jobs whose impact reaches the entire Valencian Community. And the city will once again be an industrial hub, a condition that is in its founding DNA.

From those hard years of industrial reconversion, the recurrent idea of ​​”reindustrialization” became part of the public discourse, a process that would not catch on strongly in an economic fabric characterized by small and medium-sized companies with an export component. with a tendency to group in the territory in the form of a cluster, be it ceramics, textiles, toys, footwear, furniture or the automotive industry. Over time, the weight of the industry in the Valencian GDP decreased. In the stage of hegemony of the right in the institutions, the trend worsened, since the services sector, construction and tourism gained relevance. In the 20 years of dominance of the PP, the industry fell eight points, going from 24.7% of GDP in 1995 to 16.9% in 2015, the year in which the left came to the Generalitat Valenciana hand in hand with the Pact of Botanist who make up the PSPV-PSOE, Compromís and Unides Podem.

The economy devastated by the bursting of the speculative bubble and the crisis, the industrial structure shaken by relocations and globalization, the autochthonous financial system collapsed with the disappearance of the savings banks and the Bank of Valencia, weighing down the ability to maneuver of the Generalitat Valenciana for the mistreatment of autonomous financing that is the most unfair among the communities of Spain, the gaze of the political forces and of society had been fixed, when the Government of Ximo Puig was constituted, on the diffuse objective of a new production model. And the ecological transition has opened that horizon by defining a window of opportunity. “It is a crucial step to promote the recovery”, said the Valencian president.

Indeed, the installation of the large battery factory for the new electric car models in Sagunt, which is expected to come into operation in 2026, which will create 3,000 direct jobs, strategically connected by rail with the Volkswagen-Seat factories in Pamplona and Martorell and the Ford plant in Almussafes, is a “historic” event, as political, business and union spokesmen have reiterated. An achievement that no one can dispute in the performance of the first coalition government of the left in the Valencian Country, comparable to the arrival almost half a century ago of the Ford plant (a true Valencian industrial totem since the times of transition, now threatened for the pending decisions of the American multinational on the transit to the electrification of its factories in Europe).

The tractor effect for auxiliary companies, the induced economic activity and the push in the change towards sustainable mobility that the start-up of a factory of these characteristics can generate are called to open a period of industrial transformation oriented towards the green economy. “It will be the industrial estate of modernity in the Mediterranean”, assured the conseller of Sustainable Economy, Productive Sectors, Commerce and Labor, Rafael Climent. The emphasis is understandable. Valencian society had long needed news like this.