Tuesday, March 28

Sagunt, before a new ‘industrial revolution’

Last Wednesday, the German automobile multinational Volkswagen announced that it is going to present to the Government’s Electric Vehicle Department the project to build a battery gigafactory on the Parc Sagunt 2 land, located in the capital of the Valencian region of Camp de Morvedre, a decision applauded by employers and unions. We are, as the Valencian president, Ximo Puig, assured, before the largest industrial investment in the history of the Valencian Community comparable -7,000 million euros, more important than that of Tesla in Germany, as recognized by Herbert Diess, Chairman of the Board of Directors of Volkswagen–, due to its strategic importance, upon Ford’s arrival in Almussafes in 1976. Sagunt was going to be the flagship of the new Valencian reindustrialisation.

The election of Sagunt by Volkswagen, a political and economic oxygen balloon for the Valencian Government

Know more

For this reason, the arrival of the German battery plant – which may also be key to the continuity of the American multinational in Almussafes – has been received with great joy in Sagunt, a city linked to the industry for more than a year. century. Thus, the mayor of the town, the socialist Darío Moreno, highlighted how, in addition to the obvious impact related to the creation of quality employment, the installation of Volkswagen in the city will be very important “for the industrial sector that already exists in the municipality and that it will help to consolidate”, as well as for professional training and in other sectors such as tourism, services or housing.

The president of the businessmen of the region (Asecam), Cristina Plumed, celebrated the announcement because it means “the installation of an innovative, tractor-trading industrial company that strengthens the automobile and components sector, means the generation of wealth and employment, in addition to talent attraction. We are growing at an industrial level and our geostrategic position and industrial and logistics pole are valued”, and she warned: “It is time to train, to study a language…”.

From CCOO, its general secretary in the Camp de Morvedre, Sergio Villalba, influenced this same line, since this project “is associated with the need for qualified labor”. “This plant is going to generate great development opportunities for our territory and highlights the great challenges we must face,” Villalba underlines.

Among the neighbors, the news has also been received as if it had hit the lottery: “I think it will be good for everyone, for people who are unemployed, for businesses, for hotels, for housing…” , points out Paco, who runs a bar in the Port of Sagunto, while Óscar, who works in one of the companies in the city, has a similar opinion: “This is great news for everyone, because it is going to be an injection in everyone the senses for the region”. Luisa, a pensioner whose husband worked in the former Blast Furnaces, considers Volkswagen’s announcement the best possible news: “With all the young people who are unemployed, this can help them find work.”

But not everyone applauds the arrival of the German multinational project in Sagunt. Acció Ecologista-Agró warns of the “environmental costs” of this process and calls for the need to study the carbon footprint of the urbanization of the second phase of Parc Sagunt, or the creation and maintenance of an environmental corridor to an area of ​​rural land “agricultural protected”.

An industrial city with recurring crises

Sagunt has been an industrial city ever since the Sierra Menera Mining Company settled there at the beginning of the last century, the embryo of what would later become the Altos Hornos del Mediterráneo (AHM) – the project promoted by Basque businessmen Ramón de la Sota and Eduardo Aznar caused the birth of a thriving population center around the ‘Fabrica’, the Port of Sagunto–. The city depended on the steel company until, in the mid-eighties of the 20th century, the closure of Altos Hornos due to the industrial reconversion promoted by the Government of Felipe González left more than 4,000 workers unemployed.

The city had to reinvent itself and, thanks to public aid, various companies settled in the capital of Camp de Morvedre that came to try to supply the powerful source of employment that AHM had represented until just a few years before.

At the beginning of the 20th century, the regional government of Eduardo Zaplana designed Parc Sagunt in the municipality, which was then considered to be the largest industrial estate in Europe, generating between 25,000 and 30,000 jobs. However, for more than a decade (the project was presented in 2002 and in 2007 the crisis came) the industrial park subsisted with hardly any attraction for investors with only three installed companies –the largest of them, Zuvamesa– and only a hundred of workers in total.

In recent years, it seems to have been reactivated, with the choice of Mercadona for the construction of its logistics center in Parc Sagunt 1 and with the definitive accolade that it represents for the development of the second phase of the installation of the multinational battery gigafactory German.

ERE, closures and threats of march

In the last decade there have been several companies that have closed the blind in the Valencian town. In 2013, Galmed, dependent on the German ThyssenKrupp, closed its doors (which reopened a few years later, in 2016), and left 165 workers out on the street; in 2015 Bosal did it, which left 220 people unemployed; Tumesa had done it before (113 employees); and recently, Pilkington, another of those companies that came to Sagunt after the closure of Altos Hornos, threatened to close its facilities. Others such as AGC or ArcelorMittal, heir to AHM, have also suffered social conflicts and staff restructuring in recent times.