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Eyewitness of history

Eyewitness of history

Thursday, 17 de May de 2018

Get to know Antônio Justolino, “Mr. Dureza” (Mr. Toughness), five decades working at the FCA factory in Jaboatão dos Guararapes, Brazil, from mechanical welding to a 4.0 industry

Antonio Justolino da Silva, 75, is proud of not having had a sick leave in his 49 years of work dedicated to the Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) factory in Jaboatão dos Guararapes, Pernambuco, Brazil. Owner of an enviable physical vigor, he leaves home every day at 4 in the morning for work. While younger employees take a nap during their work break, he does push-ups. He is always on the move and never avoids working overtime. So much resistance gave him the nickname of “Mr. Toughness”.

All this enthusiasm, however, is no novelty. Mr. Dureza or Mr. Toughness says it has always been like that, tireless. When he started working at the factory, which currently produces mechanical electric cables used in vehicles for Fiat, he was only 25 years old. The date of his first day of work has never been forgotten: May 28, 1969.

At that time, the young man born in Surubim, a municipality in the interior of Pernambuco in Brazil, had already done a bit of everything from working in the plantations to making mechanical repairs in a car shops in his city. And it was precisely his knowledge in mechanical welding that guaranteed him a position in the body shop for the Jeep Willys, the first automobile industry in Northeastern Brazil.

The unit was designed to produce 860 vehicles per month, more than 10 thousand per year. The Jeep Willys, created for the Second World War, known in the Northeast as “Leather Hat” and the Rural, were assembled there. “We assembled everything from scratch, with the parts coming from overseas,” Dureza recalls.

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Dureza talks about the old Willys factory on a visit to the Jeep Automotive Plant

The welding and assembly of automobiles was artisanal. “Many times, we were covered in dust, because the car was sanded by hand”, he recalls. The dedication to his work made Antonio Justolino quickly earn his nickname and assume a prominent position. “I was that astute farmer, because I came with some knowledge in welding and I always wanted to learn, so I took on the training part for the new welders”, he recalls.

In 1981, they discontinued the assembly of the Willys and that led us to become a component factory. The then TCA (Technology in Automotive Components) would be acquired by the Fiat group years later, in 2010, when it went on to produce electrical cables for the cars of the brand. In this process, Mr. Dureza’s work environment changed completely. Of the approximately 250 employees, they began to have more than two thousand. Manual production gave rise to modern machines. “Everything changed. When I started there were no robots or the modern machines of today. We were few people working and, from that time, the only one left is me. Because I was a dedicated employee, I stayed”, he says. “I am pleased to have been a pioneer and to have been part of that history”, he evaluates.

The history of the automotive industry in Pernambuco and the Northeast of Brazil, of which he is a witness, would start a new chapter in 2015, with the inauguration of the Jeep Automotive Plant, in the municipality of Goiana (PE), Brazil. The factory is the most modern FCA plant in the world and a delight for the attentive eyes of the experienced professional. “Today everything is easier.” It is very modern and clean”, he emphasizes.

When life builds fortresses of strength

The nickname given to Antônio Justolino as a young man, for his resistance, is also the translation of the strength with which he has always faced the challenges of life. As the father of three daughters, he had to support the family when his wife became seriously ill. At that time, he was approximately 30 years old. “I worked at night and, when I left the factory, I stayed with my wife in the hospital. Once I did not even sleep for three days doing a double shift”, he recalls. “My daughters were raised with the help of my mother, my mother-in-law and aunts. Life was not easy, but I never complained”, he says.

Working overtime helped him buy his wife’s medication which cost almost a monthly minimum wage. “One day my manager discovered the reason why I had so many extra hours and the company helped me by paying for the medication”, he recalls. “The company also paid for my wife’s transfer to another hospital. They paid for a taxi to transfer her. My bosses were always considerate of my situation and that is why I am very grateful”, he emphasizes.

Even after the death of his wife, Dureza continued with his unwavering dedication to his work. His only absence happened five years ago, when he was assaulted during a robbery and had to be hospitalized. It would be the first medical certificate he would give throughout his career, but the admiration of his fellow workers spoke louder. “When I arrived at the company to deliver the certificate, my boss did not accept it. Instead, they gave me vacation time so my record would not be tarnished”, he says.

So many years dedicated to the family and to his job, have not managed to put down the tireless spirit of Dureza. As someone who teaches a simple formula of happiness, the smiling Antonio Justolino declares himself satisfied with the life he has. She raised his daughters, he is a healthy man, happy at work, and has the respect of her colleagues. On his days off he likes to go to Surubim to talk to people,take walks and watch the cattle fairs. “I can never stand still. The younger ones find it funny because they never see me sitting still”, he says, looking amused. “I think they find me an inspiration, so I try to give them advice, tell them to dedicate themselves because they will grow in the company”, he says, and before ending the interview, he makes a point of highlighting. “As for me, I would continue to work up to where I can”.

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