French carmaker Renault shut down almost all of its plants on home soil for two weeks in order to adapt its output pace to the slowing economy.
In Flins, west of Paris, the Renault factory closed its doors for the first half of November. Employee and CGT trade union representative Philippe Gommard told AFP, “It is not my choice to have time off work. The Renault directors are using our holiday days to organise production.”
Renault is in fact temporarily closing several factories throughout France in order to reduce production by 20% in the fourth quarter. With sales slowing across the industry, the French carmaker reported a 2.2% drop in third-quarter turnover. While this isn't the first time the company has resorted to temporary closures, the halt is longer than usual, and many are concerned, especially given the current economic crisis.
“The workers are at home, worried that they will find themselves in the same situation as those in Sandouville,” said Patrick Barré, who has worked at Flins for 26 years. Most workers have taken holidays in order to keep their salaries, but in other sites like Sandouville, in the northern Seine-Maritime, some are temporarily unemployed.
'Many employees whose partners work at the plant are worried'
“There's a lot of talk going on in the factories. A lot of employees work on the same site as their partners; some have bought houses. They are afraid, as are recently hired young workers. At the moment, it’s not a question of closing down , but you never know...” sighs Barré. In July, Renault announced plans for 4,000 ”voluntary” layoffs.
The Flins site, founded in the 50s, produced several car models. Now, it only manufactures one: the Clio, the second best-selling car after the Mégane. Of the 247,000 units produced in the first half of the year, 101,000 are from Flins.
“Of course we’re worried, when we see that cars are being made overseas,” says one worker. Renault also makes cars in Slovenia, Romania, and even in Korea at, all a lower cost. According to one trade union source, a Clio made in Turkey can make Renault 600 euros more than one made in Flins.
“Now it’s every man for himself”
The outsourcing is the greatest source of concern for the workers. “It’s not like it was before - the atmosphere has changed, now it’s every man for himself,” says a worker who has been at the site for 30 years.” When Barré first arrived, Flins had over 20,000 workers. Now, there are only 4000.
“France is still the industrial heart of Renault,” said a spokesperson for Renault, pointing out that, out of the 2.4 million units produced by the group in 2007, France produced 1 million, and 656,000 units were sold in France.
“We are awaiting a new phase of the Clio in May or June, which could save us. The ideal would be to produce two vehicles at Flins,” said Barré. Renault has announced the production of an electric car in Flins, starting from 2012.
PSA Peugeot Citroën, which also plans to reduce production by 30%, has temporarily suspended production. The site at Sochau will close for a total of 18 days between November and December. In Mulhouse, where 10 days of shutdown are expected, the night shift has been suspended for a week. In Rennes, the Peugeot 407 production line was stopped for eight days. And at Hordain Sevelnord, in the north of France, 16 days of shutdown are anticipated, having already begun in October. Other European sites are to face shutdowns as well.
Date created : 2008-11-22