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France

French, German workers protest Continental plant closures

Video by Siobhán SILKE

Text by FRANCE 24 (with wires)

Latest update : 2009-04-23

Hundreds of French and German Continental employees demonstrated on Thursday outside a shareholders meeting in Hanover to protest the scheduled 2010 closure of the factory.

The fight to save Continental tyre plants intensified on Thursday as French and German workers demonstrated together in Hanover. Employees protest the closure of two plants in Hanover and in Clairoix, a small town on the outskirts of Paris, scheduled to shut down in 2010.

 

Workers waved banners with the slogans “Workers against rogue shareholders” or “Thanks for nothing” outside a shareholders meeting in Hanover as they booed Continental investors leaving the meeting. Media reports say about 3,500 joined the protest at its peak.

 

Reporting from Hanover, FRANCE 24’s Anne Maillet said: “The demonstration was peaceful and most of the protesters had left the site by midday.”

 

 

About 100 mostly French workers stayed on afterwards, waiting for worker delegates, who had obtained permission to read a statement during the meeting.

 

“Workers were able to express their anger, and, according to them, a majority of small shareholders applauded their statement,” said Maillet, adding that the declaration included demands that the closure of the Clairoix site be postponed until 2012.

 

Authorities had feared an outbreak of violence following incidents on Tuesday, when angry workers destroyed the entrance of the Clairoix factory. French workers also sacked local prefecture offices when a court dismissed their appeal to see the closure of the site cancelled or suspended.

 

Productive?

 

Trade unions at the Clairoix Continental plant say management betrayed an earlier deal to save the factory until 2012. In 2007, they agreed to work more hours and scrap the 35-hour week, in return for guarantees the plant would not be closed.

 

The factory made 17 million euros in profits last year, despite management saying that the French plant is one of their least productive sites.

 

According to Pierre Sommé, FO trade unionist, there is only an “infinitesimal chance” they’ll save the Clairoix plant and many workers now hope their protest will help secure better severance packages.

 

During the shareholders meeting on Thursday, Continental boss, Karl-Thomas Neumann, said “no definitive decision had been taken over the closure of the French plant in Clairoix”, adding, however, that he did not see “any other alternative”.

 

The state called in to broker a deal

 

On Thursday, France’s Economic Revival Minister Patrick Devedjian said, in an interview with French media, that his ministry was studying “a serious [takeover] offer” to save Continental.

 

However, media reports say tyre workers doubt anyone would want to rescue the factory. “I have trouble imagining an investor taking over a factory that has become no more than an empty shell with 15,000 square metres and no machines,” said a factory executive in an interview with the AFP.

 

On April 29, state representatives, trade unions and Continental’s management will meet at the French economy ministry to discuss the closure of the plant.

 

 

 

Date created : 2009-04-23

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