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Michelin factory: tensions but especially discussions

Crash test for social dialogue at Michelin. After the announcement of the closure of the site of La Roche-sur-Yon (Vendée) in early October and the removal of 619 positions, anger is still present. This Thursday, October 24, more than two hundred people including about fifty strikers from the factory gathered in the parking lot of the Vendée factory at the call of the CGT who wants to go to court. A mobilization however decreasing: on October 17th the inter-union (CFDT, CFE-CGC, FO and South) managed to mobilize several hundred employees on several sites of the group for “Defend the job”. Above all, the employees of La Roche-sur-Yon decided last week: they gave following a consultation a clear mandate to the intersyndical to negotiate accompanying measures. A first meeting between the social partners and management was held on 22 October to agree on the method.

Already Michelin is committed to ensuring that no employee is left on the side of the road. But the direction will have to redouble imagination because the age pyramid of the employees of the Vendée factory does not favor the solutions “classic “. For example, only 80 people out of 619, or 13% of the workforce, are involved in a voluntary early retirement plan. “We will be offering positions to everyone, particularly through internal mobility,” said Jean-Paul Chiocchetti, Director of Michelin France, “We have vacancies on all sites in France due to staff turnover and retirements. In short, we want to avoid forced departures. ” But not sure that this option receives massive support because the population of the plant is young and attached to its territory, the Vendée. Management should therefore put the package on devices allowing external mobility. “I have been contacted by many directors of human resources of companies vendées, assures Jean-Paul Chiocchetti, estimating that they could fill up to 300 jobs”. At the same time, Michelin wants to enter into a public-private partnership to reconvert the site. And to insist: the industrialist “will be there until we have recreated at least as many jobs as those deleted,” says Florent Menegaux, CEO of the group's world in West France. Michelin has promised to release an envelope of 120 million euros and to conduct negotiations quickly not to hurt anyone.

Insurmountable economic difficulties?

The site, specialized in the manufacture of tires for trucks, was in the eye of the cyclone since the diffusion mid-September of a diagnosis shared between management and social partners on the performance of the French factories of the group. Begun in the spring, this exchange was an innovative method: management has agreed to share strategic, confidential information with unions. “Everyone had the same level of information as the executive committee around Florent Menegaux, the group's president,” said Jean-Paul Chiocchetti. This work had highlighted serious economic difficulties for the Vendée site: competition from Asian countries and the stagnation of the European market due to the decline in global growth. Hence the decision of the cessation of activity: “If I could have done otherwise I would have done, said Florent Menegaux.Despite the investments we made in La Roche-sur-Yon (70 million since five years) to try to maintain the site, we can not do it, it is not efficient enough, I prefer to find another solution rather than persevere in an untenable way. “

Management is committed

At first, the unions shouted treason. “It's unacceptable,” said Jerome Lorton, union delegate SUD, at the time of the announcement, Michelin has not even sought to think about a new activity. On the CFE-CGC side, Jean-Christophe Laourde denounced a “financial decision”. It must be said that the employees of La Roche-sur-Yon had already made sacrifices since 2016. At that date, a pact for the future had been concluded between the management and the social partners. Spearheading a virtuous social dialogue, its principle is simple: the company undertakes to invest 70 million euros while the employees have agreed to adjust their working time. But very quickly, things do not go as planned: in February 2018 Michelin suspends its investments seeing the lack of sales. However, this model pact for the future worked for the Roanne site which avoided the closure in 2015.

The shock partly digested, the unions quickly agreed to start discussions. “We are responsible,” says CFDT Central Delegate Laurent Bador, “If we refuse to negotiate now, we may not have other possibilities.” Above all, they urge the management to clarify the situation of other sites in France. Answer: “there will be no closure of industrial site in France in three to five years,” says Jean-Paul Chiocchetti. Still, the French sites will have to find levers of improvements to continue to be competitive and thus avoid the fate of La Roche-sur-Yon. This is the meaning of the diagnosis made with the unions. Certainly, the closure of the Vendée site is a life-size test for the quality of the social dialogue put forward by the group.

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