Renault has announced a new support plan for its Engineering and Technocentre teams that includes measures to reinforce team management and improve working conditions, implement better workload planning and set up the necessary resources, and optimised skills management.

Asked if this was the automaker's response to the news last month that a French prosecutor had opened an inquiry into working conditions at a Renault technical design centre after three workers there had committed suicide since last October, a Renault spokeswoman said, "In a way, yes."

She added: "It's an answer to what happened at the technical centre but we already had some plans to reorganise the work load."

Last month, the CFDT union said that technical centre workers had been under increasing pressure since the company introduced a restructuring plan last year and called for Renault management to urgently evaluate the situation.

Renault's spokeswoman said the company was looking to shorten development times and was also increasing the amount of engineering done outside France to help develop new models.

"Renault has taken into account what has happened," she added.

Announcing the support plan to staff, Renault executive vice president (EVP) of engineering and quality Jean-Louis Ricaud said: "The challenge is to reinforce the quality of human interaction within the engineering and technocentre teams."

The plan notably envisages the development of closer and direct management in the engineering teams. Weekly meetings in each work unit, and the establishment of a 'team day', should also facilitate dialogue and the support of colleagues.

The director of the Technocentre at Guyancourt, who will be named on 2 April, will report to both the EVP for engineering and quality and the group director of human resources, and will be wholly responsible for this activity. The directors of Renault's other engineering facilities will, in turn, report to him.

They will be in charge of the daily management of their sites, developments in the working environment, improvement of daily working conditions (facilities management, employee services, conviviality) and following-up on any reports of employee stress.

The planning section will also be improved and equipped with more efficient systems.

"This way, workloads will be better evaluated, planned with care and shared in a more equitable way from the conception stage onwards," Renault said in a statement.

To deal with the peak of activity in 2007 and 2008, 110 automotive specialists will be recruited and temporary staff will be used to reinforce the engineering teams.

Training programmes also will be intensified. They should enable each employee to acquire the skills necessary to rise to the challenges the company' faces in today's environment.

The action plan, supporting Renault Commitment 2009, will be reviewed regularly in the establishments concerned and monitored by Renault's group executive committee.