Frances Finance Ministry is to follow FAIs attempts to find a buyer for its Bordeaux plant closely

France's Finance Ministry is to follow FAI's attempts to find a buyer for its Bordeaux plant closely

French Finance Minister, Bruno Le Maire says he "strongly regrets" the decision by Ford to seek a new owner for its automatic transmissions factory near Bordeaux with 900 jobs at risk.

Should the US automaker not secure a buyer for its Ford Aquitaine Industries (FAI) site at Blanquefort near the city in South West France, the facility will close, although no forced redundancies will be implemented before September next year.

"Bruno Le Maire strongly regrets this decision," said a statement from the Finance Ministry in Paris. "Discussions to sell the site to an industrial group are currently under way. At this stage, taking on all employees appears possible, so the opening of a Jobs Safeguard Plan (Plan de Sauvegarde de l'Emploi) does not seem justified. Bruno Le Maire has indicated this to Ford management, with whom he met several times in the last few days.

"He [Finance Minister] welcomes the constructive attitude of the 900 staff and calls on them to keep the same responsible spirit in the weeks to come to give every chance for a takeover by an industrial actor. He is making the guarantee of the site and the maintenance of jobs his absolute priority.

"Bruno Le Maire will ensure regional politicians - with whom he has met – are kept informed at every stage. The State will continue to ensure serious discussions [are held] with Ford and eventual buyers in order to verify the quality of offers which are made."

Ford has started talking to its Works Council at the plant and has established a taskforce liaising with an external company specialised in finding new business owners, to identify potential buyers.

"Ford is undertaking a number of actions to improve its fitness as a business globally," said Ford of Europe, Middle East and Africa, Steven Armstrong. "Included in this was a review of our industrial operations in Bordeaux, France.

"It was determined the preferred option was to work to transition the FAI site to a third party that would receive incentives from Ford. A key consideration in the design of this idea was the care and concern for FAI's employees. In addition to financial compensation guarantees, the company will work to identify potential workforce transfers." 

FAI has presented a social plan which includes redeployment and early retirement programmes, together with measures to help staff relocate with new employers should no new owner be found and closure follows.

In such a situation, FAI also has committed not to implement any involuntary redundancies before September 2019. In addition, as part of the benefits of the social plan, all of those still working at FAI by September 2019 would see no reduction in their pay until the end of 2019.

"After engaging in a process with stakeholders to try to find long-term opportunities for the plant, the priority now for the site is for a viable third-party purchase and we are committed to doing our best to secure a positive outcome for FAI employees," added Armstrong.

"Our objective is to ensure any potential new owner has a sustainable business plan and any agreement would work collectively in the interests of Ford, FAI employees and the purchaser."