FRANCE: Renault dangles no plant closures in exchange for radical restructuring

By Simon Warburton | 13 November 2012

Renault is offering to commit to no plant closures in France if its unions agree to a raft of measures discussed at this afternoon's (13 November) meeting in Paris, although the CGT labour body is already expressing reservations.

The CFDT, CFE-CGC, CGT and FO unions met in the second round of talks today to improve Renault performance in the light of extremely challenging economic conditions in Europe, with management proposing setting up two regional production centres in France.

The Western site would group plants in Vallee de Seine Choisy-le-Roi and Le Mans, while the North East centre would feature the operations of Douai, STA, MCA and Sovab.

Such a move would allow Renault to pool its back-office activities for support services in such areas as general management, human resources, purchasing, accounting and logistics, with a front office responsible for employee-management relations and working with production.

"As part of the regional production centre organisation structure, balancing the workforce could be made easier through the introduction, in line with the conditions agreed on in the negotiations, of a better organised staff secondment system, whereby employees may be led to work temporarily at other sites in their centre in line with activity and needs," a statement from Renault said.

"Such a system would help each site, within its centre, to maintain performance in line with cyclical fluctuations in activity at the sites by using the skills of sites in under-activity to strengthen those at sites requiring extra workforce. It would also serve to limit the use of short-time work and avoid redundancies, thereby safeguarding employment and skills."

Should unions agree to the plans - and they have already provoked a hostile reaction from the hardline CGT labour body present at the meeting - Renault says it "could commit to no plant closures in France" despite the lack of real growth forecast.

However, a statement from the CGT sent to just-auto said: "The major problem with which our plants are confronted rests in the choice of management to delocalise or externalise manufacture in order to overload the Turkish, Slovenian or Romanian factories, with deplorable working conditions, while in broad terms, the French market is stable."

A further meeting will be held on 29 November.