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Paris hints at GM&S job losses as Court delays again

By Simon Warburton | 2 August 2017

"Madame - I am not Father Christmas" - French President Emmanuel Macron responding to a protestor concerned about GM&S future

"Madame - I am not Father Christmas" - French President Emmanuel Macron responding to a protestor concerned about GM&S' future

French supplier, GM&S' fate continues to hang in the balance as a decision concerning the sole offer from GMD has been postponed yet again by the Courts, while the French government appears resigned to job losses at the site.

The Tribunal de Commerce de Poitiers was due to make a final judgement on the PSA and Renault stamper's future this week (31 July), but instead has delayed its move to 4 September, the week when most of France returns from its traditional August holidays.

Multiple calls by just-auto to GMD for details concerning its takeover bid for GM&S have been repeatedly declined, but confirmation an offer has been made came from France's Finance Minister, Bruno Le Maire, who, along with President Macron, has had the supplier's plight in his in-tray for most of this summer.

The issue has rocketed to the top of the industrial agenda as it is viewed as something of a litmus test of the new President's oft-stated wish for deep labour reform in France – a position viewed with significant hostility by the country's militant trade unions.

Some staff have resorted to familiar French practices of direct action, destroying machinery and attaching gas canisters to a tower in GM&S' factory, such is the concern the Sword of Damocles could fall at any moment, plunging many staff into unemployment.

Other protesting workers forced PSA to hire a helicopter to drop parts such as brake discs and crankcases to its Sept-Sons plant in the Allier Department after GM&S employees obstructed the site, with the situation generating huge amounts of media coverage in France.

Extraordinarily to many outside France, PSA and Renault were recently 'asked' by Paris to increase orders, resulting in both automakers dramatically upping their financial commitments to GM&S, offering to guarantee EUR50m (US59m) of work each for the next five years in order to avoid the component producer facing liquidation.

"Our position has not changed," a PSA spokesman told just-auto from Paris. "It is up to GMD to continue to work on this dossier."

In the absence any detail from GMD, reports are swirling the fellow-French supplier will only take on 120 out of the 277 employees, leading to union fears GMS' relatively ageing staff will struggle to find further work in a country, whose unemployment level is only just starting to dip below a consistently high 10%.

"It is the Tribunal de Commerce which has decided to [postpone] its decision," a Renault spokeswoman added to just-auto from Paris. "We have committed to double our orders going from EUR5m to EUR10m [per year] in five years and around EUR5m to modernise the site."

France's hardline Confédération Générale du Travail (CGT) has won at least a partial victory, in that it had called on the Tribunal de Commerce de Poitiers to delay any decision, with one union member sporting a T-shirt reading: "Added value at work – it's us."

Such a postponement will now allow even greater scrutiny of the deal, but the union is warning any move to mass redundancies will be met with an unspecified backlash: "GM&S workers underline their intention not to let themselves be buried without reacting," noted the labour body.

Meanwhile, as most of France heads for its numerous beaches and mountains, the government is trying its best to put a brave face on what seems a fairly bleak situation, pointing to the GMD offer.

"This decision [offer] is good news for the continuation of the site and re-establishment of a competitive business in the Souterraine [region], which the government has championed since taking office," said a Finance Ministry statement.

"Staff will be able to give their opinion during August concerning the offer. Bruno Le Maire and Benjamin Griveaux [Secretary of State] call on employees to consider favourably this offer, the only one which will allow a guaranteed business restart at the La Souterraine site.

"The government and local authorities will fully mobilise to make available support for those workers not taken on."