Renault Workers March Against Thousands Of Sackings

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Peugeot workers lobby a shareholders meeting against factory closures in May 2006
Peugeot workers lobby a shareholders meeting against factory closures in May 2006

Angry, striking carworkers from Sandouville (Seine-Maritime) Renault plant demonstrated in the streets of Le Havre on Thursday, September 25.

The French motor manufacturing giant recently confirmed 1,000 redundancies.

From 05.30 until 10.00 on Thursday morning, the strikers blocked access to Le Havre’s industrial zone. More than two thousand workers joined by Renault workers from Le Mans and Flins were on the afternoon’s demonstration.

The carworkers, on strike since Tuesday, against Renault’s plans were incensed by further management’s announcements on Tuesday of short time working:

Until the end of the year one shift instead of two will produce the new Laguna and the production line of the Espace and Vel Satis will be stopped for 10 days.

CGT secretary at Sandouville Alain Richeux, commented on the short time working: ‘The workers will lose about a quarter of their salaries, this is the straw that broke the camel’s back.’

Jean-Luc Lefrancois, CFDT, said: ‘We demand that the Region move Renault and the State so that a new vehicle can be made at Sandouville.’

In addition to the recently announced 4,000 production jobs carnage, Renault shed some light on the 2,000 non-production line posts to be eliminated.

Nine hundred would be in five French sites and the remaining 1,100 would be in UK, Germany, Spain and Italy – details will be announced on October 4th.

French president Nicolas Sarkozy, casting himself as the saviour of a nation threatened by a financial tsunami, spoke before a specially prepared audience at Toulon in the south of France on Thursday evening.

The French president was on stage alone addressing a ‘public’ meeting about his Canute-like plans for the ‘refounding of capitalism’ and the saving of the French population from the economic disaster about to befall them.

Calling for the ‘refounding of capitalism’, he said: ‘The world has passed a catastrophe by a hairsbreadth. We can’t take the risk of it happening anew.’

By way of explanation he intoned: ‘The financial crisis is not the crisis of capitalism.

‘It is the crisis of a system which has departed from the most fundamental values of capitalism, which has betrayed the spirit of capitalism. That was a madness the price for which we pay today.’

He went on to say that the problem was deep and it was necessary to refashion the world financial and monetary system just like after World War II at Bretton Woods in order to create the tools to deal with globalisation and the world stock markets.

For ‘the French who are afraid for their savings’ he said: ‘I will not accept that any depositor will lose a single euro.’

‘The present crisis will have consequences in the months ahead which will affect growth, unemployment and the cost of living,’ he predicted. It was noted that in his 45-minute speech he mentioned for the first time since he was elected the dreaded ‘r-word’ – recession: ‘I will not have a policy of austerity, because austerity would aggravate the recession’

Nevertheless his solution for the French was to be found in the essential policy of accelerating his anti-working class ‘reform’ programme for all aspects of the French economy.

In particular he highlighted cuts in state administration spending: ‘To find room to manoeuvre and prepare for the future, the expenses of the state administration must decrease.

‘Next year an unprecedented total of 30,600 posts will be cut in the public service.’

He claimed that the good work already started in deregulating the French economy was putting the country in a position to better resist the current crisis.

l The German trade union IG Metall said on Tuesday it will demand a hefty eight percent pay increase for 3.6 million workers in the metallurgy and electronics industries.

The level of increases, the highest sought by the union in 16 years, suggests that stormy wage negotiations with employers can be expected when the talks kick off next month.

‘Profits have exploded in the metals industries, Germany has been world export champion for years, the sales margins are the highest they’ve been since the 60s and never before has so little been spent on wages and salaries measured as part of turnover,’ said IG Metall boss Berthold Huber. ‘Now it’s our turn.’

Agreements reached in the metallurgy sector often set the tone for other German wage talks.

Current pay accords in the auto, IT and household goods industries expire on October 31 so the outcome will be closely watched by all sides, including car makers such as BMW and Volkswagen, and industrial giants like Siemens.

Coming as the country’s economy slows, IG Metall’s wage demand points to bruising talks with employers that are likely to set the tone for other pay settlements across Europe’s largest, export driven economy.

Meanwhile, German engineering giant Siemens’ management announced last Friday in the press that its plant in Thessaloniki, Greece was to be shut down by next month.

The news came as a surprise to all workers concerned, as no prior information was given to their local works council, said the European Metalworkers’ Federation (EMF) yesterday.

Local trade unions and workers’ representatives are fearful that the whole procedure will be conducted in a hurried manner in order to exclude the possibility of trade union and worker representative intervening to seek alternative solutions and a future for the plant.

Peter Scherrer, General Secretary of the European Metalworkers’ Federation, said that way of proceeding is completely unacceptable: ‘Siemens, as a Europe-based company, is very aware of our minimum standards of social dialogue.

‘Siemens’ management should honour a decent level of workers’ participation everywhere.

‘It is inadmissible that, in Greece, all those widely accepted standards are disregarded.’

The Siemens’ European Works Council, and the local works council and trade unions are the appropriate bodies for opening a constructive social dialogue.

A constructive dialogue with these bodies would allow the workers concerned to participate and it would set a process in motion for defining the future of their plant.

In the EMF’s view, it is incomprehensible that the instruments that would reduce the negative social impact on the employees concerned are not being used.

The EMF appeals to Siemens’ management to immediately open the dialogue with the workers’ representatives on all appropriate levels.