THOUSANDS MORE JOBS TO GO IN RENAULT PLANTS – while Airbus to accelerate autonomy

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Renault workers marching in Paris during the general strike on April 6th 2006
Renault workers marching in Paris during the general strike on April 6th 2006

TWO thousand more jobs will go in Renault plants Europe-wide and 900 of them will be in France; the automobile manufacturer will announce the details on Thursday, September 18th.

These cuts are in addition to those announced last Tuesday, September 9th and are part of the same long-trailed, major redundancy programme.

Last week the firm said it plans to eliminate 3,000 white-collar jobs at several centres across France and 1,000 front line production jobs at its Sandouville (Seine-Maritime) factory.

In response the CGT immediately called a national Renault strike for last Thursday but a convincing programme of action is yet to be formulated.

Previous ‘rationalisation’ between 2005 and 2007 saw Renault’s French workforce being cut by 7,000.

The company’s present cut-backs are in response to a big drop in profits in particular caused by the slow-down in the European market and the failure of the Laguna model to meet its sales targets.

In the first six months of this year its production in France was down by 21%.

Renault wants to meet a projected 6% operational profit margin for 2009 by reducing its build costs by 10%.

Renault is also pinning its hopes on the future success of the Megane III, to be introduced in November in France and a Scenic model to be launched next year.

The Megane III will be produced at Palencia, Spain, and the Scenic at Douai in the north of France.

The company also has plants in Romania, Russia and South Africa working flat out producing the profitable low-cost model, the Logan.

In view of the rapidly deepening economic crisis its French restructuring plans may soon be out of date.

Peugeot Citroën, the other major French automobile company, is also chopping its workforce with 700 temporary workers to go at its Poissy site and 1,000 others at its Rennes factory.

In one year, Peugeot Citroën has shed 10,000 personnel, nearly all in France.

AERONAUTICS

The Power 8 plan is no more; enter Power 8 Plus.

EADS the parent company of Airbus has changed tack in the face of massive resistance to the job-cutting Power 8 Plan (10,000 to go and massive savings through off-loading production sites) and a reassessment of future profitability in the light of the deteriorating economic situation.

The new Power 8 Plus plan is to concentrate not on immediate redundancies but an acceleration of the outsourcing of its activities to countries where production costs are much lower instead, and into the dollar zones; in the meantime current jobs are needed because of a good order book.

One of EADS’s companies will create a subsidiary producing parts in Tunisia and a similar project is expected to be set up in Romania.

This news is causing much concern in the Region Midi Pyrenees where some 400 firms employing 53,000 workers are engaged in sub-contract work with Airbus.

Jean-François Knepper of Force Ouvrière (FO) at Airbus said, ‘These transfers [of work to Tunisia] are going to be to the detriment of local French subcontractors.’

In addition, there is going to be increased investment in engineering design, research and development abroad.

The offices already set up in China, India, United States and Russia will double in size to around three or four hundred local engineers each.

The unions think that this will contribute to a loss of know-how in the long term in France.

The FO’s Knepper stated, ‘We are putting ourselves in the position of helping China and India to become our future competitors.’

Airbus has suffered a blow with the decision of the Pentagon to suspend the contract for the provision of 179 giant in-flight refuelling airplanes won in February last by the French firm in partnership with the US’s Northrop-Grumman.

The competition with Boeing to provide the planes had been going on for seven years. It is thought that a new competition, probably to be set up during the next presidency, may well favour Boeing and there is talk of US protectionism.

The Pope is currently visiting France and was welcomed by President Sarkozy at the Élysée Palace where both made speeches to a select audience of the French great and good.

Sarkozy took the opportunity to advance his ideas on the French secular state in promoting his ‘open secularism’ which has lately mutated from ‘positive secularism’.

This amounts a back-door attack on the law of 1905, which firmly establishes the separation of state and church, as he advocates a ‘secularism’ which bows down before religion.

The right-wing president showed his regard for French catholicism as soon as he arrived at the Élysée in 2007.

He wishes religions to be better represented at official occasions for example the Economic and Social Council.

Sarkozy’s crossing of the traditional French presidential line on secularism has been taken by many as a step too far, and contemptuous of republican principles.