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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Le groupe Renault fragilisé avec la suppression de 7 500 emplois

by Cécile Rousseau

Renault Weakened by 7,500 Job Cuts

Translated Monday 21 January 2013, by Gene Zbikowski and reviewed by Derek Hanson

Management at the automaker has announced massive downsizing – a strategy that could threaten Renault’s long-term survival.

Another whack of the axe hits Renault workers. During a negotiating session on competitiveness on Jan. 15, corporate management announced the axing of 7,500 jobs in France between now and 2016, that is to say, the loss of 8,260 jobs against 760 hypothetical new hires, according to the CGT trade union.

This represents the hemorrhaging of over 15% of the workforce in France. Thus, 5,700 so-called “natural” job vacancies will not be filled. As for the 1,800 remaining jobs, the automaker will propose early retirement to people nearing the end of their career, with no requirement to look for a new job and 75% of their salary until retirement age. The measure, aimed largely at factory workers, will be extended to executives.

For Fabien Gache, the main CGT trade union delegate, “this is a catastrophe, once again the factory workers will suffer the greatest proportion of the job cuts, nearly 5,000 jobs will be liquidated in production, 2,000 jobs are to disappear in engineering, and the rest in the service sector. Renault is continuing its logic of not replacing workers who leave. Already, between 2006 and 2010, we lost an equivalent number of workers.”

Management at Renault hopes to save 400 million euros is fixed expenses in order to “gain room to maneuver so as to invest and develop its activities,” and in a twist of fate, to “achieve the new hires that it will need for the future.”

For the CFDT metal-workers union, these strategies “have never led to the higher efficiency that was counted on.”

All the more so as another threat is looming over staff: management envisages reaching a job-maintenance agreement by February. The workers are expected to submit to longer working hours and obligatory mobility, supposedly in order to keep their jobs. In return for this blackmail, the corporation is promising not to close any factory in France.

But, following these announcements, nothing could be less certain. The corporation is feeling its oats in an economic situation that favors impunity for the bosses, with the conclusion of a national agreement on stabilizing employment that promotes greater on-the-job flexibility.

In this job-cutting frenzy, Renault is not being restrained in the least by the government, which holds a 15% stake in the corporation. Quite the contrary: Arnaud Montebourg, the Minister of Industrial Renewal, was even pleased that neither of the “two red lines” (layoffs and factory closings) “was crossed.”

For Fabien Gache: “by following this job-cutting logic, we’re going to come to the point of no return. They can’t ask for more from people who’re already working at the risk of their health. These job cuts threaten the very existence of Renault. They represent the equivalent of shutting three factories! They tell us that the means of production are running below capacity, but that isn’t going to be solved with fewer people!”

If the automaker sheds a large portion of its staff, the question of the balance between the two partners, Renault and Nissan, is likely to loom. Yesterday, there was a work stoppage by Renault workers at Sandouville and Cléon in Normandy in northern France.

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