Cutbacks at PSA and Renault meet growing resistance
PARIS (Reuters) -- Labor tensions at France's automakers took a turn for the worse as Renault and PSA/Peugeot-Citroen workers protested over planned cuts on Tuesday. Renault staff demonstrated at the company's Flins factory west of Paris and PSA workers marched on company headquarters.
About 500 Renault workers staged a protest in front of the Flins plant, where production of the Clio has dwindled as more of the subcompact vehicles are built in Turkey. A similar number of Renault staff demonstrated at a chassis facility in Le Mans, while hundreds more downed tools at plants in Maubeuge and Douai, northern France.
Renault is cutting 7,500 jobs over three years without compulsory redundancies and is demanding union concessions on pay, flexibility and working hours in return for guarantees to keep French plants open.
Unions are demanding firm commitments on production volumes in France as part of any deal. "As things stand now, the conditions are unacceptable," CFDT union chief Laurent Berger said of Renault's proposals for a new nationwide labor deal.
The CFDT, France's biggest private-sector union, also increased pressure on Renault CEO Carlos Ghosn by echoing calls from within President Francois Hollande's socialist government for a cut to the chief executive's salary. Ghosn earned 2.79 million euros ($3.76 million) from Renault in 2011 and 9.92 million from Nissan in its corresponding financial year, making him one of the highest-paid CEOs in France or Japan.
"Workers can't be asked to make sacrifices unless the CEO is asked to make sacrifices," Berger said on BFM Television. The government, Renault's biggest shareholder with a 15 percent stake, attempted to trim Ghosn's pay at a board meeting in December, Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici said in a Monday radio interview, without giving details.
PSA, the carmaker worst hit by Europe's deep auto sales slump, is struggling to shed costs and lift sales in its effort to return to profit in 2015. PSA's plan to close a plant at Aulnay near Paris in 2014 and eliminate 8,000 positions across France faces possible delays after the Paris Appeals Court ordered a temporary halt to the restructuring to allow additional consultations with workers.
At Aulnay, production of Citroen C3 subcompacts continued at a trickle amid protests. Workers from the plant, which reopened on Monday after a strike and 10-day closure, were called upon by the CGT union to march on PSA's head office in Paris.
Negotiations on the cuts continued on Tuesday, but final implementation must now wait until PSA also completes formal talks ordered by the court at two sites belonging to parts division Faurecia.
The CGT union argued successfully in court that workers at two Faurecia sites would be affected by PSA's cuts and should have been included in consultations. "It's a restructuring that has an impact on Faurecia's activities," CGT lawyer Fiodor Rilov said. "As a result, workers' representatives have to be informed and consulted."
PSA said talks on the cutbacks were going ahead on Tuesday as scheduled and would continue on Feb. 5 and Feb. 12. "The negotiations are not suspended and will continue to make progress," a company spokesman said. He gave no new time frame for implementation, which the company had previously aimed to begin in February or March.