Laurent Aubry, factory employee, Flins, France
LAURENT AUBRY has seen plenty of change in the 18 years that he has worked for Renault. He started at Flins, Renault's biggest plant, 40 kilometers west of Paris, when he was 18. He's still there - but he has climbed the ladder.
Aubry was hired as a welder in the body shop. 'The body shop has changed a lot. When I started, the work was quite tough in some areas. Then things improved - most manual operations were automated,' he says.
Flins' workforce has also changed dramatically. The number of workers has fallen from 21,000 in 1980 to 7,200 in 1998. 'Flins used to be like an ants' nest. All the hard jobs have been axed. Robotization helped to improve working conditions a lot. Many older workers left and hiring was stopped in 1982. Renault started taking on young workers again only five years ago. It has brought energy and freshness into the plant.'
Aubry is now an assistant to a team supervisor on the Clio final assembly line. His team of between 20 and 26 workers is in charge of mounting components like dashboards, seats and windshields. He calls himself a moniteur (supervisor). He is in charge of quality control.
'I would like to become an analyst,' he says. 'The analyst solves technical problems in the assembly line and is in touch with suppliers. I like the technical refinement in making a car.'
Money is not the main motivation. On average, Aubry earns FF11,000 ($1,830) a month. That is a good salary by French standards.
'We have good wages compared with other companies,' he says, 'but we still think it's not enough.'
He believes that more change is coming. 'Within 10 or 15 years, only final assembly operations will be carried out at Flins. Even the body shop and painting shop will be outsourced,' he says quietly.
Aubry says he believes in Renault's future.
'I bought shares when Renault was privatized in 1994,' he says. 'It's as if I had a small piece of land in the company.'
Working for Renault is a tradition in Aubry's family. His father drove a forklift at Flins for 25 years and his mother worked in the CKD department of the factory.
'I came to Renault first because of my parents. I did not know I would stay for such a long time.
'But when I realized I could move inside the company, it encouraged me to stay.'