PARIS — PSA Group and Renault have signed "solidarity contracts" with employees in France in an effort to protect jobs during coronavirus shutdowns and to provide safe working conditions when the automakers' factories start up again.
PSA reached agreement with unions on Tuesday. The company will create a fund to ensure that the group's 33,000 French workers receive 100 percent of their pay while on partial unemployment. The fund will be financed by donations of paid time off -- two days from managers, one day from other employees -- and a contribution from the company.
Renault signed a similar agreement last week to ensure its 36,000 workers in France receive full compensation. Every employee will donate one day of paid time off.
The French government has said that no workers will lose their jobs because of the coronavirus shutdown, first imposed on March 16. As part of that, it will reimburse employers for up to 84 percent of salaries for workers who are idled.
All businesses deemed nonessential have been closed, including automotive factories and dealer showrooms. There is some limited activity to produce and distribute spare parts, and repair shops continue to operate, largely to ensure that emergency vehicles and delivery trucks remain on the road.
The PSA and Renault agreements also give the automakers flexibility to adjust factory schedules as operations restart.
The Renault agreement, for example, allows for up to six six-day work weeks until the end of this year, including three in the same month. The usual summer break may be rescheduled, although workers are guaranteed 12 consecutive days off between July 1 and Sept. 30. The PSA contract contains similar provisions.
"This agreement will protect at the same time both the health and security of workers," Xavier Chereau, PSA Group executive vice president for human resources, digital and real estate, said on a conference call.
Chereau said that although PSA was preparing health protocols at its factories, there was no fixed date for any to reopen.
PSA unions pushed back last week at reports that the automaker was preparing to reopen engine and transmission factories in Northern France in the coming weeks.
Chereau said PSA would ensure that measures to protect workers were in place and verified before any factory activity restarts, including providing safety masks and other protective gear, and modifying workspaces so that workers were at least one meter apart.
PSA and Renault have restarted their factories in Wuhan, China, where the coronavirus outbreak was first recorded.
Chereau said PSA was using that experience as a guide as it plans for the reopening of factories in Europe. "We are benefiting from our Chinese colleagues' experience, especially on health measures," he said.