France – The Tale of Two Factories
France, the second largest economy in the Eurozone, has slipped back into recession. Lucy Ash visits two tyre factories in the depressed northern town of Amiens. They are on the same industrial estate and both owned by the American company Goodyear. Dunlop has adopted flexible working practices and for the time being, its 940 jobs are safe. The other has refused to sign up to the new shift pattern and the factory, which makes mainly agricultural tyres, is slated for closure next year.
The company says it is losing nearly $80 million a year and cannot stay open if the workforce refuses to compromise and modernise. The employees claim Goodyear is using the new shift rota as an excuse and always intended to outsource production to countries where labour costs are cheaper. The workers have repeatedly gone to court in a bid to save 1173 jobs at their factory and have already won five times.
Can the French people preserve their industrial base, as well as the generous welfare benefits and working practices they hold so dear? As France faces more competition, a stagnant economy and an ageing population it will become increasingly difficult. The struggle to modernise in Amiens comes at a price.
Frederic, one worker at the Dunlop plant, says a wall has sprung up between him and his former workmates and neighbours. Some talk of betrayal. However the Goodyear case is settled, it has left a deep rift in the town that could take years to heal.
(Image: Goodyear Factory of Amiens Nord which is marked for closure next year. The stickers on the sign alludes to a long battle workers have had to keep the factory open. BBC Copyright)