Facing plant closings by the bosses at Renault, autoworkers in France are organizing strikes and protest rallies against company plans to eliminate 4,600 jobs nationwide. These actions have forced the company to back off from some of the plant closings for now.
Some 8,000 union workers rallied at Renault’s Maubeuge plant in northern France May 30 after bosses said they would close that factory and shift some production to another plant. The 2,000 workers there went on strike, returning to work June 3 after bosses “reassured” them and union officials that a deal is being worked out to keep the plant open.
The day before that strike ended, Renault Chairman Jean-Dominique Senard announced that the Choisy-le-Roi plant near Paris would be closed. This will be the first of the company’s plants in France to be shuttered. In response, the 262 workers there went on strike, taking to the streets. They’re backed by the four unions representing Renault workers in France — the CFE-CGC, FO, CFDT and CGT. Several hundred workers rallied outside the plant June 3 and 6.
“A lot of union delegations from nearby plants came to the factory during the week to support us,” Nixon Jacquet, a forklift operator at the Choisy plant for seven years, told the Militant at the June 6 demonstration, “including from the big Sanofi pharmaceutical plant nearby.”
“These attacks by Renault are not because of the virus epidemic,” Samir Slim, a worker for 30 years at the Choisy plant and union shop steward, told the Militant by phone June 5, “but from years of declining auto production in France and the new technology Renault and other automakers want to install, to go over to electric cars, which will take only half as many workers.
“But they didn’t count on the mobilized opposition of workers who defied the government’s ban on demonstrations due to the coronavirus,” he said. “We struck the plant for five days.” Workers decided to return to work when the bosses said they will announce further details about the plant and its workforce June 16. “We will have daily actions in the plant until then.”
Renault bosses have announced plans to cut production by 20% and slash 14,600 jobs worldwide, including 4,600 at its 14 plants in France. These cuts come amid a worldwide decline in production and trade, fueled by capitalist depression conditions. Auto bosses worldwide — and in many other industries — are moving to slash their workforces and take other anti-working-class steps to put themselves in better shape to fight for profits as markets shrink.
French government’s Renault stake
The French government is Renault’s largest shareholder with just over 15%. Three days before job cuts were announced, the government of French President Emmanuel Macron gave a $8.8 billion handout to Renault to ease its losses.
Hundreds of workers at Renault’s factory in Caudan, France, struck during the last week in May, “protesting at factory gates, anticipating their plant would be shuttered,” reported Reuters. In response the bosses announced that the plant’s future will be put under “strategic review.”
“The hardest part is still to come,” Mael Le Goff from the CGT union at the plant, told Reuters.
At the same time, Nissan workers in Spain, who have been on strike since May 4, continue to organize protest actions against the bosses’ plan to shut down all production in the country by the end of December.
Several “slow marches” involving 1,000 vehicles took place June 4, traveling from Nissan’s three plants in Catalonia to the Barcelona city center, the Catalan News reported.
Retired autoworkers Nat London and Derek Jeffers in Paris contributed to this article.