PARIS France has seen different forms of social discontent in the past week: Two bossnappings at Siemens Lyon, the occupation of premises at ST-Ericsson Caen and a letter to the press at Wipro-NewLogic Sophia Antipolis.
Social unrest tends to escalate in France. Not a day goes by without a strike, a riot, a demonstration or the promise of one these ingredients. And the recession did not help.
EE Times presents three incidents that have taken place at three French subsidiaries of international groups this week.
Workers squat ST-Ericsson Caen
Since Feb. 25, ST-Ericsson workers have been occupying the premises in Caen, France, night and day to protest against the group's intention to close the site.
ST-Ericsson, the 50/50 joint venture between Ericsson and STMicroelectronics NV, indeed unveiled in June 2009 a restructuring plan that entailed 146 layoffs in France, over a total of 2,100, and the closure of the company's site in Caen.
In a discussion with EE Times, Herve Renault, workers' representative at the workers' central committee, explained that employees feel completely abandoned by a company to which "they have brought much added-value."
This feeling is strengthened by the management behavior, he added. "They do not respect the employees they are laying off. Does the acknowledgment of the accomplished work still mean something?"
In the meantime, ST-Ericsson's spokesperson emphasized to EE Times that the group reported a strong loss in 2009 and, consequently, the restructuring effort is "absolutely necessary to guarantee the company's financial stability. The continuity of the group's operations in France and in the world depends on this financial stability."
Since June, ST-Ericsson's spokesperson said the management team has expressed its intentions to close the site in Caen while maintaining its commitments in France. "ST-Ericsson has engaged its civil responsibility as it has implemented all it could to minimize the social impact on the Caen region, notably through various measures to accompany employees and to revitalize economically the region. ST-Ericsson reaffirmed this commitment at the Caen Prefecture on March 2, 2010."
ST-Ericsson France, the spokesperson added, is committed to implement measures and resources to place employees in the Caen region, to promote company creations, to insure internal relocations and support job research. ST-Ericsson said it continues to work on a full or partial sale of the site to a third party.
Renault painted a darker portrait. He noted that ST-Ericsson's management team has proposed no alternative solution, not even a partial takeover of the activity. "The management absolutely does not fulfill its responsibilities. The proposed support as part of the restructuring plan is minimalist."
Since June 2009, Renault noted, "the management team has endeavored to contradict the fact that the site closure is not economically legitimate. For the rest, nothing has evolved. The management's communication is very subtle, especially on the fact that it was pretending to do its best to relocate its employees. Much promises but few concrete moves."
Renault said he believed the French Government has the means to intercede because it holds 14 percent of the company's shares, and "if the Government cannot intercede with a company of which it has the financial control, then we can question its capacity of defining a true industrial policy."
He highlighted that the manager of ST-Ericsson Caen was promoted manager of ST-Ericsson France and resides in Sophia-Antipolis. "Other senior executives have deserted the company a week ago," he said.