Will there be a Plan B for Bridgestone employees in Bethune? The government, local elected officials and unions at the Bridgestone factory in Pas-de-Calais, in any case intend to put pressure on the management of the Japanese tire giant on Monday. Objective: to try to avoid the closure of the site, which employs 863 people.
Less than a week after the shocking announcement of the site’s closure, the ministers of Industry, Agnès Pannier-Runacher, and Labor, Élisabeth Borne, arrived in Béthune shortly before 2 p.m.
On the program: a two-part meeting at the headquarters of the agglomeration community. The two ministers will first meet with the elected representatives of the territory, including the president of Hauts-de-France Xavier Bertrand, and the European management of Bridgestone – by videoconference – before a second meeting with staff representatives and elected officials. A press point is scheduled at 4 p.m., according to Voix du Nord.
Some elected officials, like the deputy François Ruffin, came on site this Monday morning to support the employees. He notably accused “The policies that have let it go for 40 years, who sign free trade agreements with China, with Vietnam, with South Korea, and who then come to whine”.
For her part, Marine Le Pen denounced “cynicism“And”hypocrisyFrom the government and the Republicans on the closures of factories like Bridgestone’s in Béthune. “That they stop the cynicism, that they stop the hypocrisy and that they really look at what are the consequences of the policies which they lead and for which they vote», Declared the president of the National Gathering on Monday.
5 months of negotiations
Management and unions signed on Friday “an agreement of method” giving five months to the discussion and reopening “alternative scenarios to closure“, Rejoiced Sunday Agnès Pannier-Runacher, who believes that with this delay,”everything is possible“. At the microphone of “Grand Jury RTL-Le Figaro-LCI», The Minister also considered, concerning a possible nationalization, that it is not “the measure that solves everything”. The hypothesis of a nationalization of Bridgestone therefore seems, at this stage, ruled out.
SEE ALSO – Bridgestone: Agnès Pannier-Runacher announces the signing “a method agreement »Between management and employees
«We know that there will be social damage, but we want to be able to discuss other solutions (…) and Bridgestone has decided to give us time», Greeted the lawyer of the CSE Me Stéphane Ducrocq, about the agreement of method giving five months to the discussion. “Today, it is necessary to clarify the roles, to know what the State, the Region, the communities are ready to do concretely», He explained.
«We will ask the authorities to put their hands in their pockets, to encourage Bridgestone to invest and modernize this site, abandoned for years“For the benefit of other factories, added Stéphane Lesix, CFDT secretary of the CSE.
One of the symbols of Bethune
The largest employer in this city of 25,000 inhabitants, the multinational Bridgestone brutally announced on Wednesday the “final cessation»Of the site’s activity by 2021, citing production overcapacity in Europe and competition from low-cost Asian brands.
«Humiliation», «hammer blow», «assassination“: Employees and elected officials from all sides immediately denounced the destruction of one of the”symbolsOf the city, in a basin undermined by deindustrialisation. According to the CGT, up to “5,000 families would be impacted with subcontractors».
The announcement of the closure sparked unanimous outrage from the political class and anger roared even to the government, which regretted a “betrayal of trust». «What is inadmissible (…) is not to have opened the discussion upstream», A dit Agnès Pannier-Runacher. «We knew the factory was in decline“And the authorities had already invited”management at the discussion table».
Because the plant, which produces small-caliber tires for cars, is according to Bridgestone “the least efficient»Among the ten of its European sites. In a decade, its workforce has fallen by 40%, as its production volumes. “It was written ! For years we have been saying that we must invest, make large-caliber tires with high added value, to remain competitive! Management refuses and puts millions in Poland», Protested Stéphane Lesix (CFDT).
Showdown between the company and the authorities
The authorities must now “show Bridgestone that they are better off investing finally, rather than leaving“, at a time “for their image“And”their checkbook“, Pleaded Sunday the president of Hauts-de-France Xavier Bertrand on Europe 1. It is necessary”try what happened in 2013“, For the plant in Bari (Italy) promised to be closed, he proposed: after a”terrible arm wrestling“, The State has”agreed to finance a very large part of the necessary investments“And”60% of jobs have been maintained».
In the event of failure, the government considers the reindustrialization of the site and wants a “coherent and acceptable solution”For each worker. Some elected officials are campaigning for Bridgestone “reimburses»Recently paid public aid, including 1.8 million euros from CICE, or regional aid up to 620,000 euros.
«In the first round, Brigdestone dropped everything, it was violent. But when the boxer opposite knows how to move away, he can last five rounds. And we are still in the ring, with the hope of plan B!», Assures the UDI mayor of Béthune Olivier Gacquerre. He greets “the sacred union“And”complete»Elected officials, unions and residents. Sunday at 6 p.m., a petition posted online by the town hall collected some 37,000 signatures.