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French factory workers in last-ditch plea to Obama

Workers at a doomed French factory have called upon the President of the United States to come to their aid in their hour of need.

French factory workers in last-ditch plea to Obama
File photo: Jewel Samad/AFP

The last time an American was asked to intervene to help out an ailing French plant it sparked an international row and deep soul-searching over France's work culture.

But workers at a foundry in Vaux, central France will be desperately hoping the man they have asked to come to the rescue is more cooperative than the CEO of the American tyre firm, Maurice Taylor.

In a last ditch effort to force bosses to meet their demands for compensation, the 168 employees at the DMI foundry, which makes metal parts for cars, have written a two page plea letter to President Barack Obama.

The plant has gone into receivership and with a deadline set for March 4th time is running out for a buyer to be found.

The desperate workers want Obama, who is struggling to kick start the US economy, to use his unrivaled clout to apply pressure on Platinum Equity, which is the main US shareholder in DMI.

“Mr President, in France, the law provides that in such circumstances shareholders are subject to certain obligations, including those that require assistance to be given to employees who are laid off,” the letter reads.

“Up until now, despite our different demands, the group remains silent and has not listened to us. Please allow us to ask for your intervention with Platinum Equity so that they become aware of French law.

“It is inconceivable not to compensate the workers,” reads the letter which was signed by Didier Verrier, the CGT union delegate.

It was members of the same CGT union who last week were called “nutcases” by Obama’s compatriot Taylor.

The jibe was in a letter to the French Minister for Industrial Recovery Arnaud Montebourg who had asked Taylor to invest in the doomed Goodyear tyre plant in the northern town of Amiens.

Taylor told Montebourg he would have to be "stupid" to invest in the factory where workers only “put in three hours a day”.

Workers at the Vaux foundry, who previously threatened to blow up the plant if their demands were not met, will be hoping Obama sees them in a more positive light.

Employees have also written a separate letter to Montebourg demanding he put pressure on Renault, which is the main buyer of the parts.

DMI invested €10 million euros in the plant, when they bought it last year, but now claim they can no longer finance the plant after the cancellation of a major contract.

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INDUSTRY & TRADE

After promising to create 1,000 jobs in France… GE set to cut 1,044

US industrial conglomerate General Electric said on Tuesday that it would cut more than 1,000 jobs, mainly at its gas turbine operations in eastern France, part of a wave of European layoffs as it tries to stem losses in its power generation business.

After promising to create 1,000 jobs in France... GE set to cut 1,044
Photo: AFP
The 1,044 job cuts, long feared by unions, could become a political challenge for President Emmanuel Macron, who assured local officials this month that the government was following the matter with “the utmost vigilance”.
   
The cuts will be made mainly in Belfort, eastern France, the European headquarters for GE Energy, and in the Paris region, the company said in a statement.
   
“More than half the number of employees in the gas activities… are going to lose their jobs,” the mayor of Belfort, Damien Meslot, and other local officials said in a statement.
   
They warned of “a new hardship” for the region, which has been hit hard by the decline of mining and heavy industry over the past decades.
 
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US giant GE to pay France €50 million after creating just 25 jobs out of 1,000Photo: AFP

Overall, GE employs nearly 4,000 people in Belfort, including 1,900 in its gas turbine operations.   

The company has struggled for years with slumping demand for its gas turbines because of low oil and gas prices, and the power operations were a key factor in its massive annual loss of $22.8 billion last year.
   
In 2015 GE announced 6,500 job cuts across Europe, and two years later it revealed a further 12,000 cuts.
 
That prompted France to fine the company €50 million earlier this year, since GE had promised to create at least 1,000 new jobs when it announced the purchase of the power businesses from France's Alstom in 2014.
 
Shortly after closing that deal, GE unveiled a series of job cuts across Europe as slumping oil and gas prices crimped demand for its heavy-duty turbines and other equipment.
 
The company had already warned last year that it wouldn't meet the target, though the new CEO Larry Culp confirmed in October that GE would “fulfil its commitments.”
 
It had promised to pay €50,000 for every job not created over the three-year period.
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