France rejects Ford plan to close factory in south west
French authorities have rejected a plan put forward by US auto-maker Ford to close one of its plants, giving a Franco-Belgian equipment manufacturer more time to improve a buy-out offer.
Published: 29 January 2019 10:20 CET
A person wears a T-Shirt reading in French "Lets fight together to save the jobs" during a demonstration. Photo: AFP
Authorities in the southwest, where Ford's Acquitaine Industries plant at Blanquefort has been turning out gear boxes since 1972, Monday evening rejected the company's plan to lay off 850 workers, citing procedural “non-compliance” as a reason.
Government sources said the decision gives Strasbourg-based Punch-Powerglide two more weeks to “beef up” a buy-out offer earlier rejected by Ford.
French authorities will then have 21 days to review the situation. They also want Ford to improve its own offer to help preserve local jobs once the plant closes its plant in August.
Philippe Poutou, a local Confederation Generale du Travail trade union representative and nationally-known left-wing politician, welcomed news of the delay.
“It will force Ford to reexamine things and look more seriously at Punch's offer which is backed by the employees,” he told AFP.
“It gives us a few more weeks to improve the chances of saving the factory,” he added.
“Additional time does not guarantee that we shall succeed because we know there are difficulties over how the would-be buyer will finalise his offer, but at least the battle can go on,” Poutou said.
A buy-out by Punch-Powerglide could save 350 jobs at the plant, according to Jean-Marc Chavant, an Force Ouvriere trade union representative.
Ford, which announced the closure nearly a year ago, last month rejected the French state-backed Punch-Powerglide offer.
Ford's local subsidiary FAI said it did not find Punch's business plan convincing and that it would offer workers redundancy instead — a decision labelled “hostile and unacceptable” by President Emmanuel Macron.
The standoff is the first major spat between the government and a multinational since Macron, a pro-business centrist, came to power two years ago.
France slams Ford’s ‘shameful’ move to shut Bordeaux car plant
The French government on Tuesday denounced a decision by US automaker Ford to shutter a plant making gear boxes near Bordeaux, after the company rejected a takeover bid that could have saved some of the 800 jobs at the site.
Published: 27 February 2019 10:01 CET
Government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux accused Ford executives of taking a “shameful attitude” in refusing a final offer from Franco-Belgian equipment manufacturer Punch Powerglide on Monday.
French officials had hailed the improved bid lodged by the Strasbourg-based Punch-Powerglide last week, which could have allowed around half the employees to keep their jobs.
In return unions had agreed to a pay freeze and more flexible working hours. “We will make them (Ford) pay for the laid-off employees, for the clean-up of the site, and for new industrialisation efforts for the region,” Griveaux told France Info radio.
But he said the government would not try to claw back some 15 million euros ($17 million) in state aid received by Ford in recent years, as sought by Philippe Poutou, a trade union official at the site who ran for president against Emmanuel Macron in 2017.
“I understand Mr Poutou's anger… but in a state governed by the rule of law, you cannot demand that this aid be repaid,” he said.
He also ruled out nationalising the site, saying the best way forward was “to find ways to diversify the industrial activities” at the Blanquefort site in southwest France.
Ford, which announced the closure nearly a year ago, had said it did not consider Punch Powerglide's plan convincing, and unions themselves had noted the offer was not accompanied by guarantees of sufficient client orders to sustain the site over the long term.
“We are aware of the consequences this decision to halt production will have on our workers, their families and the local community,” Ford said Monday.
It said it would help laid off workers retrain to find new jobs, without providing details on how much it would spend on severance and other measures.
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