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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Delphi veut faire travailler plus pour gagner moins

by Lénaïg Bredoux

Delphi Demands Longer Hours for Lower Wages.

Translated Saturday 28 April 2007, by Gene Zbikowski

Automobile. The American parts maker wants to eliminate RTT [the paid holidays resulting from the reduction in statutory weekly working hours from 39 to 35 in France (following the so-called Aubry laws)] of its workers in the Ardennes and to freeze their salaries for three years to “guarantee the continued existence of the site.”

Dated April 16, the letter has been sent to each of the 460 workers at the Delphi factory in Donchery, near Sedan in the French département of Ardennes. It begins with these words: “Dear Sir or Madam, in the coming days, our factory will have to furnish our Division with an answer on which our future will depend.” The deal is clear: either the workers agree to give up their RTT holidays and to have their salaries frozen for three years, or the continued existence of the factory is threatened.

According to management at the American auto parts maker, which has placed itself under the protection of U.S. bankruptcy law and launched a vast restructuring of its activities around the world, the Ardennes factory must achieve a level of production costs equal to 12% of its sales to be “competitive,” notably vis-à-vis the countries of Eastern Europe.

Now the cost reduction plan that has already been adopted, and which provides for the offshoring of the evaporator shop (for air conditioners) to Mexico and Poland, and the shedding of 107 jobs, is said to be “insufficient.” Thus Delphi wants to shift gears by reneging on the agreement on the 35-hour week that it signed seven years ago. At stake, still according to management, is the winning of two new markets to replace models that are arriving at the end of their product life. “Otherwise, the new products will go to the factory in Poland,” said Jean-Yves Stévenin, the CGT central trade union delegate said in disgust.

So, at the demand of the CFDT trade union (which represents a majority of the workers), which refuses to “take a decision” in the workers’ place, a referendum is being held today in Donchery, with four options to choose from. If none of them garner a majority of votes, a second round will be organized on May 4. “The people here don’t believe in it any more,” explained James Sourioux of the CFDT trade union. “We already had a planned redundancy scheme in 2001, the evaporator shop is going to be off-shored beginning this summer, and the other factories in France which have abandoned the 35-hour week have not always maintained their activities. The workers are likely to vote no.”

As for the CGT trade union, the second-largest union at the factory, it is conducting a campaign against management’s “blackmail”: “Delphi wants to take advantage of some workers’ confusion, with the fear of losing their jobs, to realize short-term surplus profits,” said Jean-Yves Stévenin. “The measures that have been presented only represent less than a 2% reduction in production costs! And the two new markets alone will not suffice to counter-balance the drop in activity.” He accuses management of making the workers pay the cost of the off-shoring of one of the shops and speaks of a “Machiavellianly evil shady deal.” The counting of the workers’ votes will take place tomorrow at 3 p.m.

by Lénaïg Bredoux

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