By Inés Mette
In an effort to save their jobs, hundreds of workers have been demonstrating in Belfort, France, after their employer announced it would be closing its train manufacturing plant in 2018.
Over the past weeks, protests have taken place in Belfort, France, in an effort to save the jobs of 483 people, working on its train manufacturing worksite. On the 7th of September, Alstom, a French multinational company in rail transport, announced the closing down of operations of its site in Belfort in 2018, due to a decrease in production in the last few years and a lack of orders for the upcoming ones.
“We haven’t been told anything”, says Florian Jardinier, when asked what Alstom’s plans are regarding the employment possibilities of the 483 people at risk of losing their jobs.
The Alstom Press Department ensures that there will be jobs open on other worksites for each of the 400 of 483 people who, they have announced, will be losing their jobs in 2018. The worksite of Reischoffen is set to welcome most of the Belfort employees. It is a worksite that receives “a lot of orders” and that is “very important for Alstom”, says Justine Rohée of the Alstom Press Department.
“There are no jobs open for the [Belfort] employees in Reischoffen”, contradicts Philippe Tillot, Central Trade Union Delegate at Working Force (FO) Alstom. “The situation in Reischoffen is a bit uncertain”confirms Laurent Gutierrez, President of Metallurgy at the French Confederation of Christian Workers (CFTC).
The number of people at risk of losing their jobs is not a set matter either. Alstom wants to keep 83 people working in Belfort in a maintenance centre, says Laurent Gutierrez. The job security of these 83 people “would be severely uncertain” as there is no real need, neither a plan for a new maintenance centre.
Another issue is whether or not Belfort employees will actually be able to relocate. “My whole family is here”, says Mr. Jardinier, who will not be relocating to Reischoffen or any other worksite. Indeed, most of the employees in Belfort would not be able to relocate as they have families. Reischoffen, although closer to Belfort than other Alstom worksites, is still a 2-hour train ride away from Belfort.
From January 2016, the French government was informed multiple times of the impeding situation in Belfort, according to Le Monde, and did not take any preemptive actions. It is unknown whether or not the government can help prevent the cut back of jobs, now that Alstom management has announced its decision.
The “only hope we have” is an agreement between the National Society of French Railways (SNCF) and Alstom, says Laurent Gutierrez.
The French Government announced a “plan” to save the worksite. It would consist of ordering 16 high-speed trains (TGV), which would allow the employees of Belfort to keep their jobs.