Strike over job losses at Daewoo

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Employees at Daewoo's television-manufacturing plant in Lorraine, eastern France, came out on strike in April 2002 after the company announced a plan to cut 120 jobs. The workforce has called for the state to intercede with the Korean-based group, which received government grants when it set up factories in the region.

The Korean-based Daewoo group is planning to cut 120 jobs at its television-manufacturing plant in Flameck (Lorraine). This decision, taken in spring 2002, is part of an overall reorganisation of the multinational's production activities, which is being realised by reorienting the products manufactured in its French factories and relocating the manufacture of certain goods to central and eastern Europe. The Flameck television-manufacturing plant was apparently performing well financially, but Daewoo Electrics wants to reposition itself in the market by specialising in luxury items, which means higher technology and lower staffing levels.

When the redundancy plan was announced, protest action was taken. Almost 80% of the 150 production workers at the Flameck plant, which employs 250 people in all, went out on strike on 8 April 2002 (and were still on strike at the end of the month), in response to a call from the inter-union committee comprised of the plant-level branches of four trade unions - the French Democratic Confederation of Labour (Confédération française démocratique du travail, CFDT), the French Christian Workers' Confederation (Confédération française des travailleurs chrétiens, CFTC), the General Confederation of Labour (Confédération générale du travail, CGT) and the General Confederation of Labour-Force ouvrière (Confédération générale du travail-Force ouvrière, CGT-FO).

The workers are demanding 'a redundancy plan worthy of the name', with extra redundancy payments. In particular, they are demanding 'golden handshakes' and payment for holidays and bank holidays. Moreover, there are anxieties about the future of the region's other two Daewoo factories: one at Villier la Montagne (350 staff, producing microwave ovens) and the other at Mont Saint Martin, (540 staff, producing cathode ray tubes). Several staff delegations have demanded arbitration on the issue, both from the Minister of Finance, in a demonstration held in Paris on 19 March 2002, and from the Lorraine Regional Council. Staff are critical of the fact that Daewoo received government grants to set up plants in the region around a decade ago, without there being any reciprocal obligation on the company. The Korean-based company's management thinks that the onus is on the French state to pay for the workers' claims. After 26 voluntary retirements, the restructuring plan proposed by Daewoo management involves 94 redundancies and the implementation of other measures to facilitate the reassignment of staff within the company.

After 11 April, the protest actions became tougher. The French Confederation of Professional and Managerial Staff-General Confederation of Professional and Managerial Staff (Confédération française de l'encadrement-Confédération générale des cadres, CFE-CGC) joined the other unions and all the employees at the Flameck plant were taking strike action aimed at generating negotiations. On 17 April, following the failure of the latest mediation initiative, the Flameck electronics factory was 'totally paralysed', according to the inter-union committee's spokesperson. Indeed, the employees decided to occupy the premises in order to force the resignation of the chief executive.

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