Nanterre Magistrate's Court suspends the closure of Renault Vilvorde
After the Brussels Industrial tribunal (BE9704208N), on 4 April it was a French court's turn to find Renault's management guilty of disobeying the law in a ruling which could well postpone the closure of the Vilvorde plant.
After the case had been referred to the Nanterre Magistrate's Court by the CFDT secretary of the European group-level works council (Comité de Groupe Européen, or European Works Council), judges ruled on 4 April 1997 to suspend the management's decision to close the Renault factory in Belgium (FR9703122F) until the company meets the obligation imposed on it to inform and consult the European group-level works council. In fact, because of an agreement pertaining to the Renault European group-level works council, dating from 5 May 1995, the management is obliged to "inform and consult this body on all decisions to be made affecting the strategic orientation or major development of any European subsidiary which would have repercussions across Europe".
The car manufacturer has already been ordered to pay the European group-level works council FRF 15,000 as a fine for not abiding by this obligation. The group's management has appealed against this ruling, but in so far as is it is a temporary court order, its execution cannot be suspended on account of the appeal, and Renault must therefore follow the Nanterre Magistrate's Court's decision while appeal judges deliberate over the whole case. This decision may postpone the date of the factory's closure, set for 31 July 1997.
Trade unions were extremely happy with this ruling and have let the management know that the European group-level works council "will not be satisfied with just a formal meeting". The European group-level works council is demanding that consultants be brought in to carry out an audit of the firm's economic situation, and it intends to use the reduction of the statutory working week as a negotiating lever for retaining the existing jobs in all of Renault's European factories.
Furthermore, employment ministers, employers' organisations and unions were scheduled to meet on 15 April in Brussels to examine the EC Directive of 22 September 1994 on European Works Councils. The European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) wants this kind of meeting to be an occasion for putting forward "practical measures to strengthen the Directive."(EU9704118F).