Expert appointed to resolve Renault-Vilvorde dispute

Download article in original language : FR9706152NFR.DOC

On 10 June 1997, Renault management announced the appointment of an independent expert who will evaluate, on an economic basis, the potential measures envisaged to "compensate for the inefficiency involved in the structure of Renault's production facilities".

By appointing an independent expert, Renault management's is seeking a way out of the dispute resulting from its announcement on 27 February 1997, of the closure of its Vilvorde factory in Belgium, which would lead to the loss of 3,100 jobs (EU9704118F). The company's management has promised that if the specialist concludes that the factory does have to close, it will strive to create a "sizeable" unit on the Vilvorde site to replace it, and will adopt a mass redundancy programme (plan social), involving relocation of staff to French factories. The plan socialis a document that management presents to the works council when it envisages laying off more than 10 staff out of a total of 50. It must contain details of a precise procedure for offering the staff in question other positions, so as to avoid or reduce the number of dismissals.

This solution was imposed by the new French Government which took office after the Left's electoral victory on 1 June 1997. It comes after a decision by the Versailles Court of Appeal on 7 May, confirming the ruling made on 4 April (FR9704142N), which compels Renault to restart the consultation process involving the company's European Works Council.

The appointment of an independent expert has disappointed the Vilvorde unions and workforce, which were expecting the new Government to become more directly involved.

At the end of May, the Vilvorde workforce voted to change the objective of their action, giving up the struggle against the factory's closure, in favour of a plan social. This new stance is out of step with the search for an alternative strategy that the French CFDT (Confédération Française Démocratique du Travail) union has been pursuing: namely the avoidance of Vilvorde's closure by reducing the duration of working time throughout the entire company.

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