Social partners sign new charter for car industry

A new €60 million ‘car charter’ to sustain production and employment in France’s automotive industry until 2015 was signed on 20 December 2012 at the Ministry of Labour by the key players in this ailing sector. Employment has dropped by almost a third in the last decade in the car industry, although it still employs more than 800,000 workers. The charter offers specific help to SMEs, and unlike the previous agreement signed in 2008, it was backed by all the sector’s unions.

Background

A plan to help revive the ailing car industry in France, backed with €60 million of government and industry money, was signed on 20 December 2012. The new car charter (in French, 211 Kb PDF) covers car manufacturers and their suppliers from the metallurgical, plastics, rubber and textiles industries, as well as companies from the automotive service sector, the trade unions and the government.

The charter is linked to the goals of an earlier government plan to revive the French car industry, Le plan de soutien à la filière automobile (in French), unveiled on 25 July 2012. According to the Ministry of Labour, the charter aims ‘to better anticipate competencies of tomorrow by training employees of today’ and ‘to give enterprises a head start in order to sustain activity and employment’.

In a press release (in French) the Ministry of Labour pointed out that over the past ten years there had been a 30% drop in employment in the car industry in France, although tere were still 800,000 people employed in the sector.

Future jobs and skills

The charter’s aim is:

...to encourage and support future employment and skills management consistent with the strategic and industrial goals of the automotive sector, with the objective of sustaining activity and jobs.

Unlike the preceding charter, signed on 3 July 2008, all the trade unions gave it their backing. The signatories undertook to launch an action plan specifically for small and medium-sized enterprised (SMEs) with fewer than 250 employees. This would help ensure they could:

...better understand the impact of the current economic and industrial development on jobs and skills and be better prepared to anticipate the mobility of their employees with the aim of preventing and safeguarding their career paths.

Key measures

There charter containes two key measures designed to help companies.

  • The first is a direct measure to assist SMEs with the operational deployment of forward-looking employment and skills management processes, based on a diagnosis of their commercial and industrial situation, as well as their innovation policies. The aim is to help them to understand the consequences in terms of human resources. An action plan will be drawn up for employment, training, geographic and professional mobility, and knowledge and skills transfer.
  • The second is intended to support ‘the development of skills in order to adapt them to the jobs of the future’ and to establish ‘links to other occupations within the industry’ or to other professions outside the automotive sector. For example, on 25 January 2013, the Minister of Industrial Renewal, Arnaud Montebourg announced the launch of a training programme for employees of the automotive sector’s suppliers to help them find jobs in the currently buoyant aircraft industry. The object was to keep older workers in employment and to develop mentoring to facilitate the transfer of skills to younger people entering the industry.

Government money for SMEs

The charter provides funding of €60 million over three years for SMEs– almost one-third of the money coming from the state and the rest from car manufacturers, including PSA and Renault. The scheme would be supervised at national level and rolled out for local implementation through regional committees.

Reaction of the social partners

Michel Ducret, Head of the Federation of Metalworkers of the General Confederation of Labour (CGT) commented: ‘This charter is not symbolic; it takes our demands into account.’

According to a CGT press release (in French), the charter allowed ‘the situation to be studied on the basis of shared diagnoses, rather than solely in the interests of those who give the orders’. It said it made the industry more attractive to young employees, and allowed for ‘a training policy to be put in place during periods of reduced activity in order to prepare for future technological developments in the industry’.

The Metal Federation of the French Confederation of Professional and Managerial Staff-General Confederation of Professional and Managerial Staff (CFE-CGC Métallurgie), the charter did not resolve all aspects of non-price competitiveness encountered by the industry. CFE-CGC’s comment was that ‘it is good for companies to realise that the first way to leverage competitiveness is to get the existing sites in France up to full capacity’. CFE-CGE demanded ‘priority for allocations to France, and an end to the systematic opposition between low-cost countries and France’.

The General Confederation of Labour-Force ouvrière (CGT-FO) said in a press release (in French) that its organisation would make sure the funding was used well, ‘so as to win the battle for employment’.

Frédéric TURLAN, IR Share

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