November 17, 2021
autos Business Cars & Bikes Lifestyle Transportation

Renault Execs Taken Hostage By 350 Protesting French Foundry Workers

Revolting workers took six Renault Group executives hostage yesterday at a French foundry the automaker was trying to sell or close.

The Renault Group called on workers to release the executives, held hostage as part of a blockade of the Fonderie de Bretagne in Brittany by its 350 workers.

After several attempts, the executives were allowed to leave around 2230 French local time, though the blockade of the foundry remains ongoing.

The world’s second-biggest electric vehicle maker condemned the hostage taking in a short statement today.

“The Renault Group strongly condemns these actions and calls for the lifting of the blockage and an immediate return to calm,” the statement read.

It reminded workers that it was still searching for a buyer for the foundry “in order to maintain the site’s activities and ensure the continuity of jobs.

“This process must continue with dialogue and calm.”

Renault began publicly searching for a buyer for the site on March 11, then frustrated workers blocked the foundry yesterday.

However, “dialogue and calm” does not appear to be the intention of the workers nor their union.

General Confederation of Labor (CGT) Union representative Nicolas Guillemette insisted the drama would escalate, with workers taking control of the plant and retaining it.

“I think that if this is to be our last stand, I assure you that everyone will remember it,” he told the French Hit West radio station.

“We are all tired of being led by boat. We need concrete actions.

“We have a new working tool, we are efficient, trained, we deserve to recover our parts which have gone abroad, we must survive.”

The CGT secretary, Maël Le Goff, also defended the blockade, which saw Renault executives blocked from leaving the site around 9pm yesterday.

“It does not smell good for us, no discussion is possible with the management,” he told French publication Actu.fr.

“The CGT representatives did not have the right to speak, but heard very alarming comments about the sustainability of the site (job cuts, layoffs, reclassification, retraining, inevitable situation…).

“We would like to ask them what will become of us, if we are sold, if we are made redundant … We have been waiting for a year … We no longer have too much hope, that’s why that the mobilization was advanced, we had to move,” he said.

The CGT has planned a demonstration in the city of Hennebont on May 1 – Labor Day in France – and a meeting with Brittany Region President Loïg Chesnais-Girard.

The trigger for the union mobilization was the April 26 French Government announcement of a €50 million retraining program for the foundry’s employees, but the workers demanded instead that the foundry remain open, considering it a victim of the outsourcing of parts manufacture.

Brittany newspaper Le Télégramme reported: “The tone rose at noon, when the strikers prevented members of the management from leaving the factory, with Le Goff saying: ‘No, you are not going out, finished playing! We have discussed enough’.

“It’s up to them to see if they want to shake things up or let the situation deteriorate.”

The newspaper reported that the strikers informed the prefecture and the Ministry of Economy of the blockage.

“Everyone is aware of the situation. It is up to them to see if they want to move the lines or let the situation rot,” Le Goff told the paper.

Le Goff came out of the retraining fund meeting in a militant mood, the paper reported, arguing; “The factory is ours. We are in warrior mode. We are getting into the hard. The factory is ours.

“We don’t know how long this will last but we will stay there day and night until we get what we want.”

And what the union wanted was to remain inside the Renault Group and take back the production volumes that had been sent offshore.

“It’s been weeks since the media have been saying that we must close because it is the death of heat (combustion engines),” Guillemette argued.

“We do not manufacture any parts for heat engines: we manufacture rocket carriers, differential boxes, safety parts for the ground connection, we already manufacture parts for electric vehicles of the diamond brand, the Zoé (EV).”

Meanwhile, many French politicians in the region have thrown their support behind the protesters, including municipal councilors and Federal politicians.

Brittany opposition councilor Dr Marie Madeleine Doré-Lucas took the opposite view, pointing the finger at Renault.

“We stand in solidarity with the employees blocking the Fonderie de Bretagne plant,” the LFI party leader said.

The deputy for the 6th district of Morbihan Jean-Michel Jacques also vehemently opposed to the closing of the foundry, promising to “not let go”.

“I support the maintenance of jobs, employees and the productive tool on the Caudan site,” he said.

Local municipal councilor Alexandre Scheuer also backed the workers, saying on Twitter: “I give all my support and that of my rebellious friends and #LanesterEnCommun to the employees blocking the Foundry of Brittany plant #Caudan”.