Goodyear Factory Closure in Amiens Sparks Protests

Poster from a labor protest in Paris in March 2013. The auto industry cutting jobs has sparked protests, as has Goodyear closing its Amiens plant.Photo: Marc Goetzmann for La Jeune Politique

Poster from a labor protest in Paris in March 2013, accusing PSA-Citroën of cutting too many jobs. The auto industry has sparked protests, as has Goodyear closing its Amiens plant.
Photo: Marc Goetzmann for La Jeune Politique

PARIS. – Violent clashes broke out between the workers of the Goodyear tire plant and riot police this Thursday March 7 in Amiens, France.  After five years of negotiations between the company and union workers, the plant finally decided to shut its doors.  The closure will result in the loss of close to 1,200 jobs.

While union members met with the company’s representatives, frustrated demonstrators set tires on fire and shot paintballs at police, who retaliated with tear gas.

“We came here to fight and avoid that they close down our factory, because there is no reason for the factory to close down,” worker Richard Jouhannet explains in an interview with Associated Press, “it is extremely profitable.”

Goodyear is reported to have made $183 million last year, down over 40 percent from 2011, but still making a profit. In Goodyear’s February 2013 report on their full-year results, Richard J. Kramer, the chairman and chief executive officer, revealed their growing interest in increasing business relations with China. He also admitted that the European business sector is lacking competitive edge and will be downsized.

Current labor laws had provided workers with relatively good pay and benefits, even if the work day ended up being only a few hours, complained CEO of Titan Tires, Maurice Taylor.  The result, Goodyear concluded, was unsustainably slow growth.

Unemployment rates last year increased, reaching 10.6 percent, partially due to the hard-hit auto industry. The labor reforms, which were also subject to nation-wide protests, would aim to decrease plant shutdowns such as this one. Amiens has also experienced frequent, widespread violence in the past few years, with a particularly violent spell of riots in August 2012.

It remains unclear how the reforms will affect factory closures such as this. But as other French auto industries, such as Peugeot and Renault, face similar challenges, the hope is that granting more power to the employer will result in swifter decisions, fewer stalemate negotiations, and fewer plant closures.

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