4 June, 2020The announcement last week that Renault is planning to cut almost 15,000 jobs has become a familiar occurrence in the auto industry, writes director Georg Leutert. But a precedent-setting agreement charts a way forward.
On May 29, Renault announced a €2 billion savings plan that will result in the loss of about 15,000 jobs worldwide and the restructuring of factories. The Choisy-le-Roi site near Paris will close entirely, with the loss of 263 jobs.
This announcement is devastating for loyal Renault workers and their families, who had planned to build a future with the company. It also hurts local communities and workers in the supply chain, and adds to a growing uncertainty about the future of the sector. IndustriAll Europe has called on European policymakers to recognize the importance of the sector to recovery from the coronavirus crisis.
The four IndustriALL affiliates representing Renault workers in France – CFE-CGC, FO, CFDT and CGT – met on 27 May and 2 June to develop a joint response to the management plan, which will lead to “social breakdown and deindustrialization”. Following a united call from the unions, workers at Choisy-le-Roi commenced strike action on 2 June.
It is about eleven years since the Renault-Nissan alliance, which Mitsubishi joined in 2016, implemented an aggressive growth strategy. It is less than two years since the former CEO of Renault, Carlos Ghosn, was arrested in Japan, leading to a deep crisis in the alliance between Renault and Nissan and to chaotic leadership in both companies, resulting in the closure of Nissan plants too.
And it is only a week since the alliance announced job cuts and plant closures - and instead of growth they now speak of ‘right sizing’, a business school euphemism for shrinking and the failure of a business model.
Fortunately, the future of the auto industry is something the global labour movement has paid a lot of attention to, and when catastrophe strikes, we are prepared. Less than a year ago, Renault and IndustriALL Global Union signed a precedent-setting global agreement on transformation towards a new world of work at the French carmaker.
In point one of the agreement, Groupe Renault confirms its social responsibility and its commitment to making sure employees are provided with the tools and conditions to cope with the challenges of change and transformation.
Renault has said that the job cuts will take place by the end of 2022. Renault will attempt to make the cuts through “retraining, internal mobility and voluntary departures”, but 4,600 jobs will be lost in France and more than 10,000 in the rest of the world, out of a total of 180,000 globally.
In the agreement, Renault commits to negotiating with unions and employee reps in all countries across the globe. It is this inclusion of ‘all countries’ that makes the agreement so crucial. Multinationals often conduct restructuring processes in a socially responsible manner in their home country, but not beyond that. The world works council at Renault has been active for more than a decade, and now has the chance to take transnational social dialogue to the next level.
This requires a three-fold approach: regular consultations with the steering committee of the world works council, transparency, and constructive dialogue and bargaining at national level in all countries affected by the restructuring with full involvement of the respective unions.
This is another devastating blow for the industry, but if the commitments of the agreement are followed, the negative impact can be reduced, and we can ensure that the restructuring is carried out in a socially responsible way.