PARIS / TOKYO (Reuters) – French government is exploring options to try to prevent a Bridgestone from closing 5108.T tire plant in northern France by its Japanese owner, and save jobs, Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said on Thursday.
Bridgestone said on Wednesday it would start negotiations to shut down the Bethune plant, which employs 863 people, amid weak demand for low-profile tires, its main product.
“Bridgestone made a terrible decision. The method is appalling and the consequences appalling and we will fight, ”Le Maire told CNews television.
The government of French President Emmanuel Macron, which launched a 100 billion euros ($ 118 billion) stimulus package to boost growth, has made jobs a key priority.
France suffered one of the deepest downturns in Europe in the first half of this year, as the government placed the country under one of the continent’s toughest lockdowns to contain the coronavirus outbreak.
At the Béthune plant, Xavier Davrin, a Bridgestone employee, was in shock. “I’ve been working here for 26 years and I still had 15 years to go (until retirement). We were the last to be informed (of the closure). It’s a big blow. I’m worried about the future, ”he said.
Bridgestone’s decision was “brutal”, French Labor Minister Elisabeth Borne and young Economy Minister Agnès Pannier-Runacher said in a joint statement released Wednesday. The company was to blame for the situation because it had “largely divested from the Bethune plant for many years, in favor of its other European plants,” they said.
Jean-Luc Ruckebusch, CGT union representative for the Béthune plant, declared: “Everything has been done by Bridgestone to kill the Béthune plant. We will do all we can to fight ”
French officials have urged the company to consider alternative options for the plant, which has a production capacity of around 17,000 tires.
“We will fight for a production that will be more attractive and review other options,” Le Maire told CNews, adding that the state would also look for ways to “reindustrialize” the plant so that jobs are protected.
Bridgestone spokesman Fusamaro Iijima, in response to Le Maire’s comments on Thursday, said the company would hold negotiations with local employee representatives.
“We would like to have sincere and careful discussions. We aim to do our best to minimize the impact on the local community, ”Iijima told Reuters.
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