* Peugeot wins support for early Aulnay wind-down
* Worker transfers follow reports of intimidation
* Renault seeking new labour deal in union talks
By Gilles Guillaume and Laurence Frost
PARIS, Feb 5 PSA Peugeot Citroen won
staff agreement on Tuesday for an early wind-down of its doomed
Aulnay plant, as rival French carmaker Renault pressed
unions to sign a new national labour deal.
The moves by both French automakers, designed to address a
crisis of overcapacity and falling sales, have divided unions
and sparked protests and stoppages at sites around the country.
Peugeot, which has announced 8,000 job cuts and the planned
closure of the Aulnay plant on the northern outskirts of Paris
in 2014, presented plans to begin moving half of the factory's
3,000 workforce to another plant near the capital within days or
weeks - more than a year ahead of schedule.
The company said the early transfers were requested by
several unions following reported incidents of intimidation and
violence against workers defying the leftwing CGT's strike call.
"We are ready to carry them (the transfers) out as quickly
as possible for everyone's benefit," Peugeot spokesman
Jean-Baptiste Thomas said.
"Aulnay workers are under a lot of pressure," Thomas said.
"It's hard to put up with the kind of threats and assaults they
are suffering on a daily basis."
Peugeot, badly hit by Europe's auto sales slump, is
struggling to cut costs and lift sales in an effort to return to
profit in 2015. Renault is also wrestling with domestic
overcapacity as sales of its French-built models plunge in a
stricken European market.
The plans for an early departure of Aulnay workers were
backed by the centre-left CFTC, CGC and SIA unions at Tuesday's
works council and may be adopted on Feb. 15.
That would clear the way for Aulnay to shrink to one factory
shift from two, as 1,500 workers begin moving to the Poissy
plant west of Paris, which assembles the same Citroen C3 model.
"Our request is prompted by the situation at Aulnay," CFTC
official Franck Don said. "People are afraid and we have to do
something before anything more serious happens."
The transfer of workers will not lead to inventory
shortages, Peugeot said. Aulnay production is already at a
near-standstill because of the protests and a high absentee rate
among non-striking workers.
Despite the likely progress towards closing Aulnay,
Peugeot's broader restructuring faces possible delays resulting
from a successful court challenge by the CGT.
The union has also vowed to contest Renault's proposed
labour deal if the carmaker cuts corners on working-time changes
that may require cancellation of existing accords with 15
Besides 8,200 job cuts over three years, Renault is seeking
a pay freeze, longer working hours and flexibility measures
including the right to move workers between sites, which the CGT
has ruled out supporting.
"I don't see how any union could sign an agreement with such
damaging social consequences that also increases
inefficiencies," CGT spokesman Fabien Gache said.
"When there are fewer and fewer of us it gets harder to
The French government, Renault's biggest shareholder with a
15 percent stake, expects the car maker to reach a deal on the
new labour agreement, an official source said.
Ministers had initially sided with auto workers and urged
Peugeot to scale back its restructuring plan announced last
July, but have since dropped their demands.
Industry Minister Arnaud Montebourg, one of the plan's most
vocal early critics, said it was "inevitable" that Aulnay would
close. "In any case we haven't found any other solution," he
said on RTL radio. "We can't see any other way around this."