* Striking workers disrupt production at Aulnay plant
* Peugeot must finalise closure terms, restart production
* Move highlights growing state involvement
By Nicholas Vinocur
PARIS, Feb 14 The French government named a
mediator on Thursday to broker talks at Peugeot's
Aulnay plant as tensions worsened between workers willing to
accept terms of the carmaker's restructuring plan and unionists
fighting against it.
Production has been near standstill at the factory north of
Paris since the hardline CGT union and members of other unions
called a strike three weeks ago to protest its planned closure
in 2014 and cut 8,000 jobs across France.
The government's move to send a mediator into a private
company highlights the breakdown in relations between staff and
management at Aulnay, a 39-year-old plant known for being home
to far-left unions.
Four unions excluding the CGT struck a deal with management
this week to speed up transfers of some 1,500 staff to a nearby
factory, citing a tense climate and attempts by strikers to
intimidate non-striking employees.
But PSA Peugeot Citroen must still finalise details on the
future of the plant's other 1,500 workers not concerned by
transfers and restart production, which has been disrupted by
the presence of striking workers on the factory floor.
Labour Minister Michel Sapin said that he had named a local
official and chief labour inspector Marc Leray as a mediator to
ease communication between Peugeot and the strikers.
"The situation at Aulnay-sous-Bois is characterised by
worsening tensions. These no longer allow for a relaxed dialogue
between all parties at the site," Sapin said in a statement.
The decision shows the growing involvement of President
Francois Hollande's Socialist government in industrial disputes
as it struggles to stop job losses in a string of plant
shutdowns while spurring a return to economic competitiveness.
Tanja Sussest, head of the Aulnay chapter of moderate union
SIA, which is not striking, denounced a "climate of terror"
there and called for intervention by the police prefect of the
Seine-Saint-Denis region to keep workers safe.
Strikers wielding wooden sticks resembling baseball bats had
broken into a works council meeting on Tuesday attended by
non-striking workers, she said in a statement. "A woman was so
shocked that she suffered a severe breakdown," she said.
Tensions Aulnay and Peugeot's failure to maintain production
contrast with the situation at rival and number 2 French
carmaker Renault, which has obtained concessions from
unions to boost productivity at several plants.
Both Peugeot, which announced record losses on Thursday
, and Renault, which predicted an upturn in sales
this year, must slash production capacity in a
shrinking European market for their mid-range cars.
Ricardo Madeira, a representative of the CFDT union's Aulnay
chapter, some of whose members have joined the strike, said he
doubted the mediator would obtain results.
"As a union member, I don't think that the arrival of a
mediator is going to save the world," he told BFM TV. "There
have been 10 negotiating sessions and no progress."
(Reporting By Nicholas Vinocur; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle)