By Gilles Guillaume
PARIS Jan 17 PSA Peugeot Citroen
plans to negotiate an accord with unions in the next few months
to permit more flexible work conditions at its French factories
as part of the effort to turn around the money-losing car maker.
"We will be working on a flexibility accord in the coming
months that will be a key element of improving the
competitiveness of the group," Denis Martin, the industrial
director of Peugeot, said on Thursday at a press briefing on the
group's ongoing lay-off plan.
Such flexibility plans are intended to give car makers more
leeway to shift workers between plants and modify their work
hours so as to cope with fluctuations in demand for cars. Rival
French car maker Renault has also been negotiating
such a deal with its unions to bring its French factories'
efficiency in line with its Spanish facilities.
The effort comes after Peugeot posted a 16.5 percent drop in
car sales in 2012, making it the worst performer in a European
auto sector that is struggling with weak demand after several
years of economic downturn and debt crises.
Paris-based Peugeot is shedding assets, cutting 10,000 jobs
and closing production capacity to stem mounting losses. Chief
Executive Philippe Varin has warned that it will not return to
profit before 2015.
Peugeot's attempt to improve the efficiency of its French
factories is separate from the lay-off plan it is undertaking,
which will lead to 8,000 job cuts in France. Martin said on
Thursday that Peugeot expects to reach an agreement with its
unions to finalize the restructuring by mid-February.
Peugeot has already started trying to improve its French
factories' efficiency, which is key to its future given that it
employs far more people in France than Renault.
At its Sevelnord factory in northern France near Lille,
Denis Martin said unions in July had accepted a salary freeze
and more flexible working hours in exchange for being accorded
the manufacturing of a new model of car.
For his part, Martin dismissed the comparison between the
flexibility accord that Peugeot would seek with the plans of
"I do not compare myself at all with Renault. We have very
large factories in France, with 76,000 workers in our automobile
business out of the 91,000 for the group. We are not at all on
the same scale as Renault."
Renault has 54,000 employees in France.