Labour dispute forces Goodyear to shut French plant with 1,100 employees

PARIS (AFP) - Executives at a Goodyear tyre plant in Amiens, northern France, unveiled on Thursday a plan to close the site, which employs 1,173 workers.

"Closing the factory is the only option after five years of unsuccessful negotiations," said a French-language statement, which added that the plan had been presented to a works committee and would be the basis of talks with workers' representatives.

Mr Henry Dumortier, chairman of Goodyear's French unit, said: "We are fully aware of the impact of the announcement we are making today and the plan's heavy consequences for staff, their families and local communities."

He added: "We are deeply disappointed that five years of negotiations were not enough to reach a compromise with representatives of workers at Amiens Nord. Today's announcement was the only option left to us."

Tyre production at the plant led to an aggregate loss in 2011 of 61 million euros (S$101.9 million), according to Goodyear figures.

Mr Franck Jurek, a leader of the CGT trade union at the plant, reacted to the news by saying: "We have been battling for six years against 400, 800, 1,200 job cuts. We are going to keep fighting."

A new meeting of the works committee was scheduled for Feb 12, the CGT said, while forecasting a big turnout by workers.

Goodyear said closing the tyre plant was a decision "aimed at remaining competitive in the tourism and agricultural sectors".

French President Francois Hollande paid a visit to the Amiens factory during his electoral campaign, calling for more workers rights in cases where companies were still making profits. His administration is now facing plans by French automakers Peugeot Citroen and Renault to eliminate a total of more than 16,000 positions as the sector struggles to get to grips with serious surplus capacity amid slumping auto sales.

The CGT vowed to turn out Goodyear workers from all over France for the next works committee meeting, which is to take place at the group's French headquarters in Rueil-Malmaison, west of Paris.

Accusing the Goodyear management of "lying right from the start", CGT leader Mickael Wamen said staff at the Amiens site would be on strike on Feb 12, and "we will come here with all of Goodyear's workers".

He claimed that "Goodyear has no legal chances" of closing the tyre plant.

On Tuesday, a French appeal court suspended a Peugeot restructuring plan that concerned 8,000 jobs because the group had not fully informed staff representatives at its auto parts unit Faurecia of the plan's details.