India's First International News Journal

India's First International News Journal

Monday, July, 4, 2022

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Two factories, one destiny: in the North, the Alstom-Bombardier marriage Questions

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The two factories were competitors, they are engaged. In Crespin as in Petite-Forêt, in the suburbs of Valenciennes (North), the marriage plan between Alstom and Bombardier worries employees, despite the reassuring words of the railway groups.

A forest of scaffolding, cables, and machines, from which intermittent sprays of sparks fly; a wagon in the skeleton state around which workers are busy: at the Bombardier factory in Crespin, the assembly lines are running at full speed.

“Right now, the pace is very high,” confirms production manager Giuseppe Spitaleri, tinted glasses and protective helmet on his head, forcing his voice to cover the sounds of a drill a few meters behind him.

Crespin opened almost thirty years ago, is today the leading industrial rail site in France, with 2,000 employees. It achieved a turnover of 813 million euros last year and its order books are full.

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A comfortable situation that the Alstom factory in Petite-Forêt, twenty kilometers away, is also experiencing: the site, where 1,200 people work, has been going through a prosperous period for several months, which has pushed management to recruit.

What will happen when the takeover of the Bombardier rail division by Alstom, announced in mid-February, is effective? Will the euphoria last? And above all, what will be the effect of this marriage on employment, both for the Canadian and for its French competitor?

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“There are a lot of unanswered questions,” sighs Vincent Jozwiak, delegate Force Ouvriere (FO) of Petite-Forêt, 30 years on the factory. “In this type of operation, one plus one never makes two for the employees: there are always social risks.”

An opinion shared by Karim Khatabi, trade unionist South at the Bombardier factory: “The order books are full until 2024, for some contracts until 2027. But then, what will become of us? will we always have control over the future of the site? ”

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  • “Duplicates” –

At the heart of concerns: the geographical proximity, but also the industrial proximity between the two factories. “These are two identical groups, which manufacture the same thing (…) We will, therefore, end up with duplicates”, judge Ludovic Bouvier, responsible for the CGT Metallurgy in Hauts-de-France.

“When you have a similar order, you have twice the same design offices, the same engineers, the same buyers … We have never seen a buyout like this without social disruption”, abounds Eric Taboga, 47 years old, from the Crespin factory.

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A series of fears dismissed by the leaders of the railway groups. “There is no idea of ​​restructuring or threat to employment in this acquisition, quite the contrary,” assured Alstom CEO Henri Poupart-Lafarge, when the project was announced. ‘acquisition.

“It is normal that this type of operation creates a phase of uncertainty”. But “I think this is a real strategic opportunity,” said Bombardier Transportation France President Laurent Bouyer, who highlighted the “complementarity” between the two factories on Friday.

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Alstom and Bombardier, in fact, are used to working together. Companies have a virtual monopoly on rolling stock in France and collaborate on several projects, including the “new generation” RER, which must be deployed in Ile-de-France from 2021.

Not enough to completely reassure employees and their representatives, who are demanding details on the strategy of the future railway giant – which still has to get the green light from the European competition authorities.

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“Between verbal promises and reality, there is sometimes a substantial gap. In operations like this, one of the objectives is to optimize and rationalize costs, we must not delude ourselves”, highlights keep Vincent Jozwiak.

Beyond the two factories, it is the future of sub-contractors and suppliers in the region that worries the unions. A vital economic fabric for the Hauts-de-France employment area, which could be weakened.

“A subcontractor can only make 25% to 30% of its turnover with a company. Today, some make 25% at Bombardier, 25% at Alstom, but tomorrow? If we all become Alstom, this situation may pose a problem, “warns Karim Khattabi.

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Author

Jasbir Singh
Jasbir Singh
Studied humanities in Punjab. Trying to understand Indian Politics. Writing about Technology, Education, Brands, Business, and much more. Writer at The Eastern Herald.

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