Worker strife dogs tech firms in France

Having so many labor problems, no wonder multinational companies are leaving France on the first sight of trouble. Wipro is an Indian company, the only reason buying overseas hi-tech firm is to learn their technology. After they learn everything, there is no reason keeping the France operation. Wage is much cheaper in India.

Anne-Francoise Pele, EE Times, 03/05/2010

PARIS — France has seen different forms of social discontent in the past week: Two bossnappings at Siemens Lyon, the occupation of premises at ST-Ericsson Caen and a letter to the press at Wipro-NewLogic Sophia Antipolis.

Social unrest tends to escalate in France. Not a day goes by without a strike, a riot, a demonstration or the promise of one these ingredients. And the recession did not help.

EE Times presents three incidents that have taken place at three French subsidiaries of international groups this week.

Workers squat ST-Ericsson Caen
Since Feb. 25, ST-Ericsson workers have been occupying the premises in Caen, France, night and day to protest against the group’s intention to close the site.

ST-Ericsson, the 50/50 joint venture between Ericsson and STMicroelectronics NV, indeed unveiled in June 2009 a restructuring plan that entailed 146 layoffs in France, over a total of 2,100, and the closure of the company’s site in Caen.

In a discussion with EE Times, Herve Renault, workers’ representative at the workers’ central committee, explained that employees feel completely abandoned by a company to which “they have brought much added-value.”

This feeling is strengthened by the management behavior, he added. “They do not respect the employees they are laying off. Does the acknowledgment of the accomplished work still mean something?”

In the meantime, ST-Ericsson’s spokesperson emphasized to EE Times that the group reported a strong loss in 2009 and, consequently, the restructuring effort is “absolutely necessary to guarantee the company’s financial stability. The continuity of the group’s operations in France and in the world depends on this financial stability.”

Since June, ST-Ericsson’s spokesperson said the management team has expressed its intentions to close the site in Caen while maintaining its commitments in France. “ST-Ericsson has engaged its civil responsibility as it has implemented all it could to minimize the social impact on the Caen region, notably through various measures to accompany employees and to revitalize economically the region. ST-Ericsson reaffirmed this commitment at the Caen Prefecture on March 2, 2010.”

ST-Ericsson France, the spokesperson added, is committed to implement measures and resources to place employees in the Caen region, to promote company creations, to insure internal relocations and support job research. ST-Ericsson said it continues to work on a full or partial sale of the site to a third party.

Renault painted a darker portrait. He noted that ST-Ericsson’s management team has proposed no alternative solution, not even a partial takeover of the activity. “The management absolutely does not fulfill its responsibilities. The proposed support as part of the restructuring plan is minimalist.”

Since June 2009, Renault noted, “the management team has endeavored to contradict the fact that the site closure is not economically legitimate. For the rest, nothing has evolved. The management’s communication is very subtle, especially on the fact that it was pretending to do its best to relocate its employees. Much promises but few concrete moves.”

Renault said he believed the French Government has the means to intercede because it holds 14 percent of the company’s shares, and “if the Government cannot intercede with a company of which it has the financial control, then we can question its capacity of defining a true industrial policy.”

He highlighted that the manager of ST-Ericsson Caen was promoted manager of ST-Ericsson France and resides in Sophia-Antipolis. “Other senior executives have deserted the company a week ago,” he said.

Two managers bossnapped at Siemens Lyon

On Tuesday (March 2), workers at Siemens’ site in Saint-Chamond, near Lyon, freed two managers they had detained in their offices overnight. They said they were willing to reopen discussions on planned redundancies and compensation payments.

The two managers were the head of the plant’s administration and finance department as well as the head of human resources.

France’s Industry Minister Christian Estrosi severely condemned the detentions. He declared: “I refuse violence, especially since a restructuring plan is being negotiated, and we have met Siemens’ workers at my office to explore future solutions to revitalize the labor pool.”

This incident is the latest of a long list of “bossnappings” in French subsidiaries of international groups, including Molex and Sony and 3M.

Wipro-NewLogic workers condemn Wipro’s growth

On March 4, in an open letter to the press, employees of Wipro-NewLogic’s R&D center in Sophia Antipolis, France, who chose to remain anonymous, denounced Wipro’s $1 billion profit and $6 billion sales for the year 2009. The move is part of a vast struggle against Wipro’s decision to cease all of its semiconductor activities in France and close its site in Sophia Antipolis.

The letter also indicated that the group is massively hiring in India, including 4,800 employments in the fourth quarter of 2009, while it continues to lay off employees in Sophia Antipolis. About three fourth of the employees received their letter of redundancy in November, and the second wave has been announced, workers representatives noted.

So far, the letter further explained, “fifteen jobs have been created via the launch of two spinoffs, very few ex-employees have found a new job, and only one person could be relocated inside the group.”

Wipro-NewLogic development center in Sophia Antipolis employs 61 engineers focused on developing Bluetooth IP and WLAN IP. The center also offers design services for digital, analog, mixed-signal and RF-based chip designs.

NewLogic Sophia Antipolis opened in the technology park of Sophia Antipolis in November 1999 as a subsidiary of NewLogic AG, based in Lustenau, Austria. It was founded in 1999 by a group of former VLSI Technology engineers.

In December 2005, Wipro Technologies acquired NewLogic in an all cash deal. Under the terms of the agreement, Wipro paid about Rs.253.94 crores (47 million euros) to acquire hundred percent stake in privately held NewLogic.

Following the purchase, Wipro-NewLogic continued to develop products (Bluetooth 2.0 then 2.1-EDR, WLAN 802.11n).

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