General Electric Social Plan: Emmanuel Macron and the Government Under Fire from Critics

Employees of the Belfort General Electric plant work on a turbine on 22 February 2017.

The American giant, General Electric plans to cut more than 1,000 jobs in France, most of them in Belfort. Trade unions and opposition fired on the government.

Emmanuel Macron and the government suffer a flood of critics of the opposition and unions of General Electric , accused of being responsible for a “disaster” industrial and social after the announcement by GE of the suppression of more than a thousand jobs in France.

“The industrial cathedral of Belfort is flaring and the government fires the fire,” accused the inter-union site, the first affected by these job cuts, at a press conference.

According to the US group, up to 792 job cuts could occur in its Belfort gas entity, and 252 in the “support functions” function.

“Come see the experts to straighten the business”

Faced with these clear cuts, employees of the Belfort gas turbine production site called on the government and GE executives to meet them. “Come see the experts to straighten the business,” said Philippe Petitcolin (CFE-CGC) on behalf of an inter-union with the CGT and Sud Industrie.

Positive response from the Minister of the Economy Bruno Le Maire who announced that he would go next week to meet them to study with them the tracks of a reindustrialisation of the site. The minister mentioned aeronautics, the renovation of power stations and renewable energies. He also intends to talk with the president of GE to ask him “to improve his social plan.”

In Belfort, Bruno Le Maire will be waited for. “We ask the government to stop this scandal, this carnage which has no other purpose than to relocate the activity outside France and which is in no way an adaptation to the market,” insisted Philippe Petitcolin.

The Minister of Economy Bruno Le Maire speaks on May 23, 2019 in Paris.
The Minister of Economy Bruno Le Maire speaks on May 23, 2019 in Paris. (© AFP / Archives / Martin BUREAU)

The government “must put General Electric ahead of its responsibilities” in employment, said the secretary general of the CFDT Laurent Berger.

The inter-union reserves the possibility of calling next week to employee actions. She did not digest the comments made last week by Mr. Mayor who considered that there was “no outlet” for the industrial sector of turbines.

In the background of this anger too: the controversial role played in 2014 by Emmanuel Macron, then Minister of Economy of François Hollande, who had given the green light to the sale of the energy pole of Alstom to GE.

“Shame on France”

His ministry had even stressed that the sale had been carried out “with vigilance”, implicitly responding to Arnaud Montebourg, the predecessor of Emmanuel Macron, hostile to this project of recovery.

Another sensitive point: a former adviser to Emmanuel Macron at the Ministry of Economy, Hugh Bailey, was appointed in April as CEO of GE France, finding himself at the heart of new restructurings.

A role that challenges the unions, some like the CGT, seeing the “bond” of a social plan dedicated to shareholders, others, such as the CFE-CGC, a “possible facilitator” for a reindustrialization.

In a notice issued on November 16, 2017, from which AFP obtained a copy, the Public Service Ethics Commission found Mr. Bailey ‘s journey “compatible” with his current position.

Hugh Bailey “absolutely did not work on the subject of the sale of Alstom” when he was in Bercy, assured his entourage, saying that the file was managed at the time by “the advisor in charge of the participations of the ‘State’.

President Emmanuel Macron speaks to the press on 28 May 2019 in Brussels.
President Emmanuel Macron speaks to the press on 28 May 2019 in Brussels. (© AFP / Kenzo TRIBOUILLARD)

But the fire of criticism has not stopped Wednesday against the executive, facing a series of industrial setbacks (Ascoval, Ford Blanquefort, Whirlpool Amiens …).

On Twitter, the President of the Rassemblement National, Marine Le Pen, pointed to “cataclysmic (…) social consequences”.

Noting, as others, that the announcement of the social plan had intervened two days after the European elections, the LR member Julien Aubert evoked “a lie of state”, estimating that one had “sold a jewel industrial”.

For the former head of LFI European list, Manon Aubry, the announcement “falls conveniently after (this election) while Macron is the direct responsible for this disaster and that one of his relatives is in charge of the social plan” .

“Shame on France (…) because in the context of this sale, the American GE contracted a commitment to create 1000 jobs in France which ultimately results in the suppression of 1050 jobs in Belfort,” he said. indignant Bastien Faudot, county councilor of Belfort (Republican Left and Socialist).

“If we can not block this operation, it must be paid” by GE, urged the leader of senators PS, Patrick Kanner, pointing out that “800 families are involved” in Belfort.

From Brussels where he participated Tuesday at a European summit, Emmanuel Macron assured that the government would be “extremely vigilant” with regard to GE.

In the wake of the announcement of the social plan, Bruno Le Maire had already committed to preserve “the industrial future of Belfort”.

The executive expects GE to be “exemplary” and will be “very demanding” on the accompaniment of employees, said Agnès Pannier-Runacher, Secretary of State to the Minister of Economy.

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