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France thought it might reverse globalization, however it’s nonetheless bleeding jobs

Cultural

France thought it might reverse globalization, however it’s nonetheless bleeding jobs

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France regularly tops the list when comparing labor productivity with other European economies. However, companies with widely dispersed operations say that manufacturing can lag behind cheaper, more productive manufacturing facilities, creating yet another incentive to relocate.

Bridgestone closes its 863-strong plant in Béthune, an industrial town in northern France, after warning for several years that its productivity was lagging behind other sites in Europe. Union officials have accused the company of not investing enough to make the small car tire factory more efficient.

Last year, Bridgestone proposed keeping jobs at the highly unionized factory if employees agree to increase their working hours from 32 to 34.7 hours per week for an extra hour. The unions reacted angrily and over 60 percent of workers were opposed to it.

This summer, Bridgestone announced that it would close the plant, citing overcapacity in the European small tire market. Macron’s government tried to negotiate with the tire manufacturer to keep some of the production and jobs. But earlier this month, Bridgestone said it couldn’t afford to keep the factory running at any cost and would move production to Poland, Hungary and other lower-cost locations.

“It’s a matter of performance,” said a Bridgestone spokesman about the decision. “Compared to our other European locations, the costs for tire production in Bethune are the highest and the working hours per person are lower.”

While less than 5 percent of job losses in France in recent years have been due to offshoring, Mouhoud said, such layoffs are easy fodder for populist anger and leave a lasting shock to communities.

In Béthune, one of many cities in northern France affected by industrial decline, government officials warned of a “brutal” economic and social shock to families, local suppliers and businesses that benefited from the factory.

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