End of the road for Goodyear’s Amiens-Nord plant?
The sword of Damocles has hung over Goodyear’s production site in Amiens, France for years now. Most recently, in 2009 the American tyre maker openly discussed plans to end the production of passenger car tyres in Amiens-Nord; the site suffered from “uncompetitive costs,” the company said. Two years ago Goodyear attempted to emulate the deal it made in Latin America and sell the Amiens plant’s agricultural tyre production to Titan International. But all plans for the Titan-Goodyear deal collapsed at the end of 2011. Titan chairman and CEO Maurice Taylor pulled the ripcord and withdrew from Europe, visibly frustrated by the union representatives in Amiens.
Now, Goodyear intends to make an announcement to employee representatives on 31 January. According to local newspaper “Le Courrier Picard”, the subject of this announcement is “Goodyear’s group strategy regarding the Amiens-Nord site.”
While plant management in Amiens-Nord have remained silent on the issue, representative union the CGT (Confédération générale du travail or General Confederation of Labour) has been partially taken by surprise by a potential closure of the passenger car and agricultural tyre factories, as it still hoped to reach a deal with management regarding the factory’s continued existence. However a “secure source” shares that the tyre maker has already decided to close the factory. What CGT representatives do not know, writes Le Courrier Picard, is whether the closure plans refer to both passenger car and agricultural tyre production or just one production area.
The newspaper states that observers consider passenger car tyre production, which Goodyear already discussed ceasing in 2009, to be most at risk. For the agricultural tyre side of production, hope remains for an agreement with Titan International; the US-based competitor placed proceedings “on hold” in 2011 but never officially ended them. In addition to this, Goodyear has no other agricultural tyre production facility within Europe, and for this reason Amiens-Nord retains certain exclusivity for Goodyear. “But you never know,” the CGT representative added.
Either way, even the partial closing would have a massive impact upon employees. The 1,250 or so workers currently employed in the Amiens-Nord factory are evenly distributed between both product segments. Following the now five year long constant battle to retain the factory, a fight that’s involved numerous strikes, rallies, court procedures and disappointed hopes, the workers’ union representatives commented in Le Courrier Picard that they’ve probably entered the home straight – the sword of Damocles looks finally ready to fall.