With the first international visits out of the way, the new French government of François Hollande is preparing to overcome its first economic obstacle at home, the revival of national industrial output, an issue deemed so important by the new President and his Socialist team that an ad hoc ministry, to be led by the anti-globalisation figure Arnaud Montebourg, has been set up especially.
As a first step in the process, the Prime Minister, Jean-Marc Ayrault, will today receive representatives from the five main trade unions in the secondary sector (CGT, CFDT, FO, CGC and CFTC) and of the three business organisations Medef (the French confederation of industrialists), CGPME (an umbrella group for the leaders of small and medium-sized businesses) and UPA (the crafts association). Ayrault will be flanked at the meeting by Montebourg, the Employment Minister, Michel Sapin, and the Minister for Social Affairs, Marisol Touraine. "Contrary to the procedure of the previous five-year term, no announcements will be made on the night," a government source told Le Monde. "The aim is to listen to unions on the issues that need to be discussed. The method to be used will be identified in a multilateral meeting to be held at the beginning of June". Talks are expected to be long and drawn out, but their outcome will be crucial for Ayrault's government and for Hollande, who have entered the arena with ambitious targets. "I am working on a plan of industrial recapture," Montebourg told the press a few days ago, and the new Minister has already made a series of visits to companies caught up in struggles between employees at risk of losing their jobs and the ownership. "There are many company chiefs and workers at need of a policy of industrial patriotism, in which we unite around our work and industrial instruments and our economic might to reconstruct our lost strength," he added.
Meanwhile, the CGT, the French trade union with the highest membership, has drawn up a list of 46 "struggling" companies, which are preparing redundancies or restructuring plans that could see job cuts or changes in positions for employees. The list will be presented to the government during today's meeting.
The list is "not exhaustive", union leaders have said, and includes major companies like Carrefour and Arcelor Mittal, as well as a number of small and medium-sized enterprises. (ANSAmed).