They made the news. Stephane Lesix, ex-Bridgestone in Béthune, evokes a betrayal

Stéphane Lesix, secretary of the Social and Economic Committee (CSE) of the Bridgestone plant in Béthune (Pas-de-Calais). (SEBASTIEN BAER / RADIO FRANCE)

September 16, 2020. In Béthune, in Pas-de-Calais, Bridgestone announces the closure of its factory which employs 863 people. The city’s largest employer, the Japanese tire giant invokes production overcapacity in Europe and competition from low-cost Asian brands. A decision that provokes the anger of Stéphane Lesix, the secretary of the Social and Economic Committee, (CSE). “The first reaction is anger because we have the impression that everything was programmed from the start. They wanted to make a collective performance agreement here and we realize that whatever happens , the factory was going to close. “

For lack of an economically viable solution, the plant closed its doors on April 30. As compensation, the group paid 16 million euros for the revitalization of the Béthune site, three times more than the legal obligation. Little consolation, the employees were also able to obtain comfortable compensation.

But eleven months after the announcement of the closure, Stéphane Lesix, secretary of the CSE, still feels the same feeling of betrayal. “There is a feeling of a mess, a huge mess. Everyone knew each other. There were also families, there are people, their grandfather, their father, worked at Bridgestone, so it was really a family atmosphere We were proud to be ‘Brigestonian’ Unfortunately, we got into a situation where the factory was going to close, there is the Covid, employment in the mining area is quite complicated. .. Unfortunately, some are in separation, others are totally confused about what they are going to do. “

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Stephane Lesix

on franceinfo

For ex-Bridgestones, it is sometimes difficult to find a job. “Some are going to have more difficulties than others because they only knew Bridgestone and at 18, they came to work. They are great workers and the problem is that now it’s complicated, some are in great distress “ says Stéphane Lesix, proud, that the employees reacted without violence to the announcement of the closure. “It was a strategy. There weren’t any burnt tires, we didn’t break it. We preferred to be in the dialogue, to explain what happened. We gave a good image to Bridgestone because maybe they believed that the employees, the unions were madmen who were going to do anything. And they were unlucky, that did not happen. I think that. we really annoyed them with our strategy and I think it paid off. “

The secretary of the CSE also disputes the arguments put forward by Bridgestone to justify the closure: production overcapacity in Europe and low-cost Asian competition. “The overcapacity, they created it themselves. They developed in the countries of the East and we they let us die slowly. It is as if we had to do a Formula 1 race and that ‘at the start, we were with the most beautiful cars, the latest Ferraris and the Mercedes, the Jaguars and we started off with a Twingo from 1990. There, of course, we could only be last. So, no investment. It is certain and certain that we were doomed to die “.

For Stéphane Lesix, there was a possibility of saving the factory. “Frankly, with investment, with people who knew their job very well, with a normal investment compared to our competitors within Bridgestone itself, we would have had the same machines, of course we were competitive. In addition, the State was ready to put half of the investments with Bridgestone. We had been told about a hundred million euros, so we could have had the machines, we could have made new tires with high added value, and we would have been competitive. No problem. “

Little consolation, the employees obtained relatively comfortable compensation. “It’s a lesser evil. The idea is that the people at Bridgestone can turn around and have time to train. Also financially, they can pay off their loans and move on. Bridgestone didn’t want us anymore, we don’t want them anymore. And we’re trying to move forward. ” Some ex-Bridgestone should still find a job on the site because two companies will create a reconditioning unit for used tires. Production, which will begin early next year, should ultimately create 200 jobs.

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