CAUDAN, France (Reuters) – Giovanni Pili, a worker at a Renault factory in France, was on Friday savoring the fact that he was not laid off in a global shakeup at the carmaker, and trying not to think too much about the uncertain future facing his plant, and his industry.
A view shows the Fonderie de Bretagne, a subsidiary of Groupe Renault, in Caudan, France, May 28, 2020. REUTERS/StephaneMahe
Pili and colleagues at his factory in Caudan, north-west France, have been on strike all this week and protesting at the factory gates, anticipating their plant would be shuttered.
Renault instead announced the plant – and its 385 full-time workers who operate forges making manifolds and exhaust bends – would be put under strategic review while managers try to find new customers for the components they produce.
“It’s a reprieve,” said Maël Le Goff, representative at the factory of the CGT trade union. “The hardest part is still to come.”
Pili, a 44-year-old father of two who has worked at the plant for 20 years, received the news outside a local government office, where Renault managers were briefing union representatives. Le Goff came out of the meeting and climbed onto a railing to announce the plan to the crowd of workers.
Pili’s first reaction was one of relief.
The factory was his first proper job. He was hired straight out of compulsory military service, and moved to Caudan from his home in Ardennes in eastern France. His then-girlfriend, now his wife, agreed to move with him.
His family put down roots, and he built a career in the factory’s foundry. He survived a round of job cuts in 2009, then helped rebuild after a fire in 2019. Many of his co-workers were father and son, because it was commonplace for generations of families to work at the factory.
“It’s a part of our life,” he said of the factory.
He built a comfortable life. He bought a handsome converted farm house. The property has an outside terrace, a sit-on lawnmower, and a large collapsible swimming pool. Pili drives a white Renault van. His wife’s parents moved to live nearby.
Speaking the day before the announcement, he said if he was laid off, he worried about how he would pay off his mortgage, and the loan on his car, with just his wife’s salary from her job as a dental assistant.
But he also did not want to move away to use his skills in a car factory elsewhere in France, because he had no faith that plant would stay open either.
After digesting the announcement about the factory on Friday, Pili said his plan was to get back to work on Tuesday, and try to make the plant commercially viable again.
“We’re enjoying the announcement that was made this morning, and we’re not thinking about what comes later,” he said. “We’ll see how things evolve.”
Writing by Christian Lowe; Editing by Janet Lawrence