PARIS – Hundreds of Peugeot Citroen workers occupied a French factory scheduled to be sold off, largely shutting down production on Wednesday in a protest against planned layoffs at the struggling automaker, union and company officials said.
The Aulnay plant near Paris has been at the center of a battle over the future of France's largest automaker. The CGT union said 300 workers stopped all production at the plant, while the company said around 230 were on strike — though many were also absent — and that very little work was being done.
That's a small percentage of the 3,000 people employed at Aulnay, but the union said they were able to "paralyze" the factory because most of the striking employees work in production.
Anne-Laure Descleves, a spokeswoman for Peugeot, said the unions stage a strike once a month and the current one was only slightly worse than others.
France's largest automaker announced last year that it planned to cut 8,000 jobs and close Aulnay as it struggles to compete in Europe's stagnant car market. The company reported a €819 million ($990 million) loss in the first half of 2012; it will announce its full-year results next month.
Despite the vast numbers of unsold cars and idle production lines in the European car industry, the government said Peugeot's plan was unacceptable. It found a company — IG Logistics — to take over the Aulnay plant, but only with a reduced workforce of 600. The state also offered Peugeot a lifeline loan of €7 billion ($9 billion), in exchange for having a say in its decisions.
The action at Aulnay comes a day before Peugeot and unions are to sit down again to discuss layoffs at the plant.
"Employees at PSA Aulnay refuse to accept being laid off without anything. The false negotiations begun in November give absolutely nothing at all, the management is refusing to address the demands of the employees," a statement from the CGT said. "The striking workers demand that management restart the negotiations from the beginning."
Peugeot and unions are locked in discussions over how many jobs will be cut and what deal laid off workers will receive. Unions are pushing for early retirement incentives for those over 55; Descleves would not comment on PSA's position.