This is the first social plan since the arrival of Elizabeth Bourne in Matignon. French seamless pipe maker Vallourec announced on Wednesday its intention to cut some 2,950 jobs worldwide, including 320 in France.
In particular, in a press release, the group announced the reduction of “approximately 2,400 positions” due, among other things, to the closure of its German sites, as well as the abolition of “approximately 550 positions” in support functions. In mid-November, at the end of a long process of financial restructuring, Vallourec announced the sale of its activities in Germany and the end of the production of pipes for industry in Europe. He planned to move some of his activities to Brazil.
“We are asking Vallurek to minimize the impact of the plan on French activities, and we demand that the forging, threading, research and development center at Olnoy-Aymery (Nord) be maintained and strengthened,” Bersi responded after the announcement, on Wednesday evening.
Emergency meeting this Friday
Following the group’s latest restructuring in 2021, the state still controls 2.3% of Vallourec’s capital through the State Investment Bank (BPI). For Hauts-de-France LR President Xavier Bertrand, “the group’s continued policy of abandoning its production activities in France is unacceptable,” he tweeted. He said he got the CEO to have an “emergency meeting” this Friday with employee representatives, local elected officials and management.
According to the company, precisely because a “reliable buyer” for the German operations could not be found, they were announced to be closed. This “leads to further rationalization of other European assets responsible for finishing rolled pipes in Germany,” Wallourek added. And in particular the closure of the “heat treatment line” of the French plant in Saint-Solvay (North).
250 removed in northern France
Of the 550 jobs laid off in the rest of the world, 70 are in Scotland, affected by the shutdown of filleting activities that will be repatriated to Aulnoy Aymery and “320 in France, including 65 at headquarters” in Meudon (O- de Seine), detailed CEO Philippe Guillemot, during a conference call.
About 250 jobs will be cut in the north of France: just under a hundred at the Saint-Solva site, one hundred at Aulnoy-Emery and the rest at a shared services center in Valenciennes, said Philippe Guillemot, appointed less than two months ago to complete the group’s restructuring and make it more profitable.
The first sorties can take place from the end of 2022 and extend “to the whole of 2023, in particular in Germany.” According to the CEO, this country will continue production until the volumes produced in Germany are transferred to Brazil.
“Decisions” on some positions
“We are fatalists, we suspected (…) that this was a clean and simple closure of the site,” Mikael Tison, a CFDT delegate from Saint-Solvay, reacted to the press at the exit from the factory where the announcement was made to employees. “Vallurek had public money to invest in Brazil or China, they are going to build factories there, and France is fried,” he lamented.
“We are disgusted, but we expected this, restructuring has been going on for years and we see that activity is falling from year to year, this is inevitable. When I started about twenty years ago, there were 1200, 1300 of us, now we are 97,” commented Frederic Buko, 46 years old.
Philippe Guillemot reaffirmed his desire to allow “the reclassification of our employees to work outside the group when this should take place”, but did not specify the planned package. “We already have solutions for a third of the posts made redundant in France between retirement, early retirement and internal reclassification,” he said.
“This is a necessary and if not vital step,” assured the CEO, who said these decisions should “enable the group to be profitable in any market conditions.” He wants to expand into new markets for the group’s pipes and position it “as a key player in the transition to energy and a carbon-free economy”, positioning itself in “hydrogen storage, carbon capture, sequestration” in particular. “.
The group achieved a turnover of 916 million euros in the first quarter of 2022, up 30.5% compared to the same period in 2021, narrowing the net loss to 35 million euros from 93 million euros last year during this period.