- The Bridgestone plant in Béthune will close its doors for good. The announcement was made this Thursday by the leaders of the Japanese group during a meeting with elected officials and unions.
- Even if they expected it, the northern employees have a lot on the potato.
Sad birthday. In 2021, the Bridgestone plant in Béthune should have celebrated its 60th anniversary. But next May, the date of the final shutdown of tire production, a page of industrial history will be turned in Pas-de-Calais. On Thursday noon, the Japanese tire manufacturer announced, during a meeting with minister, elected officials and union representatives, that it would no longer reinvest any money in the factory and that it was leaving the region for good, leaving it on the sidelines no less than 863 employees.
While many were already under no illusions since the announcement of the closure on September 16, there was still hope for a possible reversal of Bridgestone. It has not happened. In five minutes flat, the company refused to consider an alternative to the closure.
“I will not go and put out the fire”
“It was swept away in minutes. It was a little thank you and goodbye, ”says Jacky Faucoeur, a South union representative who is afraid of the reaction of employees who have remained very calm until now. “We can feel the anger rising, but as I told HRD this week: I will not go and put out the fire. A while ago, even unions can’t hold people back. What must be done will be done in the hope that all goes well ”.
Thursday afternoon, calm reigned around the factory. But the anger, resignation and sadness were very present. “I’ve been working here for almost 40 years and just lost my job. There is a feeling of disgust. I am devastated, ”recognizes Jean-Luc Ruckebush, CGT union representative at Bridgestone-Béthune.
“Some have a house to pay, a family to feed”
For many, worry now predominates. With 37 years in the box and only four years from retirement, Fabrice is not worried about his situation. But he worries about his younger colleagues. “What really hurts me are my coworkers who are 30, 40 or 50 years old. They have a house to pay for, a family to feed, not to mention the damn Covid. I am afraid for their future. a page turns for Béthune. It’s dramatic. The social plan money is not the most important. What is needed is employment, but today there is no longer any, ”despairs the worker, who is angry with Europe and globalization, considered responsible for the situation.
To limit social damage, politicians of all stripes hope to find a solution quickly. Searching for a buyer on the site, hiring in a future electric battery factory or giving a bonus to companies that employ ex-Bridgestones, everything will be done to avoid the worst. But some employees already doubt a future for the industrial site. “There are too many repairs to be done in this factory, it leaks everywhere especially when it rains hard”, assures one of them.
“I hope they will finally respect us with dignified conditions”
The best possible social plan will be required so that employees can leave under the best conditions. “Bridgestone must stop playing on the nerves of the employees. They are not going to leave like this. We wait for them to put in the maximum so that the employees can bounce back and so that the territory can bounce back, ”warns Xavier Bertrand, the president of the Hauts-de-France region.
“I hope they will finally respect us with dignified conditions”, loose Daniel, a worker who saw the announcement of this Thursday as a “coup de grace” after 28 years at Bridgestone.
And despite the unanimous political support that will be given to their future, some still find it very difficult to trust. “These are policies. The elections are coming soon. So let’s say we believe it. We will see ” ; Jacky Faucoeur concludes. And these are not the recent examples of Goodyear, Continenal or even Whirlpool that risk reassuring Bridgestone totally disillusioned.