- The community of agglomeration of Béthune-Bruay voted Tuesday evening a deliberation demanding the repayment of 1.25 million euros to the Bridgestone company.
- The Japanese tire manufacturer, which has benefited from public aid, has decided to close its Béthune plant in May 2021, leaving 863 employees behind.
Governments want to get their money’s worth. Tuesday evening, the urban community of Béthune-Bruay “demanded” the reimbursement by Bridgestone of an aid of 1.25 million euros, after the decision of the management of the Japanese tire giant to close its Béthune plant. .
In a vote in the community council, the community justified this request by evoking the non-compliance by Bridgestone of one of the social clauses which conditioned the payment of subsidies between 2007 and 2010 to modernize the Béthune plant.
Bridgestone requested aid in 2007
The elected officials “authorize” the president of the agglomeration Olivier Gacquerre “to take all the necessary measures to allow this reimbursement, in particular by the issuance of a receipt document, or the exercise of a possible legal action, in the name and on behalf of the agglomeration ”, we can read in the text of this deliberation.
In 2007, Bridgestone launched an investment plan of 30 million euros to increase the plant’s production capacities, seeking aid from the State, the region and local communities.
Financial assistance linked at the time to the creation of 50 jobs
The agreement signed with the agglomeration community of Béthune-Bruay, Artois-Lys Romane (CABBALR) provided for the payment of 1.5 million euros “for investment and job creation relating to the development of the production of ultra high performance tires ”.
In return, Bridgestone undertook to create 50 jobs between 2007 and 2010 – the initial workforce being 1,208 permanent contracts – and to maintain them “for a period of five years following the date of completion of the program”, ie until at the end of 2015. The agglomeration had finally paid 1.25 million euros.
The clause was not respected
But the clause was not respected: in 2015 “we were at least 91” jobs compared to the starting workforce, explains the vice-president of the agglomeration Steve Bossart, rapporteur of the file. Noting the non-compliance with the commitment, the city had alerted Bridgestone in 2016, without asking for reimbursement.
But today, management “is not playing the game,” laments Steve Bossart. In mid-September, Bridgestone brutally announced its intention to close the plant, which now employs 863 people, by 2021. “We are demanding reimbursement, it is public money, we are accountable” , explained Steve Bossart, the community wishing to “direct” this money towards economic development, because “with the people who will be left behind, there will be needs”.
According to him, the presence of the factory in Béthune brings in 4.4 million euros in tax revenue each year to the agglomeration, the city and the department.