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French press review 13 July 2012

The French national dailies all focused on the same dismal news of French automaker PSA Peugeot Citroën's announcement to close down the giant car factory by 2014 and its plan to cut thousands of workers in France.

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“Government caught in its own trap as PSA sheds 8000 jobs”, headlines Le Figaro. The right-wing newspaper calls the bad news the very first social catastrophe facing the new Head of State and his ministers.

Beyond any strategic errors that may have been made, PSA is paying the price of being too European and too French, comments Le Figaro.

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The paper points to a “paradox”. Peugeot-Citroen maintained half of its production capacity in France while the sister automaker Renault went looking for new markets abroad.

PSA’s “error”, according to Le Figaro, is to have continued hoping it would remain “competitive in a country that clings to its 35 hour work week, with reduced flexibility and higher labour costs than elsewhere.

Despite being the “target of a witch-hunting campaign”, Le Figaro warns PSA Peugeot Citroen that the worse thing to do would be to abandon the restructuring plan. It argues that the automaker’s “survival and success”  hinges on the its ability to implement reform to the last letter.

“PSA has hit the bottom of destruction”, laments L’Humanité, adopting an ironic tone to vent its fury. For the Communist Party daily, the restructuring plan unveiled is “unprecedented, questionable, unjustified and causing widespread social and political indignation”.

Les Echos reports the plan unveiled by Peugeot-Citroen is “unacceptable under its present terms to the government”. The economic newspaper notes that the unions are “furious and brazing for all out war” to prevent the automaker from carrying out these reforms.

The newspaper goes on to say that the entire nation is trying to come to terms with the shocking “industrial catastrophe”, and everyone is looking for a scape goat. “Responsibility must be shared”, argues Les Echos, explaining that PSA Peugeot Citroën is in difficulty, partly due to the degradation of the economic environment that has hit its main markets.

According to the paper, the fact that “extreme factors” accelerated the downturn doesn’t justify everything. The Peugeot family, successive governments, and the Unions should take their “respective shares of the blame for the failed strategic industrial choices they made”.

It is a “major crisis that had been expected” says La Croix. The Catholic newspaper notes that the news, however, hit the French people like “a cold shower” as the number of positions to be lost represents one tenth of 100 000 jobs coming form France’s carmaker industry.

Centrist Le Monde carries out a vivid description of the hard conditions at the Aulnay factory and the fiasco that has been in the making for years.

Parliamentary elections 2012

Forleft-leaning Libération, shutting down the Peugeot factory in Aulnay, puts a final end to a story that began 20 years ago when Renault closed down its plant at Boulogne-Billancourt.

The closures according to the paper, offer “the most spectacular image of the crisis hitting France” as the hidden face of the economy is being unveiled through figures and indicators.

Libération argues that one cannot understand the full scale of the measures taken by PSA until the “dramatic consequences that this decision has left on its workers and their families" are seen. Furthermore, it doubts the government’s ability to do anything about it.
 

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