The muffled sound of long steel tubes colliding should no longer resonate for long in the heart of the working-class city of Déville-lès-Rouen, in Seine-Maritime. If work has resumed at the Vallourec factory, after a few days “To digest the shock”, the 190 employees remain stunned by the announcement of the world leader in the manufacture of seamless tubes for the oil and gas industry, published in a press release, Wednesday, November 18: the closure of the Normandy site is recorded there in a few lines on background “Strengthening competitiveness” of a heavily indebted French industrial group (3.5 billion euros) and weighed down both by the crisis in the hydrocarbon markets (70% of its activity) and the Covid-19 pandemic. According to the inter-union CFE-CGC-CFDT-CGT, the Devillaise plant could close “As of June 30, 2021”.
Normandy is not the only target. Vallourec’s drastic restructuring plan, which comes on top of a first wave of layoffs of 900 people during the first half of the year, plans to cut 1,050 jobs out of more than 19,000 employees around the world: 500 in Brazil, 200 in Germany and 350 in France. All Norman employees, therefore, but also 130 people at the Vallourec sites in the North (Aulnoye-Aymeries, Saint-Saulve and Valenciennes).
In Déville-lès-Rouen, employees do not fall out of the closet. The elimination, in 2016, of 180 jobs and the shutdown of the rolling mill used to manufacture the tubes – the plant having only retained its activity of heat treatment of tubes produced in Germany since then – was a first blow. And in recent months, the drop in orders no longer made it possible to occupy the 190 employees continuously. “There is the blow of the club, deplores Philippe Quesnel, CFE-CGC union delegate. We knew the difficulties, of course, but we were discussing another scenario that held up the road, namely a reduction in staff of about 50 positions. We expected a big contract with North Africa, which was ultimately not signed. We refused to believe in a total closure… ”
But the general staff of the multinational has opted for the strong method, with in mind a net loss of 636 million recorded over the first nine months of the year. “The drop in demand justifies this decision. We have too many factories compared to demand ”, argues Cédric Souillart, industrial director France. And to develop: “The markets accessible from Europe (North Sea, Middle East, Africa) are structurally in decline. And the health crisis, doubled in the wake of an economic crisis, was the coup de grace. This has exacerbated this underlying trend. We are involved in the investment of oil companies, during the construction of wells. However, these companies, faced with falling demand and the price of a barrel, have sharply reduced their investments, in the long term moreover. “
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