“We’re sorry, we’re still waiting for the heat“, apologizes Guy Hascoët, president of the SCIC (cooperative society of collective interest) which carries the project, located in Graces, a town which adjoins Guingamp.
It is not far from here, about thirty kilometers, in Plaintel, which had closed in 2018, in general indifference, the last French mask factory. For a year, to cope with the epidemic, production has relaunched in France.
Like here in Grâces where production started a week ago. The twenty or so recruited employees, bundled up, are still running on the machines, arriving from Saint-Étienne with trainers.
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Blue or white, the raw material scrolls, like rolls of fabric on a dispenser, before leaving the machine in the form of surgical masks directly placed in small boxes bearing the name of the company and the words “Breton and united“.
Line operator, Stéphanie Marie-Joseph had been unemployed for a year after working in the food industry, the main provider of industrial jobs in the region. “It’s a great team, it’s very important for the production that there is a good atmosphere“, rejoices this mother of five children. And then,”at least, here, we do not come to work backwards!“, she rejoices.
“This is not an ordinary company, the recruitment is very heterogeneous, it’s great“Says Véronique Avequin, production operator. Close to sixty, she”had been looking for a job for two years“. “There is age. As soon as you are no longer 18 …“, she said, with a fatalistic pout.”Here, we all feel invested!”
Skinny, not very tall, Tristan Lozach, 28, a figure of “yellow vests“in the department, was a funeral counselor but did not find a job after the movement.
“I had been looking for two years. I even thought of leaving Brittany. This company took me for my motivation and did not stop at my commitment“, observes this father of three children.
“And, in addition, it’s a cooperative, we have decision-making power, and we produce useful things“, he lists.
– “30 million masks per year” –
Not one of the employees forgets to mention “luck“, given the economic context, to be hired on a permanent contract after only two months of trial. With an average age of 42, they are split equally between men and women and a third of them are carriers about twenty other employees will be recruited after the summer.
Because the sustainability of the new company does not seem to worry Guy Hascoët. “We are overwhelmed with requests for masks“, notes the former Secretary of State for the Solidarity Economy between 2000 and 2002 and father, as such, of the law of 2001 creating the SCIC.
“The basic goal is to produce around 30 million masks“per year, with the possibility of doubling, or even going to”90 million in a pandemic situation“, he explains.
“We put it all together in eight months (…) We are built for the long term, including after the end of the health crisis“, assène Guy Hascoët. “With a production of 25 million, we are profitable!”
La Coop does not intend to stick to masks. Working groups have been created to study, in particular, possible new products or to find a vegetable substitute for Meltblown, a petroleum-based filter material, essential in the manufacture of masks.
In the immediate future, an Italian machine in Meltblown is expected soon and from July will supply the plant for 75 tons out of 400 produced per year. The surplus will be sold to other companies.
If the new company feels growing wings, it is also that, as the SCIC allows it, an entire territory supports it, from communities to citizens (1,500 who have already contributed 500,000 euros).
And among united citizens, “the Augustines sisters of Gouarec“, a small town in the department, smiles the president of the SCIC.
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