As you probably know very well if you’ve watched at least one news journal in the last few years, workers in France have very strong unions behind them which put them in a pretty powerful position when negotiating with employing companies.
You may not know this, but by law the workweek in France is just 35 hours long, which means a full one hour a day less than for most of us. If you think about it, it’s almost ironic these French workers are actually being called “workers”…
Daimler, being German and all, have a bit of a problem with this. Since the smart is being built together with the Renault Twingo in the Hambach factory in France, the Germans would like to extend the workweek to what the average French worker must consider an eternity: 39 hours.
Of course, those “extra” hours would be paid extra and on top of that each worker would also get a one time bonus. The sum in question is 1,000 euros, while the extra payment amounts to six euros per hour on top of regular wages.
This offer from Daimler is viewed with scepticism by the plant’s labor union, of course, because who wants to work extra for more money and with the added bonus of a 1,000 euros? Not the workers, apparently.
Patrick Hoszkowicz, a representative of the labor union, is quoted to have said “it’s a way to freeze wages without any guarantees in return”. I’m not sure what he means by that, but he’d certainly make for a good politician because the phrase at least has a nice sound to it.
It appears the main problem with the Daimler offer is that the six euro raise for the four extra hours per week is less than France’s 9.61 euros minimum wage.
Daimler has invested heavily in the Hambach plant spending millions of euros in 2009 to get it ready for the smart Fortwo Electri Drive and then pumping 200 millions more for the current smart generation. Needless to say, Daimler aims for a peaceful solution that would keep the workers happy, but also raise production levels.