the unions are challenging the sale of the factory in court

The judge in chambers of the judicial court of Bordeaux announced, this Monday afternoon, November 28, that she will announce on December 12 her decision concerning the action initiated by the CSE (social and economic committee) of Magna Powertrain Bordeaux, in Blanquefort (Bordeaux Métropole) against the management of the factory. The unions are contesting the terms of the sale of the company to the German turnaround fund Mutares announced at the end of September.

Automotive: why Magna chooses to sell the Bordeaux factory to Mutares

Magna Powertrain Bordeaux, which employs more than 700 permanent employees, manufactures semi-automatic gearboxes (MX65) for Ford for small European models, the best known of which is the Ford Fiesta. A car that Ford, which announced last October, will no longer leave its production lines due to the switch to more electric propulsion. Informed on September 23 by the management of Magna Powertrain Bordeaux of the sale of their factory to the German turnaround fund Mutares, the CSE had until Wednesday November 30 to let it be known whether it gave a positive or negative opinion on the sale. .

A lack of response that is worth a negative opinion

The inter-union CGT, FO, CFTC, CFDT of the company confirmed this Tuesday to La Tribune, by the voice of Vincent Teyssonneau, CGT union representative, that it will not give any notice this Wednesday as was expected within the framework of the calendar presented by the management of the factory. This refusal to respond within the deadlines that the unions find too short, will have the value of a negative response on their part to the question of whether or not they agree with the progress of this transfer. A negative opinion that cannot be substantiated.

“On November 30 we will not actually issue an opinion, we are awaiting the judge’s decision on December 12. If the judge dismisses our case, we will appeal”, sums up for La Tribune Vincent Teyssonneau, who believes, like the majority of union members, that this sale confirms the catastrophic state in which the company finds itself as well as its lack of prospects.

The unions fear a PES on the sly

This is why the lawyer representing the CSE, Me Julien Plouton, underlined the incomprehension of the employees, informed less than 18 months after a first sale of their company by Ford to Magna (May 1, 2021), that they were going again to be resold, by Magna to the German turnaround fund Mutares.

“Magna is the one and only owner of this company following the sale by Ford. And less than a year and a half later we are in front of you because the new buyer has a project to sell it to the German fund Mutares, considered a ” vulture fund “because of the many layoffs he has already made”, pleaded Me Plouton, before stressing that it was in the interest of the CSE and the company that this new sale project be the subject of a “legal consultation procedure”.

The lawyer of the CSE denounced the will of the Magna group to impose a forced march on the inter-union this sale of the company to the turnaround fund Mutares. What is left unsaid in this file, the central element that all the unions are thinking of but which did not surface in the pleadings, is that this sale to Mutares would be nothing other than the prelude to a massive wave of dismissals operated by Mutares.

A request for a penalty payment of 500 euros per day

Me Plouton asked the judge in chambers that the company Magna Powertrain Bordeaux provide the CSE with a whole series of documents deemed necessary and missing under penalty of a daily penalty fixed at 500 euros. These include the list of buyers contacted by the subsidiary of the Canadian group, details of offers from potential buyers, but also the reasons for choosing Mutares over other buyers. The CSE’s lawyer also asked for the detailed sales contract for the plant drawn up between the European subsidiary of Magna, the Gironde plant of Magna Powertrain Bordeaux and Mutares, namely and among others: the fixed assets concerned or the sale price.

The CSE’s lawyer also wants to know about the commercial contract between Ford, its sole client, and Mutares, whether in terms of volumes, duration, etc. But also the contract for the sale of the land between Ford and Mutares, without omitting Mutares’ business plan from 2023 to 2028, the balance sheet – as of 1 January next -, or even the provisions linked to a possible plan to safeguard employment ( PSE) or plant closure in the event of Mutares restructuring or failure.

The issue of information deadlines

The defense lawyer, representing the interests of the management of Magna Powertrain Bordeaux, Me Joël Grangé, for his part tried to ruin the arguments of the CSE, by pleading the choice of a bad scenario. Me Grangé tried to put his opponent on the ropes by repeatedly relying on the Labor Law.

“I am surprised at the feigned ignorance of my opponent on a reference text”, he launched on the question of the information deadlines, recalling that from now on the deadlines had to be reasonable.

Hence the decision to avoid sending large quantities of documents and to choose the form of the meeting where all the members of the CSE can meet to be informed, as was the case on 23 September.

Bercy is interested in the file

In addition, Me Grangé underlined that Magna went beyond the requirements of the Labor law by following the method which was his. He naturally felt that the documents submitted to the CSE explain the ins and outs of the file, as well as they specify, as necessary, who is the Mutares turnaround fund. He then unfolded the heart of his argument by arguing that the situation of the company, which must be sold but is not threatened by bankruptcy or liquidation, does not in any way oblige Magna to seek a buyer.

Until then, elected officials had remained very discreet on this issue, contrary to the trajectory experienced by Ford Aquitaine Industries. But this same Monday, November 28, a turn may have been taken since the Minister of Economy and Finance, Bruno Le Maire, who is supposed to have this file on his desk for several months, announced that he was going to organize ad hoc meetings with elected officials and unions to review Magna Powertrain Bordeaux.

Magna, the buyer of GFT Blanquefort, does not want to commit to the 780 employees