2015 07 – Froggy

Algeria saving French jobs?

A flour mill (Les Grands Moulins Maurel) in Marseille belonging to a large company (Nutrixo) closed 19 months ago and has been occupied for the past 9 months by 27 ex-employees fighting to keep it going.  This mill produced flour and semolina for 155 years and is viable, but it is situated on expensive land next to an expanding commercial centre.  Employees were sacked, occupied the site, were dislodged manu militari by the riot police but returned and have been in the place since October 2014.

Salvation might come in the shape of 5 Algerian entrepreneurs who want to produce semolina and cattle feed for the Algerian market. The remaining obstacle is Algerian legislation which forbids entrepreneurs from investing abroad.  This law has been repealed but the decree of implementation has not yet been passed.  The 27 employees are waiting for the French government’s diplomatic action to accelerate the process.

François Hollande visited another site where employees have taken over their place of work in the hope of keeping it going and meeting with success at the moment, the Fralib tea cooperative, also in the South of France; the Fralib had given him a letter containing information on three other such sites, the Grands Moulins Maurel, Saint-Louis Sucre (a sugar factory) and the SNCM. The state is also not proceeding with the expulsion of the workers from the mill, even though a court has given the order.  Natrixo is threatening to sue the government.


Scientists saving jobs?

Goodyear tyres closed down their Amiens-Nord factory in January 2014 with the loss of 1173 jobs; some 300 of their ex-employees, with the CGT union, wanting to keep it going as a SCOP (Société Cooperative Ouvrière de Production or Production Cooperative Labour Company) and are working together with American and French scientists to develop special tires for agricultural machinery.

On the positive side, the Amiens Court of Justice has ordered the end of the dismantlement of the factory; an American professor of management at the university of Cornell is making a business plan; the president of the scientific council of the CNRS (the French Research Institute) is working on the creation of a Research and Development service.

On the problematic side, the ex-employees must get  licences from Goodyear Dunlop Tires France for agricultural activities.

The researchers are not philanthropic: it’s not a case of intellectual charity, it’s a case of two employment crises meeting: the unemployment of scientists and the unemployment of factory workers.


A working SCOP destroyed

Employees of Sealink Channel ferries which went into liquidation in November 2011 formed a Cooperative Company (SCOP) to run three ships of the former company.  The new company was called My Ferry Link (not a very good French name) and had been offering successful Dover Calais sailings from August 2012 until July of this year when the service stopped. What went wrong?

There were 3 companies offering ferry crossings: P&O, FSDS (Danish) and My Ferry Link, with various prices and frequency of service.  My Ferry Link was cheaper but offered less frequent crossings, so you couldn’t just turn up and board as with the others.  In that sense it did not compete in terms of service, but it was advantageous price wise.

My Ferry Link did not own the ships; Eurotunnel had bought the ships and leased them to former employees to run.

The UK Competition Commission ruled that Eurotunnel may not use the port of Dover for the next 10 years.  This did not happen overnight.

The Competition and markets authority (CMA) only won its case after gaining from the British supreme court leave of appeal against the London appeal court decision which had overturned the ban on Eurotunnel boats in the Channel.

The result is the loss of French jobs, and no French company operating ferry services across the Channel. The French Competition Authority does not agree with the decision of its British equivalent, nor does the French minister of state for transport.  They argue that cross Channel ferry travel has increased by 12% and that there is enough traffic to support 3 companies.  They argue that the CMA has no right to prevent ships entering a harbour, in this case, Dover.

Meanwhile passengers had a smaller choice this year, and hundreds of workers lost their livelihood.  The workers have prevented the Danish company FSDS from using the port of Calais and blocked roads; it remains to be seen whether their action will have a positive result.


The Encyclical on the environment.

The Encyclical on the environment was published in May 2015.  It is a Papal document intended for the widest possible readership, viz everyone in the world, written from a non-Western point of view.  Obviously the Pope is not supposed to have a point of view dependent on where he lives or comes from, but Pope Francis has a distinctive point of view because of where he comes from, that is, South America.  He supports his text with many quotations from past authors and from bishops from all parts of the world.

For him ‘environmental’ and ‘social’ are not separate.   He says: ‘The human environment and the natural environment deteriorate together; we cannot adequately combat environmental degradation unless we attend to causes related to human and social degradation.’  For example rich countries exploit resources in the developing world without regard to the human consequences, which include the destruction of where people live: (numbers are the number of the paragraph)

‘52. The foreign debt of poor countries has become a way of controlling them, yet this is not the case where ecological debt is concerned. In different ways, developing countries, where the most important reserves of the biosphere are found, continue to fuel the development of richer countries at the cost of their own present and future.”

See also later in the text the same idea:

‘139. When we speak of the “environment”, what we really mean is a relationship existing between nature and the society which lives in it. Nature cannot be regarded as something separate from ourselves or as a mere setting in which we live. We are part of nature, included in it and thus in constant interaction with it. Recognizing the reasons why a given area is polluted requires a study of the workings of society, its economy, its behaviour patterns, and the ways it grasps reality.’

This is particularly clear in the destruction of traditional ways of life:

‘145. Many intensive forms of environmental exploitation and degradation not only exhaust the resources which provide local communities with their livelihood, but also undo the social structures which, for a long time, shaped cultural identity and their sense of the meaning of life and community. The disappearance of a culture can be just as serious, or even more serious, than the disappearance of a species of plant or animal. The imposition of a dominant lifestyle linked to a single form of production can be just as harmful as the altering of ecosystems.

[…]146. In this sense, it is essential to show special care for indigenous communities and their cultural traditions. They are not merely one minority among others, but should be the principal dialogue partners, especially when large projects affecting their land are proposed. For them, land is not a commodity but rather a gift from God and from their ancestors who rest there, a sacred space with which they need to interact if they are to maintain their identity and values. When they remain on their land, they themselves care for it best. Nevertheless, in various parts of the world, pressure is being put on them to abandon their homelands to make room for agricultural or mining projects which are undertaken without regard for the degradation of nature and culture.’

The Pope is optimistic on principle, but his conclusion regarding the future is that ‘Yet the same ingenuity which has brought about enormous technological progress has so far proved incapable of finding effective ways of dealing with grave environmental and social problems worldwide.  A global consensus is essential for confronting the deeper problems, which cannot be resolved by unilateral actions on the part of individual countries. Such a consensus could lead, for example, to planning a sustainable and diversified agriculture, developing renewable and less polluting forms of energy, encouraging a more efficient use of energy, promoting a better management of marine and forest resources, and ensuring universal access to drinking water.’