French government to fight ‘appalling’ Bridgestone plant closure

Bridgestone staff fire flares outside the factory in Bethune today to protest over the decision to close the plant. (AP pic)

PARIS: The French government is looking into options to try to save jobs and prevent the closure of a tyre plant in northern France by its Japanese owner Bridgestone.

Bridgestone said on Wednesday that it would begin talks to close the factory in Bethune in the face of low demand for low-profile tyres, its main product.

“Bridgestone took an appalling decision. The method is appalling and the consequences are appalling and we are going to fight,” Minister of the Economy and Finance Bruno Le Maire told CNews television.

French government officials said Bridgestone’s move was “brutal” and urged the company to look at alternative options for the factory, which employs 863 people and has a production capacity of about 17,000 tyres.

“We are going to fight for a production that will be more attractive and review other options,” Le Maire told CNews, adding that the state would also look at ways to “re-industrialise” the plant so that jobs be protected.

Bridgestone spokesman Fusamaro Iijima, in response to Le Maire’s comments on Thursday, said the company would hold negotiations with representatives of local employees.

“We would like to hold talks sincerely and carefully. We aim to do our utmost so that the impact on the local community will be minimised,” Iijima told Reuters.