Nokia management has decided to lay off 1233 employees in France. Interview with Claude Josserant, a CGT delegate from Nokia who is organizing the fight of his colleagues against these job cuts.
What is the situation of the Nokia group?
Nokia is an international group primarily engaged in the development of telecommunications equipment. The group generated sales of 23 billion euros in 2019, including 700 million in France.
And at the level of France?
Alcatel-Lucent was acquired in 2015 by Nokia, with the approval of the then Minister of the Economy: Emmanuel Macron. Alcatel-Lucent has long been one of the French leaders in telecommunications technology. We are 3,500 employees spread across the main subsidiary, among others in Nozay (91) and Lannion (22) – out of 5,000 in the group in France.
Today we are undergoing the 4th layoff plan in four years. The latest redundancy plans mainly affected the central services (administrative, customer support, sales, etc.). The originality of this last plan is the reduction in the workforce in the Research and Development (R&D) sector: 831 in Nozay and 402 in Lannion. Until then, Nokia respected an agreement made with Macron, in exchange for the authorization to purchase Alcatel-Lucent: to bring the workforce close to 2,500 employees in R&D until 2019. Now that the deadline has passed, Nokia graduated in R&D after having received 273 million CICE. The 700 young people recently recruited would be the first affected.
Does the Covid crisis have a link with this layoff plan?
No. During the lockdown, massive teleworking helped maintain and even improve the productivity of company employees. The operators, Nokia customers, are maintaining the level of their investments, and therefore the turnover. In France we are responsible for the development of 5G, a cutting-edge technology. Despite all this, the layoff plan was triggered. The aim is still to increase shareholders' dividends by relocating to "low-cost" countries. Nokia is more concerned with the profitability of the patents it exploits than with maintaining employment.
Faced with this layoff plan, what is the level of combativeness of Alcatel-Lucent employees?
As is often the case with engineers and managers, the rate of union members is not high. Union members are often employees at the end of their careers, because they are less afraid of suffering the consequences of their union membership. However, as the dismissal plan mainly affects young people, the latter are mobilizing and some join the CGT. And then, despite 95% of employees working from home, we managed to mobilize 500 employees in front of our Nozay site and 1,500 went to Paris on July 8.
What are your supporters in this fight against layoffs?
The elected officials of the city of Lannion and its population are very mobilized, because the sustainability of the site is called into question. Nokia is closing sites with fewer than 500 employees. However in Lannion, Alcatel-Lucent would go from 752 to 350 employees.
Nationally, the elected PCF and FI support us. The LREM deputy from Brittany too, but his proposal to save jobs is limited to wanting to always give more public money to Nokia, without compensation. However, Nokia has already vampirized 280 million aids over the past 4 years. We also feel the beginnings of a convergence of struggles with other companies in Essonne which are undergoing layoff plans, such as Renault Technocentre Lardy, Sanofi and X-FAB.
Faced with a big box like Nokia, which announces a social plan, Revolution advances the slogan of nationalization under the control of the workers. What do you think ?
It should be understood that the Alcatel-Lucent patents were exported to a Norwegian holding company of Nokia. We have no means of production except a few test benches and our brains. In addition, the organization of work means that a project in development is divided between several sites around the world. It would take an international struggle to hope to take control of our company.
We have meetings with union representatives from foreign branches of Nokia. But some unions, especially Scandinavians, do not have the spirit of struggle. Finally, there were nevertheless gestures of international solidarity such as the 2-hour strike by our Greek colleagues – and messages from Italian and Spanish colleagues, in support of our fight.
Postscript of Revolution
The comrade's answer to our last question calls for comment. He makes a common – and understandable – objection to the slogan of nationalization. But we insist: the nationalization of Nokia would save all the jobs, all the skills and all of the company's infrastructure in France. Furthermore, it would be a step towards the constitution of a public telecommunications sector, which implies the nationalization of all the major operators in the sector. As for the industrial patent system, the labor movement has no reason to submit to it.