“Nationalization” has been off-the-table for several decades and yet this remains both an effective method of managing some industry and an appropriate bargaining chip that the Government could use vis a vis the private sector. The following excerpt indicates that the French are willing to consider the option — Bravo!

After Mr. Hollande and his industry minister raised this week the possibility that the French state would take over an ArcelorMittal  steel factory in a dispute over the foreign company’s plans to close two blast furnaces, union workers in another industry — shipbuilding — are calling for the government to seize their foreign employer’s property.

The French corporate establishment is bracing for a global backlash, if the nationalization impulse takes hold.

On Thursday, unions representing workers at the STX shipyard in Saint-Nazaire, on the Atlantic coast, issued a joint statement demanding that the French government “do everything possible to keep the shipyard open, even, if necessary, breaking European Union rules.”

The shipyard is already partially owned by the French government, but is controlled by STX, a South Korean business group. With business slow in the yard’s mainstay cruise ship building industry, about half of the shipyard’s labor force of 2,100 is now idled. The unions are betting that the current Socialist government, if it controlled the shipyard, would put everyone back to work.

“The door is open, and we want to open it as wide as possible,” Jean-Marc Pérez, the representative of the Force Ouvrière union at the STX shipyard, told the media. The nationalization of the shipyard, where almost half of the 2,000 workers are furloughed on partial pay, “is essential,” he said.

An STX spokeswoman in Saint-Nazaire and a spokesman in Seoul both declined to comment on the unions’ demands.

The office of the French industry minister, Arnaud Montebourg, did not respond to requests for comment Thursday.

There is a potential strategic rationale for nationalizing the STX site in Saint-Nazaire, on the Atlantic coast near the mouth of the Loire River. It is the last large shipyard in France and builds warships for the French navy.

Unions have long called for government intervention at the shipyard, given the labor lull. But the dispute with ArcelorMittal, the world’s largest steel company, and based in Luxembourg, is giving new life to their demands.

From International Herald Tribune (November 29, 2012)



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