By Pierre Tran
Paris – Dassault Aviation, builder of the Rafale fighter jet, plans to re-open April 3.
The company is to open nine factories and offices, returning to “minimal” production under strict health conditions in response to the spread of coronavirus across France.
The aircraft company posted on its website a March 27 note to staff setting out the date for a gradual industrial restart, which will follow March 31 and April 1meetings of local works councils to be held at the factories and offices.
“The management at the site will be briefed on the health measures before receiving the (work) teams from Friday April 3,” said the note, signed by executive chairman Eric Trappier.
An extraordinary meeting of the central works council was held March 26 at the company head office at St Cloud. The management presented measures taken to make work places safe in the factory and office, allowing a return to work, even on “on a reduced basis,” the note said
French government authorities have asked for work to restart, the note said.
A return to work is seen as important as Dassault supplies spares to support the Rafale, deployed in in sub-Saharan Africa in the Barkhane mission against Islamist fighters. The company is also building the fighter under export contracts, and also supports the Falcon business jet.
“There was a constructive exchange of views with the social partners, showing that we are working together in this unprecedented crisis,” the note said of the March 26 meeting. A large majority of the labor unions were in favor of returning to work under the plan presented, the note said.
Workers at the Argenteuil factory, in the suburbs of the capital, briefly downed tools March 18 to protest against the lack of safety equipment and measures that met health concerns, local daily Le Parisien reported.
Management has been asked to ensure “scrupulously” the health measures be observed, the note said.
Trappier said in the note he hoped talks with the unions would continue, that the unions would be informed of lessons learnt in the return to work, and further changes would be made if needed.
The health measures “should allow a gradual restart of our priority activities for our clients and the company” in a safe way in all the work sites and for a limited number of workers, the note said. Working from home should allow some sites to cut the number of staff at the work place.
“The crisis we are going through will be long, well after the peak of contagion, and its economic impact carries the risk of great severity,” the note said.
“We should be prepared.”
“The measures taken should allow us to retain a minimal activity while protecting those who go to work, to allow us to restart under better conditions when the time comes,” the note said. Patience, courage and a sense of responsibility were needed.
The March 27 staff note follows the March 22 and 23 notes concerning the virus.
Dassault has seven factories and two offices around the country, with the St Cloud site housing the headquarters and design office. The Istre office is next to the air force flight test center and houses spares and services the aircraft.
Marignane, near Bordeaux in southwest France, is the main factory, where the Rafale and Falcon business jet are built.
Dassault closed production sites March 18. All but essential office workers were ordered to work from home from March 22 in the wake of the national lock down.
That national quarantine has been extended to April 15 since coming into force midday March 17.
Dassault’s share price was down 3.9 percent at €714.50 ($788.1) in afternoon trading, while the French CAC-40 share index was down 0.36 percent in a highly unsettled market. The stock index has fallen 28 percent since the start of the year.
Some 2,606 deaths in hospitals from Covid-19 have been registered, with 292 dying over the weekend, afternoon daily Le Monde reported March 30. There are also deaths in retirement homes but these are not included in the official figures.
Some 40,174 French virus cases have been registered, compared to 37,575 on Saturday, with 19,354 patients admitted to hospital.
Patients severely hit by the virus have been transported by high speed train, coaches, NH90 troop transport helicopter, A400M airlifter and a helicopter carrier.