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Michelin Workers Protest Layoffs

September 21, 1999

CLERMONT-FERRAND, France (AP) _ More than 1,000 Michelin workers and union activists rallied outside the tire giant’s headquarters Tuesday to protest a plan to cut 7,500 jobs despite higher profits.

``The shareholders are making huge profits, but we’re about to lose our jobs,″ said Gilles Bremond, 39, who has worked making truck tires for 20 years. ``It used to be families here. Now it’s everyone for themselves.″

Michelin, based in this central French city, announced Sept. 8 that it would cut 7,500 jobs over the next three years, reducing the company’s European work force by about 10 percent. The company said it also aims to increase productivity by at least 20 percent.

To cheers from the crowd, a Michelin worker removed a street sign on Avenue Edouard Michelin, replacing it with a sign marked ``Avenue of Full Employment.″

Crowds of older, retired Michelin workers stood on the sidelines and shook their heads.

``It’s a tragedy for Clermont-Ferrand,″ said Jean Bonaldi, a 73-year-old retiree who started working at Michelin in 1946.

The crowd made its way from headquarters to city hall and on to the residence of Edouard Michelin, who recently took over as chairman of the family-run group.

Michelin has defended his plan in the media, saying job cuts are necessary if the company is to compete with its rivals.

The decision to cut jobs drew widespread criticism in the government, with Prime Minister Lionel Jospin saying he was shocked the company would lay off workers while making increased profits.

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