What’s It Like To Work In A French Car Factory?

Illustration for article titled What’s It Like To Work In A French Car Factory?

Today we heard an American tractor tire CEO say that French factory workers only do 3 hours of labor a day. An intern at a French car plant piped up for a rebuttal.


Our information comes from reader BATC42, apparently interning at a place we can only dream of working, Renault’s Alpine factory in Dieppe where they build the very lustworthy Clio RS.

I'm currently doing an internship at a Renault's factory where they are currently building the new Clio RS. That's how my day goes :

  • 7am-8:45am : work
  • 8:45am-9am : pause
  • 9am-12:15am : work
  • 12:15am-1pm : lunch time
  • 1pm-3:24pm : work, but for now since it's the start of the production and we need lots of cars we work till 4:12pm

So that's usually 7 hours and 24 minutes a day from monday to friday so we work a little more than 35 hours a week so we get a day off every two weeks. Currently with the new Clio RS being put into production we work for 48 minutes more each day, and those 48 minutes are being paid to each worker (not me though :) )

Thing is we are "often on strike" since our unions are not globalised, I mean we don't have a union for all the workers that work for a car maker, instead we have different global unions (CGT, FO, ...) which are represented by individuals union (one for Amien's Goodyear factory for example, another one for that factory, ...).

 TheDailyTurismo also claims to have worked in the land of wine and Renaults, for a "tier I automotive supplier...got to engineer parts for everything...from the worlds largest moving vehicle (CAT 797 high altitude mining truck) to 2014 Ferrari F1 bits."

As someone who until last year worked for a global 'US based' company and directly managed a small team of engineers/technicians in rural France, I can say there is some truth to his statement, but its not 100% fair.  The standard work week in France is 35 hours - and officially they have 1/2 days on Friday, but this usually turns into overtime for 4 hours.  They do get an hour lunch break in which it is not uncommon to have a glass of wine and go for a short walk.  They also take breaks, many of them would pile into these little clear-walled gas-chambers inside the plant to smoke a cigarette...however, in the automotive part plant that I worked in quite frequently it was impossible to talk for 3 hours out of the day because it was so noisy and the union workers had assigned stations for 9-5 work, so I don't see how they could talk for 3 hours. 

The engineers are a different story and varied from folks who spent all day complaining about cheese to others who work from 8am-8pm and got a lot accomplished. 

believe the automotive executive's biggest complaint about the French workforce is that it is impossible to lay-off folks (assembly line, engineers, janitors etc) to match the frenzied 7-year high/lows of the automotive industry.  One example is that during the 2008 downturn approximately 25% of the staff (salaried and hourly) around the world was laid-off (including US, China, India, Mexico..etc) but the French unions stalled the talks process for years and to this day are still negotiating layoffs package from that 2008 economic contraction.  The end result is that no-one will ever get hired at the French plant as a full time employee and it will be starved in a slow war of attrition by the executives...

 Truth be told, we wouldn’t mind working in France, if only that it would mean we might be able to find a mechanic to work on the Citroën GS I’d invariably buy and daily drive. What about you?

 Photo Credit: Renault



Raphael - thanks for the COTD nod, and to clarify, I was working for a tier I automotive supplier.  Ahh, the good old days!  Got to engineer parts for everything... from the worlds largest moving vehicle (CAT 797 high altitude mining truck) to 2014 Ferrari F1 bits.