After the governance crisis, the social crisis at Soitec. Dissatisfied with their working conditions, employees are blocking production in France of the specialist in semiconductors and decided early Thursday afternoon to enter Friday in their seventh day of strike.
In concrete terms, the Soitec plant in Bernin, near Grenoble, has been virtually at a standstill since the beginning of the strike. Out of a workforce of 1,600, more than 350 operators, according to the CGT, have stopped work, starting with the weekend shift last Friday evening. “We have the support of many engineers in the offices who participate in our solidarity fund,” says Fabrice Lallement, the CGT delegate, who is taking the strikers’ demands to the management.
A strike against the pace of work
Contacted, the management of Soitec did not wish to express itself and indicates to privilege the dialogue with the social partners. The company is in the middle of a transition at the top, while Paul Boudre – the man who revived the French tech miracle with the support of the State – is to give up his place this summer to Pierre Barnabé, a former employee of Atos. The announcement of this change, followed by a rebellion of the executive committee, had strongly shaken the stock price of the group last January.
Just as a year ago, when some employees walked off the job for an hour at the beginning and end of the shift for a week, the strikers are protesting against the increasingly fast pace of work demanded by the management. While the order books are overflowing, they say they can no longer keep up.
In 2021, Soitec posted record sales, up 50% to €863 million. And the coming years look just as full of business: two factory expansion projects have been signed, one in Bernin, the other in Singapore.
But this prospect does not immediately appease the employees. “The objectives are increasing so fast that there is a problem of inadequacy with the reality of the field,” continues the unionist. It is true that Soitec has hired, but the striking employees complain that they do not have the time to train the new recruits to be fully effective.
The problem has increased recently, after the arson against the power lines which supply the Bernin plant. The fire had already stopped and then slowed production for several days in April. “Soitec had indicated that the power outage would not impact its results, but the strike will make it even more difficult to make up for lost revenue, a task that is already difficult given the saturation of capacity at Bernin,” said a financial analyst.
In their demands, the strikers are also addressing the subject of remuneration. The theme is sensitive at Soitec while the free shares granted to executives had already caused the anger of the CGT in 2019. Despite a wage agreement that provides for average increases of more than 7% for the lowest paid operators – close to the minimum wage -, an increase of a few dozen euros in their target bonus and an increase in their profit-sharing bonus, the mobilized employees are demanding a more equitable employee share plan. And payment for the days of mobilization.