At the Forges de Tarbes, the concerns of employees do not subside

The thirty permanent employees at Forges de Tarbes symbolically walked off the job for a few hours on Thursday September 7, gathering in front of the company. Vestige of the flagship of the French arms industry that was once the Arsenal district in the Hautes-Pyrénées prefecture, it is the only site in France to machine hollow bodies of caliber 155 mm LU211, these warheads which, once armed by Nexter in the Cher, become the shells fired by the Caesar cannons in the Ukraine.

From restructuring to legal reorganization, the site has come close to closure several times, changing hands four times in the last five years. When, in 2021, Europlasma, a company specializing in the treatment and recovery of hazardous waste, takes over the helm, it aims to diversify the site’s activity. Until, at the beginning of 2022, the war in Ukraine and Emmanuel Macron’s speeches on France’s entry into “a war economy” restore a role to play, and ambitions, to the small French shell production factory.

But while for months, Europlasma has not stopped promising investments and new orders, employees consider that the materialization has not followed. “ When we read in the press announcements of huge volumes for 2024 and millions of euros of investment while our daily life is rowing to repair the machines, we have the impression that we are being laughed at! We experience it as a wound”summarizes Josiane Frétier, new union representative (CGT) of Forges de Tarbes.

Untenable goals

At the beginning of September, the CEO of Europlasma, Jérôme Garnache-Creuillot, repeats World its objectives of very rapid increase in production capacities, to go from 2,500 pieces per month at the start of 2023 to 10,000 per month during 2024 and to 14,000 in 2025.

It also highlights the obtaining, during the summer, of 7.1 million euros in repayable advances from the State for investment expenditure, for which the arms industries are eligible, and maintains a global plan of 12 to 15 million euros of investment. Since our visit in May, ten employees have been recruited to go from thirty-eight (twenty-eight permanent contracts and ten temporary workers) to forty-eight (thirty-one permanent contracts and seventeen temporary workers). And the book was filled with new orders, with “60,000 blanks destined for France in 2024 and a development and manufacturing agreement of 120,000 per year for three years for abroad”.

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