The death of Claude Neuschwander, the former boss of Lip who had made “vow of militancy alongside those who are bullied”

Claude Neuschwander, in Paris, on June 8, 1974, on the steps of the train rented by Lip to exhibit and sell his watches throughout France.

He did not hesitate to propose bringing before an international tribunal those responsible for the crises that had endangered the economy, judging that “speculators are guilty of crimes against humanity”. Left-wing boss, deeply Christian, Claude Neuschwander, who had embodied the fight of Lip watchmakers in the 1970s, died Monday, August 28, in Montpellier, at the age of 89.

Born November 30, 1933 in Paris, into a bourgeois and Catholic family, Claude Neuschwander spent his childhood in Villiers-le-Bel (Val-d’Oise), with an interruption during the exodus, where he took refuge in Rodez, and did his schooling in religious establishments and then at Lycée Condorcet in Paris. Involved in the Christian Student Youth, where he “vow of militancy alongside those who are bullied”, he participated in the work of the left-wing club Jean-Moulin. In 1956, he ped the entrance examination for the Central School of Arts and Manufactures and obtained his engineering degree in 1959.

During his military service, from September 1959 to September 1961, Claude Neuschwander served in Algeria during a war he disliked. Ill, he was repatriated to a hospital in Versailles. He began his professional life at Publicis in 1961 and joined the CFTC, working actively for its deconfessionalization, which would lead, in 1964, to the birth of the CFDT. There he held various positions in sales management, organizing several advertising campaigns for the watch company Lip.

In December 1973, the Minister of Industry, Jean Charbonnel, charged him with a mission to study the conditions for relaunching Lip, which had filed for bankruptcy, with hundreds of redundancies as a result. Led by the CFDT headed by Charles Piaget, supported by the Bishop of Besançon, Mgr Marc Lallier, and by the Unified Socialist Party (PSU), the workers revolted, seized a stock of 25,000 watches and occupied the company, which they ran in self-management with the slogan “We manufacture, we sell, we pay ourselves”.

In January 1974, Claude Neuschwander, number two at Publicis, formerly of the UNEF student union and the PSU, accepted, with the support of Michel Rocard and Antoine Riboud (CEO of BSN), to be appointed CEO of the European Company of watchmaking, which took over Lip. “The Lips wanted a boss. I was the one, listening to them, with them, negotiating, involving them in the decision, but without cl collaboration., he will say. He who proclaims his refusal to fall into“money addiction” and who promised his father never to earn more than ten times the minimum wage, rehires more than 800 workers. He gains the trust of the Lips, who return the stock of watches they had stolen. He pleads, in vain, for a capital increase.

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