The autumn mist came to La Chapelle-Saint-Mesmin, on the outskirts of Orléans (Loiret). The clouds merge with the last fumes emitted by the furnaces of the Duralex factory still in activity. It will be put on hold for a period of five months from 1er november.
Like the industry as a whole, the glassmaker has to deal with soaring energy prices. “Electricity bills have increased to almost half of our turnover today, i.e. almost 13 million euros”, evaluates José Luis Llacuna, CEO of La Maison française du verre, which includes Duralex and Pyrex. “At the current price per megawatt hour, which can reach €1,400, it would have been an economic aberration to continue producing. »
The announcement of the interruption of production made ” a little scared ” to Sonia Ferreira, an employee for three years in the packaging unit. However, his concern quickly dissipated. “We realized that the company would not let its employees down. And we have a lot of stock, which gives us what to see coming ”.
Most of the salary maintained
At Duralex, the representative unions, the CGT and FO, have concluded a long-term partial unemployment agreement with management for the 250 employees. “with maintenance of the salary at 95% on the basis of a 50% presence in the factory”, explains Laurent, an employee for eight years and who works in the offices. “During this period, we will not remain inactive. The time available will be used for training and upgrading. » During these five months, 72% of net wages will be paid by the State, which is the share provided for by the labor code.
This mothballing – unprecedented in the history of the factory founded in 1927 – was, according to Laurent, “inevitable in view of the cost of energy, so high that it would have eaten up even more than our profits”. Her mind is already set on next spring. Convinced that the factory will return to normal life from the 1er April, however, he wondered about the conditions for restarting the furnaces. “We are a bit in the unknown. It’s a first. If there were to be a little apprehension, it would be to know how the oven will react when it has been stopped for several months. »
Electricity at a fair price at 2e quarter 2023
Even the temporary workers seem to adapt to the situation. In post for a year in the maintenance department, Mehdi shows no sign of anxiety. “At the moment there is no lack of work anywhere, he observes. Duralex will call me back when needed. I will gladly come back if I am available because I feel good here. »
Employees are also comforted by information: Duralex has reached an agreement with its suppliers for the purchase of electricity in the second and third quarters of 2023 “at reasonable prices”, according to entrepreneur José Luis Llacuna.
This energy crisis hit the company at a time when the order book was growing and the company was in full recovery. Turnover exceeded 23 million euros last year, with an increase for 2022 estimated at 40%.
“Huge support from our customers”
“Since the day we alerted the press to the fact that we could no longer support our energy costs, we have had enormous support from our customers in France and Spain in particular, which I did not expect, testifies José Luis Llacuna. There is like a lasting protection movement. We are very touched, but very unhappy with these circumstances,” sighs the leader, who however expects state aid “in the form of a subsidized loan”.
Duralex is an old phoenix accustomed to rising from the ashes. Since the sale by Saint-Gobain in 1997, the company has experienced many ups and downs, which it has been able to overcome. In January 2021, International Cookware (which became La Maison française du verre in 2022), owner of Pyrex, saved the company, then placed in receivership, by injecting capital to the tune of 17.4 million euros over the period. 2021-2024. They made it possible to maintain 246 jobs out of 248. All intend to be there in the spring to see production restart.
An “electricity shock absorber” for companies
On October 27, the government announced the establishment of an “electricity buffer” to help companies and local authorities cope with the increase in the cost of energy.
The State will bear part of the electricity bill of small businesses that do not benefit from the tariff shield.
The envelope provided for this device is 12 billion euros. They will be financed, for 7 billion, by the European tax on the excess profits of energy companies, as well as by an envelope which had already been provisioned.