FRANCE

Business going bust? Lend out your labour

Some employees who have had their hours slashed in an attempt to avoid layoffs have received a tempting new offer from their companies: the option of working for another firm while waiting for business to get better. Read more

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Some employees who have had their hours slashed in an attempt to avoid layoffs have received a tempting new offer from their companies: the option of working in another firm while waiting for business to get better. Such an exchange has been launched in Ardèche, France, by Inoplast, an auto equipment manufacturer facing troubling times. Some 100 of its part-time workers have been sent to Irisbus, a similar company in a neighbouring city that is experiencing a resurgence. Could this be a new way to help mitigate the unemployment crisis?

Laurent Rey, a French a caster at Inoplast, will be joining the assembly line at Irisbus for the next four months.

I'm thrilled with the programme. I will find full-time work and have decent wages. Moreover, I am learning a new skill.

I am actually in the process of training, two days of theory and two weeks on the floor, to adapt to the needs of the company.

I was a caster, and soon I will be working on the assembly line for producing bus doors.

The Inoplast programme relies on volunteerism. Those employees most affected by being limited to part-time work have priority, in particular those who work nights and who have lost their overnight premiums, and those who reside in Anonnay, where Irisbus is located, and within 14 kilometres of Saint-Désirat, where Inoplast is based.

In fact, Irisbus has had to step up the pace on a large order and must deliver 100 buses to the RATP, France's public transport system, by the end of the year instead of in 2010. Thus Irisbus is actively seeking production workers.

For its part, business at Inoplast is fairly quiet at the moment. It's an exchange that benefits both businesses: Irisbus, which pays Inoplast for its labour, gets access to an experienced work force. And with its additional income, Inoplast is able to stay above water for a few more months without having to contemplate layoffs.

The only drawback of the system is for those part-time workers who used to fill these employment gaps -- and who have now been replaced by these newly mobile labourers.