Sunday, April 27, 2008

Déboire de la globalisation*

* Globalization’s heartbreaks.

Couldn’t resist the pun: a “déboire” is a heartbreak, disappointment or difficulty; “boire” means to drink. One drinks from a glass, and a heartbreaking (among other adjectives) result of globalization is that the French drinking glass company, Duralex, is going under, glub glub. Created in 1939, this handy little tumbler (because it survives tumbles?) has served generations in school- and employer-run cafeterias (yes, French employers must provide either a company cafeteria, a sufficiently equipped space to allow employees to eat on site, or a lunch allowance as part of their pay), and is widely used in homes (we have several) and retro-chic cafés. How can such a sturdy and ubiquitous product, with an equally sturdy global reputation, go belly up? According to the workers’ union rep, the company’s Turkish owner and principal customer has mismanaged the company, which is otherwise viable, by buying glasses at below-market rate for his Turkish dishware companies. Result: Duralex has been in judicial recovery since 2005, one of its factories was closed in 2007 for economic reasons (putting 103 people out of work), and the second factory (240 employees) is now facing the same fate—unless someone can come up with at least €5 million ($7.5-8 million) towards the overall €22 million (at least $33 million) debt. The bankruptcy judge had, of course, asked the owner for this money, but he went home to Turkey.
I am not at all familiar with bankruptcy law or procedures that might allow for bringing this person to justice, so to speak (going bankrupt isn’t a crime, after all). Neither is the general public. And the press isn’t saying, which is rather typical of stories of factory closings here in France:
► Foreign owner closes down the “inefficient” or “expensive” French site, taking the work (and money) home; or
► French owner closes down the “inefficient” or “expensive” French site, taking the work (and money) elsewhere; and
► No one talks about what the solution might be, other than protectionism.
Paradoxically, while the government tries to keep factory closings quiet for obvious reasons, stories like Duralex’s get good coverage, stirring up anti-globalization sentiment with which this IntLawGrrl sympathizes when globalization leads to the enrichment of some and the impoverishment of others, leaving us feeling that the glass is only half full (photo credit)). I wonder, though, why this otherwise viable company was sold in the first place, and whether we shouldn’t be collectivizing rather than globalizing tout azimut.

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