From Volume 6, Issue 31 of EIR Online, Published July 31, 2007

World Economic News

'New Managerial Methods' Sparks Wave of Suicides

PARIS, July 27 (EIRNS)—For some months, a wave of suicides has swept industrial plants belonging to Renault, Peugeot, and Electricité de France (EDF), where "new managerial methods" were introduced to increase profits at the expense of employees' sanity. At Renault Technocentre of Guyancourt, the research center where the brightest minds design new models, three people committed suicide in the last four months, with five suicides over three years. Working conditions are being exposed as outrageous due to the insane goals set by Renault CEO Carlos Ghosn, for 26 new models by 2009. Technicians and engineers are working overtime, often throughout the weekends, and hardly see their families. Added to that, the company has imposed personal productivity targets, instead of team targets, which are difficult to meet and maintain; if not met, the worker is disqualified from the prospect of promotion. Add further the disappearance of teamwork—hence social life in the workplace and social problem-solving in technology—and the fact that workers have no assigned office, but are instead rotating from one office to another.

With some differences, the same is true for the Peugeot site at Mulhouse, where six people have committed suicide since the beginning of 2007, and at the EDF nuclear site in Chinon, where a couple of cases have been reported. In some instances, the people who have committed suicide left a letter (and in one case a CD), directly attributing their suicidal despair to working conditions.

Rosatom Head Interviewed on Atomic Energy in Russia

July 28 (EIRNS)—Sergei Kiriyenko, head of the Russian Federal atomic energy agency (Rosatom), gave an unusual interview to editor-in-chief Alexander Prokhanov of the influential nationalist weekly Zavtra, in which he explained how running Rosatom at the point of its government-mandated revitalization had changed his thinking about the market economy, and Russia's future. Zavtra published the dialogue July 18 under the headline "Russia: The Atomic Vector." It sheds light on some of what is behind the recent sharp rise in both capital investment and industrial output, reported in Russia this year.

Kiriyenko, then in his 30s, was Prime Minister of Russia at the moment of the country's catastrophic state debt collapse in 1998. "I always had liberal economic views," he told Prokhanov, "But here, thinking about the [nuclear power] sector, I caught myself coming to conclusions that were different from what I had believed before. Had my basic postulates changed? No. I continue to believe that competition is the best way to identify who is the strongest. I am still convinced that freedom of will, freedom of choice, and freedom of action are a necessary condition for development, allowing an energetic person to achieve the best results." And yet, he said, "Getting to know the nuclear power sector was a revelation. This strictest of the Soviet Union's planned systems, the closed atomic energy sector, incorporated competition throughout. And I stopped thinking that market and planned management are incompatible. You can have a balance. Everything depends on what your goal is."

Kiriyenko provided an overview of the revival of Russia's nuclear industry, which he calls "Nuclear Project-2" (#1 was the Soviet atomic bomb project). This year, Russia has five nuclear power units already, or about to be, under construction: The second unit at Volgodonsk, and the fourth at the Kalinin plant are being built. The foundation has been laid for a unit at Novovoronezh, and work will begin at Leningrad-2 and the Beloyarsk breeder reactor this Autumn.

Kiriyenko said that Russia's nuclear power export projects—two plants, each, under construction in China and India, and the one in Iran—had been critical to keeping the sector's machine-building and human resources from decaying and dissipating due to idleness. In addition, he said, innovative thinking by the partners on those projects, especially in India, helped prevent stale thinking from setting in for the older engineers. Kiriyenko said that 12 other overseas reactor projects are currently in negotiation, while French, Czech, and Korean machine-builders are important back-up suppliers of key power-generation technology.

Of special note is Kiriyenko's discussion of nuclear power for Russia's Far East and Far North. "There has never been a nuclear power plant in the Far East," he said, "but the development of that region requires one." There are plans to build a power plant there, in conjunction with an aluminum factory. "If we don't have consumers right away for all of the power, we can sell some of it in China," he added.

As for floating nuclear plants, "Today we are beginning to have demand for small and medium power units, especially in the North. There's natural gas, there's new manufacturing; we are going to be moving farther to the North." At the same time, the export market for Russian floating nuclear plants is large also in hot climates, where some smaller countries can use the floating plants for desalination of water, among other things.

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