ReportageFragments of France | The luxury shoe maker cannot replace retiring employees. Its only production site, in Haute-Vienne, employs 140 artisans, in trades known to be demanding and low-paying.
It is four o’clock. The siren of debauchery sounded. The 140 artisans of the JM Weston shoe factory, located in Limoges, turned off their machines, swept under their worktable, put their blouses in the cloakroom and walked into the car park. Michael Frangne is still at his post. He sanded the edges of the soles and heels of riding boots. Every day, every other week, he works an extra hour. “Because I have no one to mill”, explains this sector manager.
If he doesn’t, “The colleagues will not have pairs to follow behind, tomorrow”, he specifies. The milling machine position has been vacant since the spring. Monday, September 13, a temporary worker presented himself for a replacement mission. “At the end of the day, he looked happy”, remembers Mr. Frangne. But, the next day, he didn’t “Rembauché” and “Warned the RH [les responsables des ressources humaines] » that he wouldn’t come back because his tasks “Required too much precision”, he said, sighing. Mr. Frangne says ” do not understand ” and regret that this temp did not talk to him about it ” opposite “, because’“He would have caught up with him for another post.”
The luxury shoe brand is facing a hiring problem at its only production site, located since 1989 in the industrial zone north of Limoges. Staff are aging. “45% of artisans have more than twenty years of seniority”, observes Gaël Coeuret, the new director of the manufacture. The average age in the company is 48 years. In 2020, nine employees retired. This year, they will be twelve.
Weston, a subsidiary of the EPI group, owned by the Descours family, founder of the former André Group, anticipated these departures by training several of its leather workers, but this remains insufficient. Footwear specialists are missing. But making a pair of Weston shoes requires 150 to 200 steps and involves dozens of people.
Some positions require “Months, even years of training”, reports Mr. Coeuret. A mechanic should know “To keep a straight line on a path”, but also master “The rounds, the parallels”, details Micheline Mathé, head of the sewing workshop. And pricking a calf’s skin is no forgiveness. “We do not have the right to make mistakes”, since “In leather, a hole is a hole, unlike in textiles, where you can undo a seam and redo it”, notes Deborah Ballage, in office for almost five years. “You have to like the difficulty, the thoroughness”, adds her neighbor, Sylvie Pithon, 56 years old. During the business immersion weeks offered by Pôle emploi, only “Two out of ten candidates” pass the dexterity tests, remarks Mme Mathé. And the candidates are lacking.
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