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Moulinex is a French brand of small electrical appliances and kitchen equipment owned by Groupe SEB. Moulinex was originally established in 1937 by French inventor Jean Mantelet. At the beginning of September 2001, Moulinex declared bankruptcy.
In August 2000, Brandt merged with Moulinex, and Pierre Blayau left the enterprise.
On 14 November 2001 thousands demonstrated against the closures of Moulinex factories in Caen, Normandy’s largest town. Tyres were piled up in front of official buildings and set on fire and police cars pelted with rotten eggs. Workers begun tearing up their voting cards, to symbolise that they felt “let down” by the political parties and that they would not vote again. Without an independent political strategy to take forward their cause, however, the workers’ opposition only led to frustration. At one factory threatened with closure in Cormelles-le-Royal near Caen, barrels of explosive substances were placed around the building and threats were made to blow them up.
On 23 November 2001, thousands of Moulinex employees heard that they had been laid off. This followed two and a half months of protests, demonstrations, and other dramatic actions intended to retain their jobs. At the time Moulinex employed nearly 9,000 workers in France and abroad. While most of the Moulinex factories producing irons, microwave ovens, pressure cookers, etc... were based in Normandy and other parts of Northern France, the company also had subsidiary factories located in China, Mexico and Brazil.
The weeks following Moulinex's declaration of bankruptcy saw a conflict between workers intent on saving their jobs in areas already hit by de-industrialisation on the one side, and major banks, rival industrialists, political parties, the government sponsored mediation office and the courts, on the other. The banks and some rival companies were keen to get their hands on the remnants of Moulinex, whilst the others endeavoured to help them, especially by ensuring a minimum of opposition from the workers.
The trade unions played an essential role in enabling the breakup of Moulinex. After the company had announced it was bankrupt there was considerable unrest among the workforce. The unions organised blockades at several plants in the Normandy area, but essentially sought to prevent the spread of industrial action, while management, the company’s creditors and the French state went looking for suitable new owners. The two finally selected were Groupe SEB and the finance company Fidei, known for its involvement in the buy-out of the bankrupt AOM airline earlier that year, which also ended up with massive job losses.
Groupe SEB, the main French producer of large household appliances, eventually took over what was left of Moulinex, considerably increasing its own size and prospects on the world market and subsequently closing down four factories in Normandy resulting in substantial layoffs.
Today Moulinex remains in the hands of Groupe SEB.
Moulinex was the company that originally designed the Mouli grater.
- Hancké, Bob. Large Firms and Institutional Change: Industrial Renewal and Economic Restructuring in France. Oxford University Press, 2002.
- Magloire, Franck. Ouvrière. Editions de l'Aube, 2002.
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