After a four-month strike, Dassault employees also benefit from the “Rafale effect”

At Dassault we are used to emphasizing that “aviation is cyclical” and that it is better to work with two (growth) engines: one civil and one military. “Generally, when one is worse off, the other takes over,” confirms Anthony Dupuy, CGT union representative at Dassault’s Mérignac site.

Quite a rarity, the order books for the industry’s two flagships, the Falcon business jet and the Rafale fighter jet, are both currently full. The Rafale in particular has had a string of commercial successes with more than 290 aircraft ordered from eight countries abroad over the past six years.

Recent commercial successes included Dassault selling six more Rafales to Greece last March, following an initial agreement for eighteen aircraft (twelve used and six new) signed in 2021. In February, the aircraft manufacturer signed a historic contract with Indonesia 42 Raffales. France, for its part, ordered twelve additional aircraft, specifically to compensate for the twelve taken from the French Army’s contingent in favor of Greece.

“The employees felt offended”

While the device’s hunting list continued to fill up, “and the staff were never weakened, even during the pandemic when there were no delivery delays,” the unionist points out, “the NAOs [négociations annuelles obligatoires] resulted in an increase of 0% in 2020 and 0.5% in 2021, finally setting the powder on fire. “The staff felt offended. »

In December, an “unprecedented” social conflict over wage increases erupted at Dassault’s nine sites in France. Followed by 70% of workers, “just the fellows who produce”, this movement led last Friday to a “historic” agreement signed by the three unions CGT, CFDT and FO. In particular, it provides for a minimum increase of 140 euros gross per month (107 euros net), indexed by seniority, over 13 months of non-managerial base salary or 1,820 euros per year.

Blocking devices leaving the factory

“We still have a little bit of a bitter aftertaste for asking 200 euros gross of revaluation, but it’s a real victory for the staff, we’ve never made so much progress in a single conflict,” said Anthony Dupuy happily. Around 500 of the 2,600 employees at the Mérignac and Martignas sites will benefit from these upgrades.

Between go-slows to “slow down production” and the ban on equipment leaving the factory, the Mérignac site has been at the heart of the conflict. “This is where we receive the aircraft parts that arrive from Martignas, Argenteuil, Biarritz to carry out the final assembly of the aircraft,” summarizes Anthony Dupuy. The factory is glued to the airport runways, the planes leave the production lines and then fly straight to a test flight before being received by the customer, as is currently the case with Qatar and Greece in relation to the Rafale.

At a rate of two Rafales per month

That strike had seen the production rate drop to 1.5 Rafales a month, while the factory had increased to two a month since 2021 to satisfy a “full order book for the next fifteen years”. At the Mérignac site, 100 additional employees are to be hired to continue the ramp-up. It is planned that all the aircraft will be manufactured in France, “although certain contracts, notably with India, will subcontract certain parts of the aircraft,” specifies Anthony Dupuy. The Mérignac site also trains certain foreign pilots before they take control of the aircraft.

It was still necessary to wait until 2015 before the combat aircraft experienced initial export successes with Egypt (24 aircraft), Qatar (36) and in the following year India (36). Having lost the Rafale tenders in Switzerland and Finland, where the American F-35 was preferred, the aircraft manufacturer soon wants to see several interested parties, particularly again with India.

Dassault is currently manufacturing the F-4 version, the new standard of the Rafale, worth around 100 million euros. The 10-ton aircraft is the only one capable of carrying 1.5 times its weight in weapons and fuel. Thanks to composite materials, it is considered “discrete” with a low radar signature, can fly at Mach 1.8 (2,200 km/h) and take off over 400 meters, with a high-altitude range of 1,850 km.

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