UNION PROTESTS CUTS IN YSL, MENDES JOBS

Byline: Sarah Raper

PARIS — Union representatives for workers at Yves Saint Laurent and its manufacturing arm, Mendes, lashed out Friday against the new management’s plans to restructure the company and slash jobs.
“Gucci became the majority owner of Yves Saint Laurent Couture and Mendes. Salaried employees are suffering the consequences of these changes,” the CGT union representatives said in a statement.
As reported, YSL president Mark Lee presented the company’s restructuring proposal — including plans to cut 310 jobs, 104 at Saint Laurent and 206 at Mendes — to workers’ representatives on April 18.
The company aims to cut licensing and adopt a vertically integrated business strategy at the house, similar to the one at Gucci. The plan includes discontinuing the Variations ready-to-wear diffusion line. Under French labor law, workers’ representatives have a consultative period and then must formally respond to the proposal. Their response is expected by early June.
The workers’ representatives representing the personnel of YSL and its affiliated companies “have decided to act together to restore the 310 announced job cuts,” Friday’s statement said.
Already, some procedures are not being followed, the union claims.
“Certain actions and the transfer of employees from one office to another and from one company to another have been taken without respecting legal procedures,” the statement said.
Jean-Claude Lefrancois, the general secretary of the YSL workers’ committee, said for example that YSL management had already transferred half of the Variations studio to other jobs, in violation of laws that require the overall restructuring plan to be approved by the workers before changes are made.
Lee declined to comment.
The unions also complained that Pierre Berge, co-founder of Yves Saint Laurent with the designer, who continues to own and run the couture business, had not communicated with them.
“He is like a father figure to everybody and people are surprised that he hasn’t at least contacted the workers’ committee to say that he’s sorry for all that is happening,” Lefrancois said.
Berge was traveling and could not be reached for comment.
The unions also expressed concern about Yves Saint Laurent Parfums, which has not formally announced restructuring measures. However, Lefrancois said that some early retirement proposals apparently had already been extended and there are also rumors about further restructuring in the works.
YSL Beaute president Chantal Roos declined to comment.
Lefrancois said there was one positive development: Following an April meeting that brought together YSL workers’ representatives with those from Gucci and was initiated by the Gucci human-resources department, a second joint working session has been scheduled for May 25 and 26 in Brussels.