After four months of strike, Dassault employees will also benefit from the “Rafale effect”

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At Dassault, we are used to stressing that “aeronautics is cyclical”, and that it is better to operate with two engines (of growth): one civilian, the other military. “Generally, when one is less well, the other takes over,” confirms Anthony Dupuy, CGT union representative at the Dassault site in Mérignac.

Something quite rare, the order books of the two flagships of the industry, the Falcon business jet, and the Rafale fighter jet, are both full at the moment. The Rafale in particular has had a string of commercial successes with more than 290 aircraft ordered abroad over the past six years, from eight countries.

Among recent commercial successes, Dassault sold six additional Rafales to Greece last March, after an initial agreement for eighteen aircraft (twelve used and six new) signed in 2021. In February, it was with the Indonesia that the aircraft manufacturer signed a historic contract for 42 Rafales. France, for its part, ordered twelve additional aircraft, in particular to compensate for the twelve which were taken from the contingent of the French Army in favor of Greece.

“The employees felt aggrieved”

While the device’s hunting list continued to fill up, “and the employees never weakened, including during the pandemic when there was no delay in delivery”, underlines the trade unionist, ” the NAOs [négociations annuelles obligatoires] led to a 0% increase in 2020, and 0.5% in 2021, which finished setting fire to the powder. “The employees felt aggrieved. »

In December, an “unprecedented” social conflict broke out within the nine Dassault sites in France, relating to wage increases. Followed by 70% of employees, “only the companions 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 to seniority, over 13 months in the base salary of non-executive staff, or 1,820 euros per year.

Blocking devices when leaving the factory

“We still have a little bitter taste, because we were asking for 200 euros gross of revaluation, but it’s a real victory for the employees, we had never obtained so much progress on a single conflict” rejoices Anthony Dupuy. Some 500 employees, out of the 2,600 people at the Mérignac and Martignas sites, will benefit from these upgrades.

Between go-slows to “slow down production” and the blocking of devices leaving the factory, the Mérignac site found itself at the heart of the conflict. “It is here that we receive the sections of planes, which arrive from Martignas, Argenteuil, Biarritz, to carry out the final assembly of the aircraft” summarizes Anthony Dupuy. The factory being glued to the runways of the airport, the planes leaving the production lines then leave directly for a test flight, before reception by the customer, like Qatar and Greece at the moment with regard to the Rafale.

Towards a rate of two Rafales per month

This strike had caused the manufacturing rate to drop to 1.5 Rafale per month, while the factory had increased to two per month since 2021 to satisfy a “full order book for the next fifteen years. A hundred additional people are to be hired at the Mérignac site, in order to continue the ramp-up. It is planned that all the planes will be manufactured in France, “even if in certain contracts, in particular with India, certain parts of the planes will be subcontracted” specifies Anthony Dupuy. The Mérignac site also trains certain foreign pilots before they take control of the aircraft.

It will still have been necessary to wait until 2015 for the fighter plane to experience its first export successes with Egypt (24 planes), Qatar (36) then India the following year (36). If the Rafale lost calls for tenders in Switzerland and Finland where the American F-35 was preferred to it, the aircraft manufacturer intends to see several prospects materialize soon, in particular again with India.

Currently, Dassault manufactures 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 armaments and fuel. Considered “discreet” with a low radar signature thanks to composite materials, it 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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