Nestlé Waters will cut 171 jobs in the Vosges

Weighed down by the cessation of the marketing of its Vittel water in Germany, Nestlé Waters announced on Tuesday the elimination “by the end of the year” of 171 positions on its site in the Vosges, i.e. a quarter of the 721 jobs, ” very bad news for the territory”, according to the mayor of Vittel.

The project, announced to employees on Tuesday, “is both industrial, organizational and social” and aims to maintain the competitiveness of the site which produces Vittel, Hépar and Contrex waters, a spokeswoman for the group told AFP. a major provider of jobs locally but regularly criticized for its impact on the sector’s water reserves.

This reorganization “would lead to the reconfiguration of our production lines” at the Vittel-Contrexéville plant, where 721 people currently work, “with a net impact of 171 job cuts by the end of the year”, she added.

With this social plan, the workforce should fall to 550, a historically low level. According to a former union representative, 2,100 employees were still working at the factory in 2005. “Since then, between modernization of production and lower volumes produced, it has not stopped falling,” he said.

– Withdrawal from Germany –

According to the spokesperson for Nestlé Waters, this reorganization project “is essentially motivated by the decision taken in 2022 to stop the marketing of Vittel in Germany”, after the non-renewal of its contracts with the distributor Lidl, which led to “a significant decrease in the volumes produced” in the Vosges.

Another difficulty facing the ore carrier: “the climatic conditions”, which affect the operating conditions of the waters of certain boreholes, she continued.

At the beginning of May, Nestlé Waters announced, for reasons related to climatic hazards, the sine die suspension of two of the six boreholes taking water marketed under the Hépar brand, known for its high magnesium content.

This suspension leads to a 60% drop in Hépar water production, according to a company expert. This could represent a significant shortfall for the group, this brand being “two to three times more profitable” than other locally produced waters, according to the same source.

Added to the cessation of sales across the Rhine, this suspension mechanically “amplified a little more the drop in volumes produced on the site”, explained the spokesperson.

– “Minimize the impact” –

This announcement “is very bad news for the territory and for Vittel in the broad sense of the term”, reacted to AFP Franck Perry, the LR mayor of Vittel, evoking “a knife blow (…) to the attractiveness of our territory”.

According to the Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCI) of the Vosges, Nestlé Waters represents “nearly 25% of industrial employment in the western Vosges living area”. “The mineral water sector is 2.5 indirect jobs for 1 direct job, so this announcement will have a huge impact on the economic fabric”, analyzed Sylvain Jacobee, director general of the CCI.

“We are aware of our major role (…) in the region. We will continue to get involved in the economic and social fabric, in collaboration with the local authorities to minimize the impact on the employment area”, said the company, referring to a “revitalization program” of which it did not immediately give details.

Franck Perry also pointed to the report published in July 2021 of the parliamentary inquiry, chaired by LFI MP Mathilde Panot, on “the seizure of water resources by private interests and its consequences”, which mentions in particular the bottling activity in the Vosges.

“A policy of undermining”, he considered, which according to him “spread in Germany” and caused Vittel water sales to fall there.

In a press release, Collectif Eau 88 considered that the announcement of the multinational was “the consequence of the maintenance for 30 years, with the assistance of the State and elected officials, of an unacceptable overexploitation of the deep aquifer leading to its progressive exhaustion”, a practice “condemned today by many consumers”.

Nestlé Waters draws part of its water resources from the Lower Triassic sandstone aquifer (GTI), classified as “poor quantitative status”, and for which the establishment of a management policy has been under study since 2009. .

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