France regularly appears at the top of worker productivity comparisons with other European economies. Yet companies with far-flung operations say output can lag behind lower-cost, more productive manufacturing sites, creating another incentive to shift production.
Bridgestone is shuttering its 863-employee factory in Béthune, an industrial town in northern France, after warning for several years that its productivity trailed its other sites in Europe. Union representatives have accused the company of not investing enough to make the plant, which produces tires for small cars, more efficient.
Last year, Bridgestone proposed maintaining jobs at the highly unionized factory if employees agreed to increase their working shifts to 34.7 hours a week from 32 for an additional hour of pay. Unions responded angrily, and over 60 percent of employees rejected it.
This summer, Bridgestone said it would close the plant, citing overcapacity in the…