The battle between Orange and its subcontractor Scopelec, opened after losing a major contract in November 2021, is moving before the judges. Thursday, March 31, as decided by Peace, the cooperative has obtained a precautionary measure from the Commercial Court of Paris, ordering the telecom operator to retain the contract without penalty, which caused controversy, until a hearing on controversial issues scheduled for April 8. Orange declined to comment. The market lost by Scopelec expired on the last day of March. A subsidiary of the cooperative has already filed a lawsuit with a request to maintain commercial relations with Orange, but on March 30, the commercial court of Lyon declared itself incompetent.
“This decision is not a victory, but helps to balance the debate”, says a source close to Scopelec. For weeks, despite numerous meetings, including the last one held late Thursday afternoon under the auspices of the Interministerial Committee on Industrial Restructuring (CIRI), Scopelec and Orange failed to agree on a support plan that could enable the cooperative to overcome financial hardship caused by the loss of this historic contract.
Loss of 150 million euros per year
Without him, Scopelec would have had to live on 150 million euros less per year, or 40% less turnover. On March 17, the company received its placement in a security procedure to take cover. But France’s oldest co-operative society, founded in 1973, fears forced liquidation if Orange doesn’t help it fund severance pay for technicians hit by a loss of turnover. More than 1,000 employees will be affected. The total cost of a possible social plan is estimated to be around fifty million euros, according to a source familiar with the matter.
Orange sees no legal basis that would justify such financial assistance. The operator, on the other hand, states that it is ready to make up some of the lost market by awarding “temporary additional volumes”. The telecommunications group also claims to have received “acceptable contractual base with the renewal of seniority and the preservation of wage conditions” for technicians to be handed over to subcontractors who won the contract.
Scopelec is not the only subcontractor affected by Orange’s contract renegotiation. Sogetrel also lost markets in the east and west of France. At Loire-Atlantique, for example, 149 employees were affected by the loss of a contract, 50 of whom will go to Circet, the competing subcontractor that won the contract. And the rest, if they refuse the proposed item on mobility to other regional agencies of Saugetrel, will be fired. “We dispute that this clause could be activated for loss of contract and we are requesting a global transfer agreement to other local subcontractors.”says Sylvain Lamblot, CGT Secretary for Posts and Telecommunications, Loire-Atlantique.
More broadly, these files raise the question of the organization of the telecommunications infrastructure sector. Its very strong growth, thanks to the deployment of fiber optics, has resulted in various categories of subcontractors and unreliable technicians with significant recourse to auto entrepreneurs. At Scopelec and Sogetrel, in order to adjust to the loss of contracts with Orange, many hired technicians have already resigned to get this status, hoping to be able to work for new service providers.