Over­time for French cof­fin in­dus­try as virus deaths surge

Kuwait Times - - Busi­ness -

JUSSEY, France: It’s a grim truth that times are good for the cof­fin busi­ness when they’re bad for peo­ple, and the coro­n­avirus pan­demic is no ex­cep­tion. At a fac­tory be­long­ing to Europe’s largest cof­fin maker, OGF, in eastern France, work­ers are do­ing over­time to meet de­mand from fam­i­lies part­ing with their loved ones.

“Due to the epi­demic, we de­cided to man­u­fac­ture just four mod­els of coffins that are top sell­ers with fam­i­lies” com­pared to the 15 types usu­ally on of­fer, said fac­tory di­rec­tor Em­manuel Gar­ret.

The change “al­lowed us to op­ti­mize pro­duc­tion”, he added. Out­put has risen to 410 coffins per day, com­pared to 370 nor­mally. Work­ers are putting in nearly an ex­tra hour per day.

“Peo­ple have been fore­warned and are ready to come in and work on Satur­days,” said Di­dier Pi­d­ancet, who heads up the team that se­lects the wood for the coffins. France has been one of the coun­try’s worst hit by the coro­n­avirus. “We’re proud to be par­tic­i­pat­ing in this na­tional ef­fort, we’re do­ing our best to en­sure that vic­tims can have their final over­coat, as we say,” added Pi­d­ancet.

No short­ages

Founded in 1910, the fac­tory in the town of Jussey orig­i­nally pro­duced wood char­coal and floor­ing. At the out­set of World War II it be­gan to spe­cial­ize in mak­ing coffins. It is now part of the OGF Group, which has two fac­to­ries in­clud­ing the one at Jussey, and makes one in four coffins used in France.

The 10 hectare (25 acre) site is re­spon­si­ble for the en­tire process of pro­duc­ing coffins. It strips the logs, cuts then dries the wood, which is even­tu­ally crafted and as­sem­bled into coffins. The wood, mostly oak, comes from lo­cal forests. While tem­po­rar­ily cut­ting back on the num­ber of mod­els, the fac­tory has made an­other ad­just­ment: it has been mak­ing more larger coffins. “Or­ders for larger sizes are up a bit,” said Gar­ret, al­though he de­clined to draw a link to re­ports that COVID-19 mor­tal­ity rates are higher for over­weight peo­ple. While many man­u­fac­tur­ers have en­coun­tered prob­lems as lock­down re­stric­tions com­pli­cate de­liv­er­ies, the Jussey fac­tory is well stocked. “We’re OK, we have three months of stocks of wood, glue, nails and var­nish,” said Gar­ret.

‘Play our part’

Some of the fac­tory’s work­ers are no strangers to pre­vi­ous surges in deaths. “Dur­ing the 2003 heat­wave we in­creased pro­duc­tion to 500 cas­kets a day,” said David Theurez, a 30-year vet­eran at the site. The heat­wave, which claimed nearly 15,000 lives in France, was in some ways more dif­fi­cult for the fac­tory as they had no warn­ing and had to call work­ers back from va­ca­tion.

“But today, it’s a bit dif­fer­ent, you have to pro­tect your­self as well with masks and gloves,” said Theurez. “It’s a col­lec­tive cri­sis, we all have to make an ef­fort and play our part,” he added.

The fac­tory’s work­ers them­selves haven’t gone un­scathed: three have come down with COVID-19. Fif­teen oth­ers are at home, forced into iso­la­tion by ex­ist­ing se­ri­ous health is­sues, or be­cause they have to mind their chil­dren as school has been can­celled. Like many other French com­pa­nies, the fac­tory has had dif­fi­culty ob­tain­ing pro­tec­tive gear for all of its em­ploy­ees. It had a lo­cal seam­stress make masks for em­ploy­ees and work sta­tions are dis­in­fected reg­u­larly. The fac­tory’s di­rec­tor thinks that the rapid adop­tion of so­cial dis­tanc­ing measures and pro­tec­tive gear has helped them avoid more cases as eastern France has been hard hit with coro­n­avirus in­fec­tions. “Fingers crossed,” said Gar­ret.


JUSSEY, France: At a fac­tory be­long­ing to Europe’s largest cof­fin maker, OGF, in eastern France, work­ers are do­ing over­time to meet de­mand from fam­i­lies part­ing with their loved ones.

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