A family affair
A business is most importantly the men and women who work there. This is particularly true at Saft, where careers are often long. Let's take the example of the Chasseneuil-du-Poitou factory in west central France.
Saft's long history is also the history of the men and women who have worked in the company and the Saft-Leclanché factory at Chasseneuil-du-Poitou provides a good example of this. The factory, which initially served as a slaughterhouse, then a meat processing plant, dates back to 1938. It was subsequently taken over by Fulmen for the manufacture of small electrical appliances and batteries, under the name of Leclanché, the inventor of the dry cell battery in 1868. Saft acquired the site and the Leclanché brand in 1952. In 1965, the factory was transferred to a nearby site in Poitiers. With close to 700 employees, it is one of the main production centres for the Group, and the region too.
In this rural region of central France, the Leclanché factory, and later the Saft factory – known to workers as "La Pile" (The Battery) – acted as a magnet for a large numbers of workers. In fact, some families became fixtures at La Pile, generation after generation.
My grandfather started working at La Pile in 1946, and my grandmother was a cleaner there. His brother, his son and his two sons-in-law worked there for their entire careers, as well as three or four nephews. Out of the grandchildren, three or four worked at the factory for a while, and two of us, including me, stayed at the factory for our whole careers.Philippe Fredon Technical engineer at the satellite unit in Poitiers
His grandfather, Pascal Gaborit, worked at Leclanché from 1946 to 1965. Pascal joined Leclanché on his return from the Second World War, during which he was imprisoned in the Krems region of Austria. On his return to Chasseneuil-du-Poitou, at the end of a very long journey, he started working at the Leclanché factory. “He used to start work very early in the morning, around 4 o'clock, to prepare the paste for the workers who started at 5, and he finished at 6 pm", recounts the family album – "Our grandfather's story" – produced by Pascal's family for his 100th birthday. He was also involved in the Sporting Club of Chasseneuil Leclanché, a football club that excelled in the amateur championships in 1954-1955. Several players in the club also worked at La Pile at some time.
Through this album, we get an idea of what the Chasseneuil-du-Poitou factory was like in the 1950s, when it employed nearly a thousand people and mainly produced saline batteries. There was a vegetable garden near the factory, which supplied the canteen, and not far from that was the football stadium.
Yves Gaborit, Philippe Fredon's uncle, also spent his whole career at La Pile, from 1953 to 1998. His son Christophe worked there for three years. "From 1946 to today, there has always been a member of the family at La Pile", he adds. All in all, eighteen members of this family worked at the factory, including ten who spent their entire careers there. Between the ages of 15 and 60, Yves saw all sorts of production lines and witnessed the entire history of the factory. From train batteries to pacemaker batteries, from traditional batteries to lithium batteries, and more.
While not all Saft employees have had such long careers with the company, many of them show a real attachment to it. Indeed, employees with 30 or 35 years of service are not unusual within the company.