French Wireless Chauvinism

There are few sights so magnifique as French chauvinism in full flight.

One French engineer is as good as ten Swedish engineers opines the French union UNSA –  “Les projects leaders mettent . . . .un ingénieur à Sophia ou au Mans, lorsqu’il en faut 10 à Lund.”

One can imagine a snooty Frenchie looking down his nose at a wretched Swede as he pronounces this verdict.


UNSA goes on to say that, in Sweden, the best engineers work at Ericsson, the less good work at Sony Ericsson and the even less good work at the former Ericsson Mobile Products (EMP) – “Les très bons vont chez Ericsson, les moins bons chez Sony-Ericsson et les encores moins bons chez EMP.”


“Even Sony-Ericsson had chosen not to select 3G platforms (and more) of EMP in favour of direct competitors such as Qualcomm,” comments UNSA.


UNSA has been bemoaning the state of ST-Ericsson the joint venture which combined  NXP’s wireless operation with the wireless activities of STMicroelectronics and Ericsson’s wireless activities contained in EMP.


UNSA puts the split leadership of ST-Ericsson – between Ericsson and STMicroelectronics – as the reason why ego problems and other disagreements stopped the three-way merger from working properly leading to a series of catastrophic dscisions – “une succession de décisions catastrophiques” – which have led to it piling up debt at a rate of $200 million a quarter – $700 million last year and another, possible $800 million this year.


An ST-E re-vamp, masterminded by the former cost-conscious CFO of STMicroelectronics, Carlo Ferro, is anticipated shortly. However UNSA wants to pre-empt a bloodbath.


“Is there really any other decision than to invest heavily to make up for past mistakes?” asks UNSA, adding “we have never seen a seriously injured champion return to the top level of international competition by deciding to cut off a leg! ST-Ericsson has a real chance of success if it is given the means.”


UNSA points out that it would be unwise to cut employment numbers when main rival Qualcomm has twice as many employees as ST-E.


UNSA looks at various alternatives – sale, partnership with the likes of TI, Nvidia, Apple, Intel, Broadcom or Samsung, an outright transfer of the jv to ST which would unify the leadership or massive further state investment.


UNSA declares that, despite the fact that the French government Euros 695 million in STMicroelectronics last year, it should be investing more this year to cope with the situation at ST-Ericsson.


Finally UNSA comments: “The employees of ST-Ericsson have become big fans of the cartoon character, Dilbert, which traces very well the absurdities they face every day.”



  1. I’ll say that to my colleegues who just learnt that they have lost their job.

  2. Incredible… The management team has been stupid enough to call this farce a “strategic announcement”!
    4 months to finalize such a non-event, Qualcomm and other competitors must be terrified…

  3. That wasn’t a plan, it was politics!

  4. Well it seemed a better plan than the one they did announce !!

  5. You’ve been hacking my phone again [anonymous]

  6. Leaked update :
    Geneva, April 23, 2012 – ST-Ericsson, a world leader in wireless platforms and semiconductors, will provide its strategic update on the afternoon (European Central Time) of April 23, 2012.
    The management of ST-Ericsson will conduct an analyst conference call on April 23,2012 at 06:00 pm Central European Time (CET) / 12:00 pm Eastern Daylight Time (EDT), to discuss the strategic update, followed by a Q&A session.
    During this call they will announce that Mr David Manners has been appointed as the new CEO of the company. Mr Manners will outline a forward looking strategy aimed to take ST-E back to world leadership in 4G mobile systems.
    We are led to understand that Mr Manners has already made his first appointment, someone who is known throughout the industry as ‘Ed’ but has always managed to keep his real name a secret. Ed’s task will be to rid the company of deadwood, a task for which he is uniquely qualified.
    We have deleted the list of four contacts to protect those operating in the public interest.

  7. Good luck tomorrow, French, hope all goes well.

  8. Hi,
    That was interesting, and probably true…
    As an STE employee, I’m not sure if I want to know the next plans too soon, but anytime will be too soon so let’s wait for tomorrow…

  9. Thank you, History lesson, you’re a good teacher. That was most interesting.

  10. When reading what the French union had to say about quality of Swedish engineers, it is interesting to reflect back a little about the history of the company. STN and EMP merged. STN needed more customers and were not so successful in the modem field. EMP desperately needed an AP platform, and was never able to get the JV with Ti that they wanted. Two companies merge. Three 3G modems are used in the different legacy platforms (two external 3rd party modems and one internal). Which modem survives? The two external 3G modems used by ST and NXP (Nokia/Renesas in U8500 and Comneon/Infineon in 67xx). As many others have pointed out, the modem is core design from scratch, involving a lot of own patents, IPs and engineering solutions. The AP side is based on licensed IP blocks (even Vanilla Cortex). None of the two companies (ST and NXP had succeeded in making their own modem, even if they tried). The 3G solution the French convinced the company to cancel was mature, had many many man years of field testing and considered the top stack in the US market at its time. So what happened? The legacy STN platforms using the Infineon modem failed miserably. Renesas bought the Nokia modem, and became a key competitor. Nokia, who specified U8500 decided not to launch on it. I am really curious why there never is any follow-up in French controlled companies? There seems to be this insane focus on just getting the revenue, but not considering cost of sale.. making margins (if any) minimal. If someone gives a forecast, decisions are based on this (even platforms, like the EMP legacy 3G, cancelled) and then when it all turns out to be just hot air.. nothing! No consequences. Promotions instead of sacking.
    Let’s see what Mr. Lamouche can do to save the company. His gameplan should be known soon.

  11. Magnificently logical, DS UNSA Sophia – the more comments there are, the less interest among the readers there is.

  12. Discussions about companies, technologies and employees are interesting.
    But I am not sure that topics about french unions with lot of steril remarks are interestings for the readers of this thread.
    PS : vincent don’t be serious, be UNSA! (joke)

  13. Yes that is true that the sentence is excessive. But polemic (as UNSA did) is often life-saving. For example…
    – Don’t forget that in addition of working unions, there are company unions. CGC is between both!
    – It is not for managers. Indeed, it is either for managers or for people expecting to become manager. LOL
    – To be sure to be promoted you must have a position in your organization for few years (DS, CE leader, CCE member, …). What is yours?
    – Did you ask to your CGC colleagues what was their position in the past ? I think that most of 2nd categories was 1st, and most of 3rd categories was 2nd. Open your eyes!
    – Do you know that one of the two leaders of your organization has been transfered from ST-Ericsson to STMicroelectronics at Grenoble whereas he had no job! LOL
    Let you be serious vincbilb : join CFDT or CGT.

  14. Thank you, vincbilb, appreciated.

  15. “CGC is not a real union (it is for managers). You have to join them if you want to be promoted.”
    and “CGT is the first union of Grenoble”.
    Just think about it…. All engineers in Grenoble should have joined the CGC, correct? Guess what, it’s not the case….
    UNSA communication is very efficient with a lot of effects and well reported by google.
    I just think this compagny will give good schoolcases reviews for the future “murphy law applied to strategy” courses: how to transform a brillant potential compagny to an empty basket with a terrible debt, by repeating strong failures from the top management, known by everyone, without actions during years, except some poor excuses.
    I don’t think this is due to the nationality of CEO’s but more to the long and hard fights at Senior Management level. It seems to be a “value” upper than the nationalities involved.
    By the way, I’m a member of the ST-ERICSSON CFE-CGC, representing people, not using my delegation time for that, same Job grade till 5 years, 2% of salary increase last year, 0 the year before.
    Mister David Manners, thanks you. I appreciate a lot your blogs

  16. I fully agreed in some of the comments above that French is well protected especially in Grenoble. Only non-french are affected and to be lay-off. Not believe me? Well, lets see news in this end Apr..

  17. STE and its predeseccors stopped being about products and engineering a long time ago. For engineers with a past experience from smaller and more agile companies it is blindingly obvious.
    As a compelling ‘proof’ I give the almost 7000 people working there and still they are barely able to churn out the, at least a year late, and bug riddled, mid-range U8500 ‘platform’.
    STE is all about ranking up in the hay grades in order to take care of its de facto primay focus, that is the cozy villa, payments of the huge loans, the 2.35 kids, volvos, and taking out 6 months maternial leaves while at the same time carefully handling the coorporate chums.
    What else to do than to congratulate STE, STM and Ericsson for the accomplishment of spawning such a defunct coorporate culture? Impressive stuff indeed, possibly worthy of a case study in management schools.
    I guess this trend will continue trickle down the less volatile technology companies improving the already weak european economies until we all can go back into agriculture and tourism finally working for our Asian overlords.

  18. As an STE outsider I find it remarkable that you guys can discuss STE’s problems without a single mention of customers, product differentiation or competitors.
    For STE to remain in the phone business they MUST defeat Mediatek, in the midle market segment and at least equal Qualcomm at the top of the market. Now the big problem is that they must achieve both of these outcomes with less than 1/2 the current R&D engineering budget.
    I can only conclude (from the comments) that everyone has already done the calculation and concluded that STE’s failure is the most profitable path for its engineers.
    IMHO if design engineers, anywhere, ever bother to do this calculation than their respective companies are doomed.

  19. Just make sure you have had your 2 hours of lunchtime eh!

  20. Let’s just hope finally some MAJOR layoffs are taking place in Grenoble this restructuring round. There’s WAY to much fat on ST-E organization working over there on the 8500-flagship which delayed for over a year. Unbelievable that GNB has been untouched up to now.
    Oh well, we’ll know Didier’s plans in a week or so.

  21. I’m sorry but with the engineering salaries what they are in France, they don’t pay me enough to stay after 17h30

  22. Here we are.
    I think that Mike has found the answer to my question, and that it was given by the unions crap above.
    That’s how it works in France.
    Continue to go home at 17h30, critize your colleegues, be elected as union representative so that you negociate the volontary departure plan for yourself while sending message to the others that this plan is unacceptable.
    I have my answer on why STE (and France) is going so bad and why it’s not going to be better.

  23. It seems obvious that one of the main problems with ST-Ericsson is that everyone seems to be in a union and this is strangling management making effective decisions. I’ve never worked anywhere that allowed unions within R&D and perhaps this is what is needed here ?

  24. In fact, the global pictures in ST-Ericsson and STMicroelectronics are very differents.
    For ST-Ericsson :
    – no CGT in Sophia and Lemans
    – no CFDT in Sophia and Paris
    – CFDT is not very big in Grenoble and Lemans (but representative)
    – UNSA is first union in Sophia (second one is FO)
    – UNSA is not very big in Grenoble (but representative) and Lemans (Rennes)
    – CGT is the first union of Grenoble
    CGC is not a real union (it is for managers). You have to join them if you want to be promoted.

  25. On Sophia site there is currently a communication displayed everywhere fighting against CGT.
    I don’t know if it is the same than on Grenoble site.
    What is very nasty is that CGT is not present in Sophia. Therefor, what is the goal of this communication ?
    By the way, there are also communications about results of the Yearly Mandatory Negociations (NAO). It is exactly what the Direction already sent by email. Sophia people don’t care about such HR management propaganda given by an union.

  26. Well, reading these comments, the reason of the bad results seems obvious: none of the different members seems to want to fully cooperate, when it is a “must”
    to succeed nowadays (even between teams of a united company).
    Probably the management is responsible for this bad “team spirit” (who else? As chauvinist as you could be, you would not let it bring your company down).
    Regarding the unions, UNSA is indeed not representative in this company. And CGC is mentioning in a paper handed yesterday in Crolles that, “by supporting CGC -wrt other unions-, you will at least not be sacked by your manager”. Which makes you wonder who this union is really lobbying for. CGT and CFDT are much more representative.

  27. Laurent (UNSA Sophia)

    Whatever. Clearly our first comment on the referenced article (that was “France and Sweden are the two legs of a champion recovering” by reference of the image mentioned in the article)and the moderation on it of the sentence about the engineers of Lund…
    were not sufficient at all.
    Clear apologies was required in this case !
    That is done on the UNSA site ( and a specific message has been send for Lund STE people to a union member who write to them about this article (Lars N.).
    Laurent from UNSA Sophia

  28. You’re absolutely right of course [Anonymous] no nationality has a monopoly on arrogance or any other human virtue/vice. But it will be a sad day when we stop teasing eachother about our supposed national characteristics. Vive la difference.

  29. The biggest thing that keeps ST-E alive is to have Samsung as a customer, indeed with mostly (ex-)NXP designs.
    Nokia? Sony-Ericsson/Sony? Who?

  30. Talking about french chauvinism in this case, seems to me a little bit like a too easy shortcut.
    I am a french guy ex NXP ex ST-E from Caen. About this french site, I can confirm that this site was closed and more than 100 people were fired by ST-E (no volunteer…) like any non french site. In this case I think it’s more a question of being in Grenoble than in France.
    When I was NXP, NXP acquired Si-Lab wireless department. When working with them, the french teams were not arrogant at all and work in an open-minded manner, which was not at all the case from ex SiLab teams (for example someone said that the worst engineer from SiLab will be at least better than the best from Caen). for me it is not a question of nationality (you will find arrogant person in every nationality) than a question of enterprise culture.

  31. I have emailed the original to you Dilberta

  32. Another Anonymous

    Everybody always seems to forget the big contribution the ex-NXP chips made to whatever little income ST-E had the last few years…

  33. I agree with your assertion on different relative strengths of ST(AP) and EMP(modems). I should refine my point above.

  34. To: Anonymous April 4, 2012 6:42 PM
    You are right, the EVP is an asset and was a good choice, even if there were other alternatives (i.e. Ericsson could had lived without it). Anyway, the EVP is handled by efficient Dutch colleagues, so question still remains what makes the French think they are superior in this JV.

  35. Tall poppy syndrome

    “French-style leadership, which mainly involves ignoring advice from anyone with lots of experience but no French grande ëcole on their CV.”, page 90,
    1000 Years of Annoying the French.
    That quote from the book tells how it is and has been in this JV. But i am not blaming just the French, all the others are sheeps because they tolerate that, allow this to continue. Some have left and many will, because there are still companies trying to do their things in a sane manner (i.e. without French-style leadership) even if the company is French!

  36. I love this post!
    It is so typical of the CFE-CGC that is well known in France for fighting against the others French unions exaclty like they it accuse the UNSA to do with other countries.
    There is currently a CFE-CGC national communication displayed on the site where I am against the union I am a member and which is the first union of ST in France: the CGT.
    Way they do things always helps tremendously the management and not at all the employees.
    Otherwise, is anyone able to send to me the UNSA communication not accessible anymore and that I would like to read ?

  37. NXP also contributed that long forgotten ability of putting decent audio in a phone, something apparently not needed in the latest smartphones judging by the performance of many of them !!

  38. Hohohohoho! Actually you DO need the NXP-part of ST-NXP Wireless to make “modems” successful! Without that NXP-part no EVP and thus no modem.
    The whole reason NXP was “bought”, and later on slaughtered to a sub-critical part of the JV was because of the EVP. The one single treasure of NXP.

  39. Well, every time the restructuring rumor mill is going on all “less capable engineers” and their families outside France are nervously awaiting what is being brewed this time in the French cuisine.
    All these very capable French engineers can sit back relaxed as they will probably be re-integrated back into ST, or they get yet another very voluntary proposal to leave with huge benefits. How convenient it is being backed up by your company, the unions, and the government.
    Any news on when the French cooks are ready this time?

  40. As an ex-Ericsson employee (still in ST-Ericsson unfortunately), I really hope Ericsson does use it’s 50%+1 stock mandate in the JVDs and pulls the modem operations (the only true asset, even admitted by our French CEO!) out of this JV. There are much better application side partners to join with! How many Frenchmen are needed to glue together already implemented IP blocks from ARM and Imagination Technologies? Someone earlier in this thread mentioned only 700 in QCOM work with the modems. I doubt this figure, but even if true, QCOM at least does their OWN implementations of the CPUs (Krait, which is not the same as a vanilla licensed A15) and Adreno GPU. So all you French how think are so superior is because you do not do a shit, still you are the majority of the 6700 employees dragging down the results. I think your union pissed of (hence writing such an article) because it knows a lots of Frenchmen will be fired soon, it is about time! And hopefully the whole JV breaks down! At least we do not need any ex ST-NXP people for the modems, we all know Ericsson modem was superior and hence chosen.

  41. I agree, in 2011 it was only a voluntary plan in France, but two years back Caen site was effectively closed and people were effectively fired without asking them if they wanted to.

  42. In the 2011 cutdown, I think there were no terminations in France, only a voluntary program with a substantial package.
    In Lund, the initial notice was for 120 people, when all was negotiated I think it came down to a handful, most of them taking a voluntary termination with a package, while more than 120 employees had already resigned from the company without any restructuring costs required from the company.

  43. I am and ex-STE and I am not sure I agree with you(Hermit). EMP’s main technology strength was the modems and the associated IPs and that is what was interesting for STM before the JV was formed. Quite obviously, STM, had their strengths in the application processor area. Now, the vice versa about each others’ weaknesses are also true. Undoubtedly, the chauvinistic french who commented the 1:10 engineer ration is an engineer in the platform division. An EMP modems engineer could fling the same mud by saying its 1:25 and I wouldnt be surprised. But, Its not swedish to attack a person, rather tend to the problem. Definitely not defending the management Fiasco but like they say, you need 2 hands to clap! It would have been much better off that the JV was headed by the JV and not the parents. This orgy of disaster is perhaps the parents’ fault in taking turns of leadership and showing distrust on each other at every tiny obstacle. This JV somewhat reminds me of the cartoon picture where hitler and stalin shook hands.

  44. That’s how I understand it [Anonymous] voluntary redundancy for the French, compulsory redundancy for non-French.

  45. Did they really fire people in France, or did they kindly ask for volunteers which would get a big bag of cash on their way out?
    In non-French sites people were just plainly let go.

  46. ST-E France did fire people, in Caen…
    Swedish people (Lund) were not that much more impacted than France in this regard. It is non-french & non-swedes sites that suffered the most.

  47. If equality rules at ST-E, nono, why were non-French engineers sacked and French engineers protected?

  48. Yes indeed, Sevilla, it is axiomatic that mergers don’t work in the semiconductor industry. One of the few that did was SGS-Ates and Thomson, and most people attribute the success of that merger to the personality of Pasquale Pistorio. Pistorio can charm a bird off a tree and, in the SGS-Thomson merger, a lot of birds had to be charmed off a lot of trees.

  49. Thank you, Hermit, that’s a very interesting and perceptive insight. It shows how difficult mergers are – especially cross-border ones.

  50. Where I am not only are we disciples of Dilbert but we also consult Dilbert to find out what will be happening in the future and for comments on what is currently happening.

  51. The CFE-CGC union position is clear as well as most of my french colleagues working in STE.
    We do think our Swedish colleague are AS EQUAL to us no more no less.
    Here is my personal view:
    As a reminder UNSA union is peanut within ST-STE UES and therefore is lacking representativity and notoriety.
    People writing such ideas are either awkward or stupid.
    I would suggest UNSA to find other way to get advertisements than blowing on hot coals of national hate.

  52. What happened?
    Lack of proper execution! Many decisions, technology, roadmap,… etc, based on politics rather than business reasons.
    Merging organizations is always difficult, merging 4 (NXP-Wireless, STM-Wireless, EMP and Nokia R&D) almost an impossible mission… Different cultures and roadmaps, and, if on top of this, you add the political bias an the poor execution, then the result, without a miracle, will be a disaster.

  53. I have seen the JV creation closely. While I do believe that the French are overly chauvinistic, the fact that EMP did not bring its best engineers on board was quite stark and plainly visible from day one. In contrast, STM contributed some of its best resources to the JV. I was from the STM side and my early encounters with the EMP side left me exasperated and grasping for breath. They were too bureaucratic and sometimes plain illogical. At that time, I used to think that they were just blocking and resisted the French takeover. The French do have a way of bullying and rolling over. Just ask the non-Grenoble sites of ST.
    But being a former STEite, its really sad. Maybe it still rises like a champion. Who knows!
    DISCLAIMER: I am neither French nor Swede. I am not even European.

  54. Pfff… We had everything to be successful…
    What happened?
    Too much confidence?
    Too much demotivation being thrown from a company to another without having the choice (ST, ST-NXP Wireless, STEricsson)
    Too much demotivation because of no vision, no gratification from management, no money, no prime, nothing even if you worked harder than they what could have dreamt?
    What will happen after the president election?
    I can’t imagine 5 more years of Sarko but Hollands seems to want to invest more in medium sized companies than in bigs like ST…
    What happened….

  55. Now that could be a very good solution, Mike.

  56. I wouldn’t imagine many would need to be made redundant – they would simply be moved to work on potentially profitable areas elsewhere in STM. This would take a some short-term investment from the French government but far less than $800m per annum.

  57. I assume the union doesn’t advocate the closure of STE because that would mean the loss of 6,700 of their members’ jobs, Mike. And I would imagine the humungeous redundancy costs of terminating so many well-paid employees is a factor taxing Mr Ferro’s mind as he prepares his plans for STE. But I think you’re absolutely right about sole ST proprietorship as being the best way forward for STE.

  58. I am quite sure the employees of STE were fans of Dilbert long before the current “succession de décisions catastrophiques”.
    Oddly enough the union doesn’t consider the more likely and best solution – closure of ST-E. As with DRAM manufacture, there is an excess of wireless chipset providers and at least two need to exit the market. STMicroelectronics has far better prospects to route any investment from the French government into, and indeed would need engineers from ST-E to achieve these goals. This would be a far better solution (employment and business-wise) than trying to pin artificial legs on a legless company like ST-E.

  59. Thank you Bitter.

  60. Without a spot of chauvinism, Loue, whether from the French, English or the Swedish, international football matches, rugby matches and even the Olympic Games would be really boring.

  61. French, Sweden… or English chauvinism are really boring. (regular examples on this site)
    Just a remark. Reading the french article, I think that UNSA reminds the responsibility of french government (13% of ST) but their invest call is for the parents: Ericsson and ST! (it is not for the government)
    By the way, if it is true that in QUALCOMM has only 700 engineers working on the modem part (whereas they are already on the market), here there is a real question!

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