Now, at the time of writing, tanneries can still operate in Austria, within the limits imposed by the authorities for precautionary reasons. And there are still orders to be processed. The reaction of Austrian leather to CRV is there. But dark clouds are gathering on the horizon, due to market uncertainties and restrictions on international relations adopted by governments. We talked about it with Andreas Kindermann, CEO of Wollsdorf Leather and president of Cotance, the acronym representing the national tanning associations in Brussels.
Industrial lockdown measures are not yet in place in Austria. But in what conditions do tanneries work?
Tanneries in Austria can still operate in compliance with official regulations. There are restrictions which currently make it difficult, understandably, to proceed with work. Quarantined personnel and other absences limit workforce availability. Customer demand is starting to drop, and a big Austrian tannery has already announced the reduction of operations for a limited period.
What is expected for workers?
We have done everything necessary to make the tannery a safe environment for our employees. They have masks, gloves and eye protection. Disinfection of the premises is done daily, and shifts are managed in such a way as to reduce contacts. The same breaks are spread to ensure they are two meters away.
How are customers doing in the meantime?
Automotive manufacturers have already announced the closure in almost all European and North American factories. So, we will face the reduction in volumes in the coming months. It will be difficult for the sector to cope with the slowdown in vehicle sales. For aeronautics and upholstery, however, I see the same negative impact, which will not be compensated by future orders.
The group you manage has factories in Europe and Mexico: what is the scenario?
Wollsdorf operates at full capacity, and will do so at least for the next three weeks, by virtue of the orders we have. After that, we will have to adapt the production if, as we expect, customers will reduce their requests.
Are relations along the supply chain, upstream and downstream, still guaranteed?
The supply chain in Europe is still working. Instead, overseas shipments are becoming difficult, due to the lack of containers, while flights and port movements are unpredictable in many countries.
As Cotance President, how do you evaluate the first reactions of the Community authorities?
The European Central Bank has taken sufficient measures for the Community industry. In any case, to date, all social and financial measures are taken by national authorities. I think it would be much better if the European Commission coordinated the common approach to industrial lockdown, border closures, restrictions on transport. Cotance supports national organisations with the best local topics, and by informing European authorities about the negative impact of restrictions on European rights for the leather industry.