France pressures Alcatel-Lucent on lay-off plans

Wed Oct 9, 2013 4:25pm EDT
 
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By Nicholas Vinocur and Leila Abboud

PARIS (Reuters) - France warned on Wednesday it could use new rules to block a plan by telecoms company Alcatel-Lucent to lay off 900 French workers, but unions and government sources questioned whether the state would go that far.

The Franco-American group unveiled plans on Tuesday to slash a total of 10,000 jobs worldwide, arguing that the cuts were its last chance to stem years of losses and turn the company around.

The plans were criticized by President Francois Hollande's Socialist government, which is struggling to tackle high unemployment. Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said new labor rules could be invoked to stop the company forcing them through.

"If there is no majority agreement (with unions) the restructuring plan won't be accepted, because the law now gives the state the responsibility to act," Ayrault told Europe 1 radio.

"We want a negotiation that saves as many jobs as possible, as many sites as possible," he said, calling on Alcatel-Lucent to review a plan which at present foresees the closure of sites in Rennes and Toulouse and the possible sale of others.

France has a long history of intervention in the corporate sector. The case follows an abortive attempt by Hollande earlier this year to rescue activities earmarked for closure at ArcelorMittal's steelworks in northeastern France.

The French state owns a 3.6 percent stake in Alcatel-Lucent, making it the second-biggest shareholder behind investment fund Capital Research & Management. Alcatel-Lucent shares were down about 7.5 percent to 2.56 euros at 1523 GMT.

Alcatel was once one of France's biggest conglomerates with activities from trains to electronics, but it no longer earns major revenues there following its 2006 merger with Lucent. France accounted for a mere 5.7 percent of its 2012 revenues of 14.44 billion euros.   Continued...

 
Employees of Alcatel-Lucent demonstrate in front of the company site in Orvault near Nantes, western France, October 8, 2013. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe