French arm-twisting prompts Sanofi to slash job-cuts target

French officials weren't pulling any punches on Sanofi's ($SNY) job-cutting plans. The drugmaker's restructuring plans were "unacceptable" and "abusive," politicians said. And Sanofi's top management were a bunch of "gangsters" for proposing them. Some local officials took to the streets along with protesting Sanofi employees.

Government officials applied more direct pressure behind closed doors, and by the time Sanofi officially announced its restructuring today, it had backed off its original job-cutting target of 2,300, in favor of a 900-job reduction via voluntary exits, early retirements and transfers over the next few years.

Minister Arnaud Montebourg, one of the leading critics, told journalists that Sanofi had initially planned to cut 2,300 jobs. At a meeting last evening, the company offered to reduce that number to 1,370, but Montebourg asked for more, Reuters reports.

"A company that's earning money cannot behave like a company in trouble," he told reporters. "After a meeting with the CEO, whom I saw again last night, I explained that this layoff plan was abusive and that it needed to be reduced, which has been done in two waves."

That's not to say that union leaders are happy with the scaled-back plan. "900 job cuts is 900 too many," CGT rep Laurent Ziegelmeyer told Bloomberg.

The future of Sanofi's Toulouse R&D facility remains up in the air as well. The 900 job-cutting number "doesn't take into account staff in Toulouse," union reps maintain, adding that 1,500 jobs are at risk when the 600 positions in Toulouse are included.

"The function of the Toulouse site remains to be specified," the company said in a statement. "[A] working group including Sanofi representatives, national and local authorities will be created ... to find concrete solutions for the site."

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- read the Reuters news
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