Alcatel shares drop as French PM demands union negotiations over job cuts

French prime minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, speaking on Euro1 radio, has said that telecoms equipment maker Alcatel-Lucent must reach an agreement with the unions if the planned restructuring of the company is to go ahead.

The French prime minister said:

We want a negotiation that saves as many jobs as possible, as many sites as possible.

If there is no majority agreement (with unions) the social plan won't be accepted, because the law now gives the state the responsibility so to act.

The company announced yesterday that it planned to cut 9,500 jobs worldwide in order to stem heavy losses. 900 jobs are expected to be lost in France, just under 10 per cent of the total reduction. The staff reductions are part of the "shift" plan to focus on growth areas such as 4G mobile and high-speed broadband. The company hopes the plan will reduce fixed costs by 15 per cent and save the company £844m.

Speaking to LeMonde newspaper, CEO Michel Combes said:

The Shift Plan is about the company regaining control of its destiny.

Everyone knows this plan is the last chance. The company is in a very serious situation.

The plan has proved controversial with French politicians who have taken a radically different view as to how the company should proceed. Minister for industrial renewal, Arnaud Montebourg has labelled the planned job cuts as "excessive".