Drugmaker Sanofi is to scale back planned layoffs under pressure from the French government.
Sanofi will now shed around 900 jobs in France over the next three years – its initial total was up to 2,500, according to union estimates.
French Industry Minister Arnaud Montebourg, who had called the layoffs “unacceptable”, said the company had now listened to reason.
After a meeting with Sanofi Chief Executive Christopher Viehbacher, Montebourg told journalists: “A company that’s earning money cannot behave like a company in trouble. I explained that this layoff plan was abusive and that it needed to be reduced.”
SUD union spokeswoman Laurance Millet said: “The shame here is that the company is doing very well, it is making big profits and expanding. And management is taking that money out, not reinvesting it in research and the production of drugs.”
Sanofi aims to achieve the 900 cuts through early retirement, voluntary redundancies and redeploying people within the company.
The French government – which is struggling with rising unemployment – had criticised the job cuts which are part of a cost-cutting drive by Sanofi in the face of patent protection expiring on some of its drugs as well as government cuts in healthcare spending.
The group added it does not plan to move any of its sites or reduce the number of industrial locations it has in France.
However, the future of its cancer research centre in Toulouse remains uncertain.
Sanofi said it had found potential stakeholders to maintain operations at the site and it would strive to find “concrete solutions” in coming months.
Trade unions are calling for a strike on October 3, when a further meeting between Sanofi and staff representatives is due to take place, and said they are seeking contact with Montebourg.
“The only news is the 900 cuts, which doesn’t take into account staff in Toulouse,” Pascal Vially, a representative for the CFDT trade union, said. “In total, 1,500 jobs are at risk, which is at the lower end of our expectations but still too many.”