French mobile operator plans to cut staff level by over third: unions

PARIS: French mobile operator SFR plans to shed over a third of its staff over the next three years although no forced job cuts are foreseen until 2019, union representatives said. 

”Management accepted that until 2019 there won’t be any forced job cuts ... everything will be voluntary,” said Abdelkader Choukrane of the Unsa union, the largest at SFR, after a meeting with Labour Minister Myriam El Khomri. 

He said management confirmed during a meeting on Aug 1 the target of reducing the head count by at least 5,000. France’s second-largest operator currently employs 14,000 people. 

The company was bought in 2014 for more than €17bil (RM77.47bil) by French-Israeli businessman Patrick Drahi, whose Altice holding company went on to buy US cable operator Cablevision for US$17.7bil (RM71.92bil) last year.  

An agreement on no forced job cuts reached during SFR’s purchase expires in July 2017, and Drahi said in June the operator is “over-staffed”. 

SFR and employee representatives met Tuesday with El Khomri. With unemployment hovering just under record highs and elections approaching next year, the French government is keen to limit mass layoffs. 

The company’s management has confirmed it is in talks with union representatives but has not commented publicly on the number of job losses envisaged. 

Isabel Lejeune-To, head of the CFDT-F3C union, confirmed the current proposal would avoid forced job cuts until 2019, but warned that “if the text that is on the table is not signed, the management will be free to do as it sees fit.” 

Frederic Retourney, who represents the CGT-FAPT union, said he was wary of management’s intentions. 

”When they tell us ‘no job cuts’ when 1,200 went over the last 18 months, how can we trust them. We know all too well that the voluntary departures are done under duress in most cases,” he said. 

”When you announce 5,000 job cuts when there are 14,400 employees in the company I don’t see how you can talk of voluntary departures,” he added. 

Retourney said unions would meet before the end of the week to organise a staff day of action in late August or early September. 

After meeting El Khomri, SFR boss Michel Combes reiterated that all undertakings made when was SFR was bought out “would be respected, both with regard to investment and with employment, or in terms of engagement with French industry.” — AFP

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