French carmaker Renault said on Friday it was launching talks with unions to restructure some plants and potentially close others as it confirmed plans to cut around 15,000 jobs worldwide to ride out a slump in sales.
Faced with a downturn in demand compounded by the coronavirus crisis, Renault is aiming to find 2 billion euros ($2.22 billion) in savings over the next three years as it shrinks production and hones in on more profitable models.
It said the restructuring measures — including the job cuts, transfers and retirement plans that would affect just under 10% of its global workforce — would cost 1.2 billion euros.
Some 4,600 jobs would go in France, though largely through a voluntary departure plan and a retirement scheme, Franck Daout of the CFDT trade union told REUTERS.
The overall cuts would affect just under 10% of Renault’s 180,000 global workforce. The firm has around 48,500 staff in France.
“They’ve insisted on the fact everything will be negotiated,” Daout said, adding that unions and state bodies would be involved in talks over potential job losses in France.
The group, which is 15% owned by the French state, said some plants like the one in Flins, close to Paris, where it makes its electric Zoe models, could cease to assemble cars and centre on recycling activities instead.
Six sites in all, including component factories, will be under review. Any closures in France are likely to be politically sensitive.
The French government has warned it will not sign off on a planned 5 billion euro state loan for Renault — an aid measure linked to the coronavirus pandemic — until management and unions conclude talks over the carmaker’s French workforce and plants in France.
Renault, like its Japanese partner Nissan, was already under pressure when the pandemic hit, posting its first loss in a decade in 2019. Like peers, it is now trying to juggle a revenue slump with industry-wide changes like rising investment in cleaner cars.
Renault said it would slash costs by cutting the number of subcontractors in areas such as engineering, reducing the number of components it uses, freezing expansion plans in Romania and Morocco and shrinking gearbox manufacturing worldwide.
The company plans to trim its global production capacity to 3.3 million vehicles in 2024 from 4 million now, focusing on areas like small vans or electric cars.
(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS)