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French Economy

Anger in France as Nokia announces layoffs

Nokia said demand is strong for the next generation of mobile phone networks, known as 5G
Nokia said demand is strong for the next generation of mobile phone networks, known as 5G AFP
4 min

The Finnish telecom group Nokia announced on Monday that it intends to cut 1,233 jobs from its operations in France. Unions and politicians have spoken out against the plan, calling for the government to step up and protect the workers.

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Nokia's French subsidiary Alcatel-Lucent is set to slash 402 jobs at its plant in Lannion, Brittany.

The other plant majorly affected by the cuts is the plant in Nozay (Essonne) south of Paris, where 831 jobs will be cut.

It's the fourth cost-cutting announcement in four years, since Alcatel-Lucent was bought by Nokia in 2016 in order to develop the 5G network.

"This is completely unacceptable when we know that Nokia invested 30 to 40 million euros in new buildings recently," the mayor of Lannion Paul Le Bihan told France info on Monday.

A crushing blow to a medium-sized town

"400 out of 800 jobs is really hard to accept, and we're left wondering what their strategy is," he said, underlining that Nokia was the third employer of the town behind the hospital and Orange.

"This is shooting ourselves in the foot...after all we've done lately to revitalise the town centre with shops, and attract people back. This is condemning the future development of a medium-sized town," he said, remembering the days when there used to be some 2000 workers at the site.

"If the government can do something, all the better," he concluded.

"The state must come forward and say that there won't be any job losses," insists the general secretary of the CGT union, Philippe Martinez, interviewed by France info on Tuesday.

Government called on to intervene       

"We need to keep these jobs in France," he said.

"It was a promise made by Emmanuel Macron when he was economy minister, at the time when Alcatel-Lucent was bought by Nokia."

"Nokia receives government aid with research credits, and therefore the state should intervene and send a strong message."

He pointed out that the jobs to be cut were in the research and development sector, a strategic mistake for France in his opinion.

Eric Bothorel, the ruling party LREM representative for the Côtes-d’Armor department in Brittany agrees that the technical know how of big companies like Nokia is a key selling point, especially for developing the market in Asia and the USA.

He's also angry over Nokia's announcement, because they will be letting go "people who were very difficult to recruit in the first place."

"It's making fun of people while staying polite. It's a dead end by another name, not about restructuring," he wrote.

Martinez agrees that the telecom sector is not on the way out, and "wasn't one of the areas that suffered due to the (Covid-19) lockdown."

"During confinement, our productivity went up by 15 percent," a CFE-CGC union representative, Frédéric Aussedat agrees.

"It's a mistake to continue selling our family jewels to companies that are just trying to take over the market rather than have a strategic plan. This goes for Nokia, but also for a whole lot of companies around France," says Martinez.

The need to produce differently

When asked about the 8,000 to 10,000 job cuts announced by Air France last week, he said it would be better to reducing the workload all round which would allow for new jobs to be created.

Reacting to the phrase used often by Emmanuel Macron "one must work more and produce more," Martinez replies, "we should work less, and produce differently."

"This is the occasion to revisit our local production chains. The planet is in danger, we really need to rethink how (and what) we produce."

Martinez is set to meet with President Macron and other union leaders on Wednesday afternoon to discuss an economic plan to emerge from the Covid-19 crisis, and define the legal conditions for people working from home.

 

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