UPDATE 1-Veolia begins talks with French unions over 1,500 jobs
* Veolia aims to cut 1,500 jobs in French water business - union
* Veolia employs 230,000 worldwide, 26,900 in French water business
* Unions say talks to run until June, see cuts by year-end (Adds quotes, detail)
PARIS, March 20 (Reuters) - French water and waste firm Veolia Environnement has started talks with unions about cutting 1,500 jobs in its French water business.
The group employs 230,000 people worldwide, including 26,900 in its French water business, which has been under pressure from the economic crisis as municipalities squeeze its margins.
"Management has opened talks with the unions about employment at the company. This concerns 1,500 jobs in our water business in France," a company spokeswoman said on Wednesday.
Meanwhile an official with the CGT union told Reuters the talks would continue until June with a view to putting a redundancy plan in place by the end of this year.
"At the works council yesterday the company announced a voluntary redundancies plan that would concern 1,500 people and possible more," CGT union representative Franck Le Roux told Reuters.
Last year, the company was forced to sell about 3.5 billion euros ($4.65 billion) worth of assets to reduce debt and had to withdraw from half of the countries in which it operated.
Veolia is the world's largest private supplier of drinking water, providing water for 100 million people, and treating waste water for 71 million people. (Reporting by Benjamin Mallet and Dominique Vidalon; Writing by Geert De Clercq; Editing by Greg Mahlich)
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