* Unions back early transfers from Aulnay
* Vote effectively brings forward plant wind-down
* Move follows rising tensions, mediator appointment
* Extended disruption could impact costs
(Adds comment from manufacturing boss, CGT union, details)
By Gilles Guillaume and Laurence Frost
PARIS, Feb 15 PSA Peugeot Citroen
unions agreed to let the French carmaker start to move workers
from its troubled Aulnay plant, effectively beginning the
wind-down of the site a year ahead of its scheduled closure.
The works council approved the transfers to another Paris
area plant in response to violence and threats against staff
ignoring a strike call by the leftwing CGT, said Denis Martin,
Executive Vice President of industrial operations.
The interruption of the plant's daily output of 440 cars may
hit Peugeot with higher-than-expected restructuring costs unless
the situation is resolved soon.
Despite slumping French and European auto demand, waiting
lists for the Citroen C3 subcompact assembled in Aulnay have
increased as a result of the stoppages, Peugeot said.
"A certain amount of lost production was anticipated in the
plan, but if this drags on much longer it will start to have an
impact," a company official said.
Production remains at a standstill following further damage
to equipment inflicted on Thursday by a "violent minority" of
strikers, Martin told reporters at a briefing in Paris.
"We won't be drawn into this cycle of violence," he said.
Under Peugeot's restructuring plan to cut 8,000 jobs
nationwide, half of Aulnay's 3,000 workforce were set to be
transferred next year to the Poissy plant west of the capital.
The transfers will now go ahead at the request of other
unions, beginning in early March at a rate of 50 workers per
week, Martin said.
The early departures were backed by the CFDT, CFTC, CGC, FO
and SIA unions, with only the increasingly isolated CGT voting
against, workers' representatives said.
The CGT has consistently denied reports of violence and
"Management doesn't know what to invent next to hide the
fact that the strike is gathering strength and staff have
rejected the restructuring en masse," a CGT spokesman said.
The decision on transfers comes amid escalating tension
between strikers and staff still reporting for duty at the
factory north of Paris.
The French government named a mediator to broker talks as
the mood worsened at Aulnay. Production has been close to zero
since last month's CGT strike call.
Peugeot's broader restructuring may also face delays after
the CGT won a court order forcing Peugeot to extend worker
consultations to its Faurecia subsidiary.
The carmaker nonetheless expects that process to conclude in
time to avoid any delays to the plan, Martin said on Friday.
Staff transfers remain temporary and can be reversed when
Aulnay production returns to normal, the manufacturing boss
said, adding that Peugeot currently plans to maintain both
factory shifts at the doomed plant.
(Reporting by Gilles Guillaume and Laurence Frost; Editing by
Erica Billingham and Hans-Juergen Peters)