* Renault seeks concessions on pay, working time
* Links production plans to deal - unions
* Company wants agreement by end of January
* Four more meetings with unions planned by year's end
By Laurence Frost and Gilles Guillaume
PARIS, Nov 6 Automaker Renault
demanded pay and working time concessions from its French
workers on Tuesday and warned that the outcome of talks may
affect future production plans, unions said.
Opening negotiations on a new nationwide labor deal, Renault
indicated that it wanted an agreement by the end of January and
it would not choose production sites for future models before
then, according to workers' representatives who attended the
"There is a clear blackmail attempt here to link factory
decisions with the productivity issues," a CGT union official
Renault said in a statement that "all proposals and
solutions" will be discussed during "at least" four more
meetings with union representatives by the end of the year.
The next meeting will take place on Nov. 13, the company
Faced with a sustained slump in the European car market,
Renault wants to align French wage and production costs with its
plant in Palencia, Spain, and Japanese affiliate Nissan's
Sunderland factory in England, Chief Operating Officer Carlos
Tavares said in September.
The start of negotiations came as the French government
unveiled long-awaited measures to improve the country's
industrial competitiveness with 20 billion euros ($25.6 billion)
in tax breaks designed to lower overall labor costs.
The proposals are a response to a government-commissioned
report presented on Monday by industrialist Louis Gallois.
Renault, Peugeot and their suppliers have led calls by French
manufacturing companies for action to reduce the charges they
pay on top of payroll costs.
PSA Peugeot Citroen, Europe's second-biggest
automaker, has announced plans to cut 8,000 additional French
jobs, close a major assembly plant near Paris and shrink
another. The Paris-based company is scheduled to begin detailed
negotiations on the job cuts on Wednesday.
Renault, in which the French government holds a 15 percent
stake, has so far resisted domestic closures.
But the car maker offered to negotiate undertakings to keep
a minimum level of future production and engineering activities
in France in return for a productivity and pay deal, said union
officials who were present.
The company wants French workers to accept similar measures
to those announced in Spain, where it is increasing working
time, freezing salaries and cutting pay for new hires, they
Renault's push for a new labor pact echoes concessions won
by Peugeot at its Sevelnord plant in northern France - including
a pay freeze, reduced leave and flexible hours - after
threatening to close the site in addition to its Aulnay factory.
Ford also announced 6,200 job cuts last month and the
closure of a large Belgian assembly plant, along with a smaller
British van factory and associated stamping facility.