France pledges to fight for GE plant where 1,000 jobs at risk
FILE PHOTO: The logo of U.S. conglomerate General Electric is pictured at the company’s site of its energy branch in Belfort, France, February 5, 2019. REUTERS/Vincent Kessler/File Photo
STRASBOURG, France (Reuters) – French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said on Tuesday he would fight to save jobs at a General Electric (GE) plant in eastern France where more than 1,000 posts are threatened.
GE earlier said it was considering ways to cut costs and make its operations more efficient in France, and that while no details had been finalised the plan could result in up to 1,044 positions being cut.
GE’s planned cuts would occur principally at its site in Belfort and the U.S. company is in talks with trade unions over the possible job reductions.
French industrial group Alstom was Belfort’s biggest employer until 2014 when it sold its gas turbine manufacturing business to GE, which pledged at the time to create 1,000 jobs to win backing for the deal from the French government.
However, the company has had to break that commitment as the gas turbine power plant market collapsed. It had to pay 50 million euros ($56 million) this year into a reindustrialization fund for failing to meet the target.
Speaking in the lower house of parliament, Le Maire said he wanted the money to be used in Belfort to support projects in aeronautics, dismantling nuclear plants and the hydrogen industry.
“We are ready to fight alongside you … and local politicians and obviously alongside GE workers to ensure the industrial future of the GE site,” Le Maire told lawmakers during a weekly questions to government session.
A Finance Ministry official said the site would not be shut down outright.
GE tamped down enthusiasm earlier this month about a quick recovery in its power-plant unit, which lost a staggering $22.8 billion last year, mainly due to a large goodwill writedown.
Reporting by Gilbert Reilhac; Additional reporting by Myriam Rivet and Leigh Thomas in Paris; Editing by Sudip Kar-Gupta and David Holmes