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PPR Layoffs Draw Protests

Dozens of PPR employees gathered at the firm’s headquarters in Paris Tuesday.

Strikers outside PPR’s Avenue Hoche headquarters on Tuesday.

PARIS — Dozens of PPR employees gathered at the firm’s headquarters here Tuesday to protest against 1,900 job cuts, while fellow workers went on strike.

This story first appeared in the April 29, 2009 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

In what was billed as the first company-wide strike, unions said hundreds of employees in Fnac book, music and record stores and Conforama furniture outlets across France participated. At an Yves Saint Laurent factory in Angers, 60 percent of employees stopped work for an hour. Agence France Presse, meanwhile, reported that 130 Fnac employees and between 1 and 2 percent of Conforama’s workforce went on strike.

Citing the deteriorating economy, PPR in February made 800 redundancies at Conforama, 400 at Fnac in addition to 672 cuts already announced at catalogue retailer La Redoute. Workers protesting the layoffs in March blocked PPR chairman and chief executive officer François-Henri Pinault in a taxi for a just under an hour before he was freed by police.

In a tract handed out Tuesday, the seven trade union organizations that coordinated the action described the layoffs as a short-term, purely financial strategy. Maintaining PPR remains largely profitable, the unions called for next week’s shareholder dividend, expected to be 418 million euros, or $549.7 million at current exchange, to be invested instead in maintaining jobs.

In a statement Tuesday, PPR said its director of human resources, Philippe Decressac, met with union delegates from Fnac and Conforama for nearly two hours during the protest. The company stated all redundancy negotiations would adhere to the group’s socially responsible remit.

PPR’s first-quarter sales, published last week, declined 2.6 percent to 4.78 billion euros, or $6.25 billion. Business was down 4.5 percent at Fnac, 5.4 percent at Redcats group, which includes La Redoute, and 10 percent at furniture chain Conforama.