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Telecommunications equipment group Alcatel-Lucent said on Wednesday it would reduce its workforce in France by 12 percent as part of a worldwide move to slash costs by €1.7bn ($2.22bn) over three years.

“The restructuring plans could impact 1,468 positions by the end of 2008, which represents about 12 percent of Alcatel-Lucent’s workforce in France,” said the French-American group, which started operating as a merged entity on December 1.

The job cuts will be achieved through early retirement, internal mobility and support for the creation of professional projects outside the company, Alcatel said.

Alcatel-Lucent said last Friday it would cut 12,500 jobs, 16 percent of its workforce, as a result of its transatlantic merger, as it predicted tough times ahead with another dip in sales in the first quarter.

The statement confirmed numbers announced by trade unions on Tuesday. Workers at Alcatel-Lucent have called for a strike on Feb. 15 to protest against the job cuts which were previously expected to amount to 9,000, or 11 percent of the workforce.

The job cuts come as the campaign for France’s presidential and parliamentary elections heats up.

In an interview with Les Echos newspaper on Monday, Alcatel-Lucent chief executive Patricia Russo said it was too early to specify the job cuts country by country.

Asked by Les Echos whether she was worried they could become a political issue, Russo said: “I don’t want that. These are difficult decisions to take but are absolutely necessary for us to remain competitive on a global market.”

Junior Labour Minister Gerard Larcher told parliament he had contacts with Alcatel and its unions and wanted all possible options explored to find solutions for the people involved.

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