Report: Sanofi trims R&D jobs in France in scaled-down reorganization

Under assault from union leaders and government officials, Sanofi ($SNY) was forced to back off plans to engineer a major reorganization of its R&D operations in France. But it's going ahead with a scaled-back effort aimed at concentrating its forces in key corporate hubs while trimming the overall number of researchers on the payroll.

Reuters reports that union officials were told that the pharma giant is cutting 376 research positions while adding 169 jobs--a net reduction of 207. Most of the new staff positions are being created in company facilities near Paris, which will beef up along with the operations in Strasbourg and Lyon. The wire service cites union estimates noting that Sanofi Pasteur will chop more than 700 jobs as production ends on certain lines, while 309 jobs are added. And the animal health unit and the generics unit are cutting 243 positions.

Sanofi CEO Chris Viehbacher had hoped to pull off a major reduction in spending in France, with plans to ax thousands of jobs. He famously told employees that the French group hadn't produced a major new drug in 20 years. Meanwhile, Sanofi has been gathering its R&D forces in Boston following the $20 billion Genzyme buyout, drawn by the booming biotech hub.

But while Pfizer ($PFE), AstraZeneca ($AZN), Merck KGaA and Roche ($RHHBY) have all executed major cutbacks in Europe and the U.S., Sanofi--which closed its big R&D facility in Bridgewater, NJ, last year--has been forced to step back and proceed much more slowly in France. Labor groups in the U.K., Switzerland, Sweden and elsewhere don't have nearly the clout of the French unions. And the current government has provided its support to the workers, criticizing Sanofi for trying to slash costs while it's reporting profits.

- here's the story from Reuters