EU pays 24 mln euros for laid-off Renault workers

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The European Parliament Thursday approved a 24.5 million euro ($31.8 million) payout to Renault to fund programmes to help 3,500 workers laid off by the French automaker two years ago.

The aid reimburses Renault for expenses it incurred in a voluntary redundancy plan in 2008 and 2009 amid the global financial and economic crisis.

The money -- released through the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund (EGF) -- pays for job search advisory services, training, monthly allowances and support for business creation, said a European Parliament statement.

The EGF fund, with an annual budget of 500 million euros, was set up to help and retrain European workers in regions and industries that have been impacted by exposure to the global economy.

The aid to Renault will cover 65 percent of the programme's estimated total cost of 37.7 million euros, said the European parliament.

France's aid application was initially rejected amid questions on how Renault's voluntary redundancy plan had been affected by France in the meantime raising the minimum retirement age from 60 to 62.

This left some senior workers -- who had agreed to resign presuming they would receive state benefits -- without an income for months.

The senior workers' fate was a key concern for the Socialist bloc in the European Parliament, which had threatened for weeks to reduce the aid amount by seven million euros but on Thursday dropped its threat.

"We found to our great regret that the balance of power was not in our favour," one of the French Socialists, Estelle Grelier, told AFP.

Conservative French parliamentarian Jean-Paul Gauzes said "we have spared no effort to bring Renault to reason" over the issue.

"What is shocking, and I say this clearly, is that Renault -- a 17 percent stake of which is owned by the State -- expressed reluctance" to address these individuals' problematic situations, he said.

The Greens in parliament said they had chosen to abstain from the vote, noting that the EGF should in principle be used to promote the "real objective of occupational reintegration" of laid-off employees.

"Renault has been able to use this opportunity to achieve employees' early retirement in disguise", they charged in a statement.

In addition, they said, "the money for the employees has already been paid by the company. This aid only serves to repay the Renault group. Our goal is not to help businesses but displaced workers."

© 2011 AFP

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