Nokia stalls painful job cut talks to end of April

 

Fears thousands could be let go.

Nokia won't begin difficult talks with staff on deep job cuts it plans following a tie-up with Microsoft until the end of April.

Nokia, the world's largest cellphone maker by volume, last month dumped its own software platform in favour of Microsoft's Windows Phone, a move which has hit its shares and is expected to lead to a sharp reduction in its workforce.

Finnish labour unions fear the move could cost thousands of jobs in the Nordic country alone.

The company told staff representatives on Tuesday the talks would start "towards the end of April", a Nokia spokesman said.

Analysts said the relatively long gap before talks kick-off could be because the final deal with Microsoft is yet to be signed, while Nokia might also want to delay any announcement on cuts until after Finland's general elections on April 17.

An announcement before the vote could bolster support for the populist True Finns, who have risen rapidly in the polls to become the second most popular party. This has raised fears the eurosceptic group could complicate European Union efforts to complete a deal to address the euro crisis.

"It would have probably boosted True Finns as they have criticised big corporations and they could use it in their campaign," Markku Jokisipila, a political scientist from the University of Turku, said.

Nokia has close ties with the Finnish prime minister's Centre Party and former party leader Esko Aho sits on the company's executive board.

Precise plans on job cuts have not been made, Nokia Chairman Jorma Ollila told Finnish daily Helsingin Sanomat.

"This is a global restructuring of our product development, so it is not only about Finland."

"There is nothing on the horizon that would be particularly horrible for Finland, or something that would give grounds for the argument that Finland would not be treated well," he said.

Long transition

Big shareholders in Nokia support its new smartphone strategy but some are impatient with the timescale, Ollila said.

"We have spoken with 20-30 central shareholders and their message is very clear. They consider the strategy good and the Windows decision the right one," Ollila was quoted as saying.

"They do not like that we are about to start a restructuring period that takes 18 months or two years. It is such a long period that some investors do not have patience for that," he said, adding Nokia's share price was "painful for the board".

Nokia shares have dropped almost 30 percent since the Microsoft link was unveiled.

(Editing by Jane Merriman and Alexander Smith)


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