HP meets European staff over restructuring plan

Hewlett-Packard managers are talking to European employee representatives in Brussels about the company's restructuring plan.

Hewlett-Packard (HP) is meeting representatives of its European employees in Brussels this Thursday and Friday to give them further details of the impact of its worldwide restructuring plan.

The company announced in July that it planned to cut 14,500 jobs over the next 18 months, most of them in central support functions such as human resources, finance and IT. The move will save it around US$1.6 billion a year, it said at the time. However, it gave few details about where the axe would fall, and European staff are still waiting to hear.

HP's new chief executive officer, Mark Hurd, has already taken steps to simplify things in the U.S., eliminating the Customer Solutions Group, which sold products from a variety of product lines to enterprise customers.

In Europe, HP's operations form a complex matrix of product lines and national business units -- and Hurd is no fan of matrix management, he told the press during a conference call announcing the cuts in July.

HP managers will address the company's European works council on Thursday to give further information about the plans, company spokeswoman Nathalie Touzain said.

Transnational companies operating in Europe are required by a 2000 European Union directive to set up a Works Council. This is intended to serve as a forum for informing and consulting employees about matters affecting them, such as mergers or restructuring plans.

Because of the diverse labor laws governing HP's European operations, some staff may have to wait much longer than others to know their fate. Staff in France should hear around the middle of this month how many of them will be affected, Touzain said.

Employees at HP France were expected to stop work for an hour on Thursday in protest at the cuts, according to local press reports. However, no one with any knowledge of the matter could be traced for comment at the trade unions said to be leading the action.

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