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Sanofi's 900 planned layoffs could run higher - unions

* Unions predict more layoffs than 900 cuts mooted by Sanofi

* Unions to meet French Industry Minister on Oct. 12

PARIS, Oct 5 (Reuters) - Sanofi's plan torestructure its research operations in France could lead to morejob losses than the 900 layoffs mooted by the drugmaker, unionrepresentatives said.

Unions said the company's figure underestimated the numberof job cuts as Sanofi reshuffles its laboratories into regionalresearch hubs at the expense of smaller centres.

"There are thousands of employees that will be hit bylayoffs and a high number of internal transfers," Pascal Vially,a representative for the CFDT trade union, told Reuters.

Sanofi has scaled back planned layoffs under pressure fromthe French government, which has been struggling to contain arising unemployment rate, and said it could shed around 900 jobsin France in the next three years - fewer than the 2,500predicted by trade unions.

But the 900 cuts - to be achieved through voluntaryredundancies, internal transfers and early retirements - do notinclude the 640 jobs at a cancer research centre in Toulouse,which Sanofi wants to exit.

The unions will discuss Sanofi's plan with Industry MinisterArnaud Montebourg at a meeting on Oct. 12, a day after thecompany is due to provide details of the cuts.

Montebourg sided with the unions in a TV interview lastweek, saying the scaled-back plan is "still too much."

Neither Montebourg's office nor Sanofi were immediatelyavailable for comment.

(Reporting by Noelle Mennella; Writing by Elena Berton; Editingby David Holmes)

((elena.berton@thomsonreuters.com)(+33149495226)(Reuters

Messaging: elena.berton.thomsonreuters.com@reuters.net))

Keywords: SANOFI FRANCE/LAYOFFS