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Worry in Champagne as Heidsieck sheds jobs

Jobs cuts announced at Piper & Charles Heidsieck, and reorganisation at LVMH have caused disquiet in Champagne.

P&C Heidsieck announced last month that it is was making 39 more workers redundant at its Reims base, where six employees have already left since last December.

A statutory consultation process is currently underway but union officials have claimed the company is using the difficult times the industry has experienced over the past 18 months as an excuse to trim its work force.

Remy-Cointreau CEO Jean-Marie Laborde, who used to run Moët & Chandon said they were ‘confronted by… sales at a low price and the higher end. The two cannot co-exist.

‘However our sales of 8m bottles [10m in 2007] enabled us to safeguard jobs. That was possible three years ago but not any longer after the economic crisis has hit Champagne.’

Remy-Cointreau reports that its Champagne sales are down a third in the nine months to end of 2009.

The unions in Champagne also fear more redundancies linked to the setting up last spring of Moët Hennessy Champagne Services (MHCS), a new company based in Epernay which now handles the administration, sales and marketing and buying services for all LVMH houses – Moët, Veuve Clicquot, Krug, Mercier and Ruinart – under one roof, including vital grape purchases.

Speculation there would be 25 job losses at Ruinart’s cellars in Rue de Crayeres in Reims was denied by Ruinart’s new CEO Jean-Marc Gallot, appointed towards the end of 2009, who said the move of nine production employees to Epernay was only temporary.

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Written by Giles Fallowfield

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