April 11, 2018 / 9:02 PM / a year ago

UPDATE 1-Carrefour, employees in Argentina agree to voluntary buy-outs -union

(Adds comments from Argentina Labor Ministry, Carrefour representative, details on Wednesday meeting)

BUENOS AIRES, April 11 (Reuters) - French retailer Carrefour agreed to voluntary buy-outs with workers in Argentina as part of a crisis prevention plan that aims to end three years of losses, a union representative said on Wednesday.

Angel Martínez, spokesman for the Argentine Federation of Commerce and Service Workers (FAECYS), said the company had agreed to pay 50 percent more than the normal cost of letting workers go in Argentina. He said the union supported those terms, but did not say how many workers had accepted a buy-out.

"If we had not done these negotiations, Carrefour would have left Argentina," Martinez said in a telephone interview.

In a statement, Argentina's Labor Ministry said the government had met with the company and workers and that the three parties were "exploring alternatives to safeguard jobs and at the same time find a solution to guarantee the company's stability."

A representative of Carrefour's local affiliate said the dialogue with the union and the government would continue.

"We will keep working," said the representative, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

The union's Martinez did not respond to additional requests for comment after Wednesday's meeting.

Local newspaper Ambito Financiero reported that 1,000 employers had accepted buy-outs, citing an anonymous source.

Carrefour, which has previously denied plans to exit Argentina, said last week it had filed a "crisis prevention" application with the government.

Argentina represented 4 percent of Carrefour's global sales in 2017 at $3.5 billion euros. The company started operating in Argentina in 1982 and employs 19,000 workers.

Double-digit inflation has made Argentina a challenging environment for supermarkets. Business-friendly President Mauricio Macri told Spanish newspaper ABC over the weekend his government was working to crack down on informal, Chinese-run grocery stores he accused of not paying taxes and undercutting formal businesses. (Reporting by Walter Bianchi and Maximilian Heath; Additional reporting by Dominique Vidalon in Paris; Writing by Caroline Stauffer; Editing by Dan Grebler)

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