Political leaders have expressed their "terrible shock" at today's (10 June) news Michelin is to axe a potential 700 jobs at its Joué-lès-Tours truck tyre plant in central-north France.

The supplier has attempted to sweeten the medicine by announcing an EUR800m (US$1.06bn) injection into other French sites, but its decision to cut a possible 700 posts at the Joué-lès-Tours plant is only the latest in a raft of drastic automotive staff downsizing to hit France.

"The announcement of huge employee reductions at Michelin's factory is a terrible shock for the town and Indre-et-Loire [county]," said a statement emailed by the office of Joué-lès-Tours Mayor, Philippe Le Breton, to just-auto.

Michelin says apart from the 200 staff it will keep on at Joué-lès-Tours, 480 staff will be offered alternative jobs at other sites in the Group, with 250 "benefiting from pre-retirement programmes," although it is unclear at this stage what they are.

It has also pledged to create 730 jobs in the Tours area, but it has not specified what these could be.

"As soon as this thunderclap is formalised, the Council will hold an extraordinary meeting," said Le Breton. "Since the date of its inception in Joué-lès-Tours, the Michelin factory and its employees have occupied a particular place and history in our community.

"The Council will stand by staff and their families and the Michelin Group must justify the relevance of its economic, industrial and social choice."

France's hardline CGT union has also come out fighting following the news with reported comments that people were ready to set fire to tyres, although no confirmation of that has yet been received.

A statement from the CGT noted its representative, Claude Guillon, as saying: "If the factory must burn, it will burn."

The union says a Works Council is due to be held at Michelin's headquarters of Clermont-Ferrand this Wednesday (12 June).