Renault insists the fact it has called all its major unions to a meeting in Paris next week is not a precursor of factory closure announcements.

The French automaker has seen sales in Europe - where it has an 8.5% market share - plummet 18% while Italy slumped 23%, Spain dropped 18% and France is down nearly 12%.

Renault has already started discussions with its Spanish unions and says it is ready to reach an - unspecified - deal with the labour bodies in the next two weeks - but there could be some tough bargaining now ahead with their French counterparts.

The manufacturer has summoned its CFDT, CFE-CGC, CGT and FO labour bodies to the French capital on 6 November for a first round of talks, although it was keen to distance itself from any restructuring detail.

"We are not going to negotiate on closing a factory," a Renault spokeswoman told just-auto from France. "We have been discussing about how to work with better flexibility.

"What we are discussing in France [is] competitiveness. This is not about capacity, not about closing plants. We have been explaining to the unions since this summer."

Despite Renault's assurances, the unions are bound to have their attennae twitching with the automaker's view that: "Renault wants to find innovative solutions with the social partners."

They could point to the turmoil currently being experienced by fellow-French manufacturer, PSA Peugeot Citroen, which has announced its intention to shutter its Aulnay plant near Paris and cut up to 8,000 jobs.

"Now we are starting negotiations in order to optimise the performance of the activities," said the Renault spokeswoman. "We have been seeing for a few months already that difficulty - we have to optimise on getting better performance on our competitiveness especially in France and Europe.

"The situation is getting worse in Europe and France - we don't have this problem in America, Russia and Brazil."

France's government has a 15% stake in Renault, but the automaker says the administration will not be involved in next week's talks.

Both President Francois Hollande and his Economic Redevelopment Minister, Arnaud Montebourg, have taken a keen interest in the fate of PSA and the Aulnay plant, as the impact of such enormous jobs losses becomes clear.

No unions were immediately available as today is a public holiday in France and much of Europe for All Saints day.

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