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EDF Urged to Revise Working Hours to Bolster Productivity

Electricite de France SA, Europe’s biggest power generator, must review the 32-hour working week of its employees to increase their availability and boost productivity, the state auditor said.

State-controlled EDF should tighten control of “on call” hours to reduce costly overtime, the Cour des Comptes said today in a letter to the finance minister published on its website.

The advisory is the latest of several audits of EDF, which has been saddled with billions of euros of costs to improve safety at its French reactors. Last year the Cour des Comptes said EDF staff perks including housing benefits amounted to an “exorbitant” 645 million euros ($862 million) annually, while salary increases outstripped those at private companies.

Neither Paris-based EDF nor its two distribution and transport units have “reliable tools to count working hours,” the auditor said today. The three entities, which employ about 105,000 people, signed a “mosaic” of labor agreements in 1999, the most common designating a 32-hour week to allow more hiring.

EDF began reviewing working hours in April, Jill Coulombez, a spokeswoman, said today by telephone, declining to elaborate.

The utility in February promised to cut expenses by 1 billion euros on top of a plan to reduce costs by 2.5 billion euros from 2010 to 2015. Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici urged EDF in July to strengthen its cost-saving program further.

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