With Sanofi rumoured to be close to revealing the extent of proposed job cuts in France, and with worker protests increasing, the Paris-headquartered has received some unlikely backing from a government minister.

The newspaper Le Figaro claims that September 25 will see Sanofi unveil the exact numbers of jobs to go and the figure is likely to be between 1,500-2,500, about 5%-7% of its workforce in France. It also quotes Arnaud Montebourg, the country's Minister of Industrial Renewal, as saying that the company has every right to restructure, a stance which represents a U-turn from critical comments he made in July when Sanofi first mentioned the cuts.

The minister told Le Figaro that the government will accept the restructuring if unions are in agreement. He added that when a company has made profits of 5 billion euros, "it has the right to reorganise". However he stressed the importance of discussions with the works councils and if they are not fruitful, "we will reexamine the Sanofi case"._

Quite how cordial discussions with the unions have been is debatable given the public statements made by the latter's leaders. There have been a number of demonstrations by Sanofi employees (many of whom seem to have adopted the Haka, the traditional Maori war dance used by the New Zealand rugby team to show their protest) and strike action has been threatened.

Chief executive Chris Viehbacher has regularly spoken about the fact that the company's French R&D units have not come up with enough molecules to offset the sizeable patent cliff it has faced, following the loss of protection on key drugs, notably on the bloodthinner Plavix (clopidogrel), the antihypertensive Avapro (irbesartan), the cancer drug Taxotere (docetaxel) and the antithrombotic Lovenox (enoxaparin).