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Leaders meet for economic summit

The president, prime minister, ministers, union and business heads hold talks this afternoon on reviving the economy.

THE GOVERNMENT will this afternoon host a summit with union leaders and employers to discuss responses to the failing economy.
Unions have already called another national strike on March 19 claiming the government reacted too quickly to save banks and has done little to help the ordinary person.
The meeting will also be attending by PM François Fillon and seven top ministers; Brice Hortefeux (social affairs), Christine Lagarde (economy), Eric Woerth (budget), Luc Chatel (industry), Laurent Wauquiez (Employment) and Martin Hirsch (work and benefits).
Five main unions (the CGT, CFDT, FO, CFE-CGC, CFTC) will be present along with representatives from Medef (France’s CBI) and other employer’s federations.
Subjects on the agenda will be cutting incomes tax, extending the chèque emploi system for paying for home help, raising benefits for part-time workers and redistribution of profits to better favour employees.
“The aim is to show that the government reacted to help the banks, and that it will react the same to help victims of the economic crisis,” a government source told Le Figaro newspaper.
Taxes:Two options have already been put forward before the meeting; removing the first band of taxation (€5,852 to €11,673) or cutting one third off all income tax bills.

Chèque emploi-service: The president wants to increase the use of these pre-paid cheques for activities such as home help and nannies so parents have greater choice in looking after their children. The employment service Pôle emploi could also provide help towards looking after the children of parents who are on work placement or training.

Family benefits:Raising benefits or targetting specific areas such as the allocation de rentrée scolaire - payment for children going back to school will be discussed.

Salaries:Sarkozy has ruled out raising the minimum wage as a tool to boost spending power, but as the level is due to be reviewed in May it is likely to be touched upon in the meeting.

Young people and short-term contracts: Employees who worked for less than four months on a short term contract contrat à durée déterminée (CDD) without claiming benefits could get a one-off payment of €200-300. This measure is targetted at the young who represent 40% of the likely beneficiaries.

Partial layoffs: The president will encourage unions and employers’ federations to return to talks over payments for partial redundancy.

Training: Both unions and the president are agreed on a strong focus on training for young people and those made redundant. A fund for future courses could be set up.

Distribution of profits: The president has suggested that profits could be split into thirds between workers, shareholders and future investment. The idea is welcomed by unions but strongly opposed by employers.

Photo:AFP/ Gerard Cerles

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