BOSSES of state-owned companies are to face immediate pay caps as they have been told by Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault to "show solidarity" with low-paid workers.
Ayrault said in an interview in L'Express magazine today that he was imposing a 20:1 rule where the maximum pay of patrons of companies majority-owned by the state would be tied to 20 times the pay of a low-paid worker.
It was his first action since yesterday's talks with both employers' and union representatives as the government looked to start a "social dialogue" on jobs, pay and the retirement age.
Saying that the current economic crisis "imposed exemplary behaviour by the political and economic elite" Ayrault pointed out that the government had already cut the president's and ministers' pay by 30%. The 20:1 rule was promised by François Hollande during the presidential election campaign.
Yesterday unions handed Ayrault a list of companies which they said were on the verge of announcing nearly 90,000 job cuts - while the employers complained of a burden of high social charges, red tape and the government's intention to increase the minimum wage, which will put costs up even higher.
Hollande said they would have to tread carefully with the rise in the smic minimum wage, warning against "destabilising" small- and medium-sized companies which face "challenges on competitiveness".
Although Ayrault did not spell out the detail of his pay cap, many newspapers used the example of EDF president Henri Proglio who earns €1.6 million a year - which is 65 times more than his lowest-paid employee. He would have to take a 69% pay cut to comply with the new rule.
Some bosses already conform to the rule, with SNCF president Guillaume Pepy earning €250,000 and Française des Jeux president Christophe Blanchard-Dignac, who gets €235,000.