Gruel for the masses, cream for the lucky few. A familiar tale.
Inequality of wealth, and the greed and excess of France’s 1% was a significant theme in the French Presidential election.
The highest paid executives of the top 40 listed companies in France had been provided with a slap up 39 million-euro meal for their labours in 2010, a rise of 34%, a fact that was highly embarrassing for President Nicolas Sarkozy who had been pursuing a brutal austerity programme that hit the middle and working classes alike.
Socialist candidate Francois Hollande, under pressure from Jean Luc Melenchon on his left, pledged to slap a 75% tax on the rich during his Presidential campaign.
French bosses, just as their counterparts elsewhere, would have Hollande believe that shareholders will exercise the necessary restraint over their greed.
And they point to new figures showing a 6.2% fall in 2011 in the pay of the executives leading the CAC40 listed companies.
Strip out stock options and shares and benefits in kind, leaving only the fixed and variable portions of their wages, the decline was actually less steep – 4.5%.
Furthermore, these overall figures covering 37 top earners hide the fact that many of France’s corporate elite got raises, and some were very generous indeed.
Take, Carlos Ghosn of car company Renault-Nissan, who more than doubled his takings to €12.2 million in 2011.
Or, the former fattest of fat cats, Bernard Arnault, CEO of fashion brand LVMH. He received a 13% rise, taking his annual pay cheque to €4.55 million.
Here’s the French fat cats who got fatter in 2011:
Carlos Ghosn, Renault – 133% rise to €2.89 millions
Carlo Bozotti, STMicroelectronics – 91% rise to €1.93 million
Lakshmi Mittal, ArcelorMittal – 63% rise to €2.93 million
Pierre Pringuet of Pernod Ricard – 21% rise to €2.66 million
Xavier Huillard, Vinci – 14% to rise €1.83 million
Louis Gallois, EADS – 13% to rise €2.98 million
François-Henri Pinault, PPR – 8% rise to €3.06 million
Patrick Kron, Alstom – 5% rise to €2.18 million
Gilles Schnepp, Legrand – 5% rise to €1.47 million
Jean-Paul Herteman, Safran – 5% to €1.47 million
Jean-Paul Agon, L’Oréal – 3% rise to €3.96 million
Henri de Castries, AXA – 3% rise to €3.07 million
Jean-Bernard Lévy, Vivendi – 3% rise to €2.92 million
Benoît Potier, Air Liquide – 2% to €2.7 million
Henri Proglio, EDF – 2% to €1.59 million
Christophe de Margerie, Total – 1% rise to €3.04 million
Paul Hermelin, Capgemini – 1% rise to €2.19 million
Compare these eye popping sums with an average salary of €34,000 in the private sector , or the 3 million-plus on the minimum wage of €12,000 a year, and pay rises that averaged around 2.5% in 2011. That was barely above the 2.12% increase in cost of living. And since the start of the year, real wages ( after inflation has been taken into account) were expected to have fallen. And let’s not forget the 2.9 million people without a job – a 13 year high.
France’s 1% have had a good crisis so far. Hollande’s plan to require them to pay a fairer share has never been more necessary.