France's top CEOs earn 130 times more than their employees

France's top CEOs earn 130 times more than their employees


France's top CEOs earn 130 times more than their employees

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(AFP) - Anti-poverty charity Oxfam has called for a new law to combat the "indecent" gap between the salaries of France's highest-paid company executives and their staff after its annual report revealed disparities were growing and an increasing number of people are living on the minimum wage.

The chief executives of France’s top 40 listed companies (Cac 40) were paid an average of 130 times more than their employees in 2022, according to research by Oxfam France published Tuesday.

What's more, the gap is widening. Between 2019 and 2022, salaries in listed companies rose by 9 percent, while those of CEOs increased by 27 percent.

“We have a sort of podium of inequality,” Oxfam's advocacy officer for regulation, Léa Guérin, told RFI, citing the three companies where the charity identified the most glaring gulf.

The disparity was greatest at Teleperformance, the world’s number-one call centre group, where CEO Daniel Julien earned 1,453 times more than the average salary in his group – a gap Guérin described as “more than indecent”.

Supermarket chain Carrefour came in second place, with CEO Alexandre Bombard earning 426 times more than the average salary, followed by carmaker Stellantis, whose CEO Carlos Tavares earned 341 times more.

Make a law

Stellantis recently stoked indignation when it announced that Tavares’ salary this year could reach €36.5 million, 365 times the average pay of company employees.

Asked about his pay, Tavares said: “Make a law, I’ll respect it.”
Oxfam's director Cécile Duflot said France should indeed legislate to cap executive salaries.

“We need a law. I think there are a certain number of big bosses who are not hostile to this approach,” she told France Info on Tuesday.

She cited the example of the law on duty of vigilance, which obliges multinationals to respect the way sub-contractors work throughout their supply chain and was initiated in France, and is now being rolled out in Europe.  

Closing the gap

The huge disparity in salaries reflects the “toxic” relation with company shareholders, Guérin said, as executives are “thanked by shareholders for paying out massive dividends” at the expense of employees. 

The report noted that some 76 percent of Cac 40 profits were handed out to shareholders in 2022, rather than being reinvested in the company to finance, for example, the green transition.

To reduce the pay gap, Oxfam advocates capping executive pay to 20 times the median company salary.

"If the CEO salary were increased, so would the median salary,” Guérin said.

Oxfam is also pushing for more employee representation on company boards and better distribution of profits among staff.

Decent wages

The wrangling over huge pay divides has struck a chord in France as households struggle with a cost-of-living crisis.

Some 17 percent of France’s workforce earn the pre-tax monthly minimum wage of 1,766 euros, up from 13 percent a few years ago.

In early April, French tyre manufacturer Michelin announced it would guarantee all its 132,000 staff worldwide a “decent wage”.

“It’s a good thing,” Guérin said, “and we want it to be guaranteed for all companies, not just those who are pro-active.”

No 'real' pay gap

Responding to the Oxfam report, Teleperformance said the pay gap was “purely theoretical and not real”, and that its CEO’s pay included “performance shares”.

Carrefour meanwhile said Oxfam’s calculations did not correspond “to any reality” because they link the CEO's pay to that of its 300,000 employees worldwide, despite the differences in purchasing power between countries.

Duflot responded: “If Bombard justifies his salary explaining he can exploit employees even more by lowering their pay... it's clear how unacceptable and intolerable these pay differentials are.”