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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Smic: le coup de pouce sous pression

by Pi.M.

Threat to Boost in Minimum Wage

Translated Saturday 9 June 2012, by Gene Zbikowski and reviewed by Bill Scoble

François Hollande’s promised slight increase in the minimum wage is likely to remain very low, well below the expectations of the trade unions. Nevertheless, the right wing and the bosses’ association are condemning the measure in the name of “competitiveness.”

The right wing is organizing a full-scale attack against boosting the minimum wage. A pseudo academy of five economists backed by the head of the MEDEF, the French bosses’ association – a self-proclaimed “group of experts on the minimum wage” – is attempting to explain that “a boost would not be opportune and could have harmful consequences on employment or on public finances.” Deputies from the right-wing UMP party have leaped into the breach and are putting forward figures that are nothing less than dubious: “A one-percent increase means another 700 million euros in tax relief,” and “if you count the increase in the salaries of the 890,000 civil servants affected, the bill would come to a billion euros,” asserts Gilles Carrez (UMP), the general reporter on the budget for the outgoing National Assembly. Another deputy contends that a 1% increase in the minimum wage would wipe out 25,000 jobs, hitting young people especially hard.

For a real increase that isn’t just symbolic

On the other hand, the CGT and FO trade unions are demanding an increase of at least 20% in the minimum wage. In fact, 2.5 million people would benefit from upping the minimum wage. This breaks down as follows: 1.6 million private sector workers, and almost another one million counting civil servants and temporary workers. This amounts to 11% of the working population.

François Hollande has promised “to make up what was not granted” in the past few years. He has, however, warned that he will see to it “that this does not destabilize companies.” The last minimum wage hike that exceeded the legally-required minimum dates from 2006 (up 0.3%).

An increase in the minimum wage to 1700 euros a month, as proposed by the CGT, is the minimum required to ensure decent living conditions in 2012, notably when you take into account the past few years’ sharp increase in fixed expenses (housing, health, energy, automobile fuel…). A raise in the minimum wage is also a means of relaunching the economy and boosting employment, especially if it forms part of an across-the-board increase in salaries.

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