France’s new prime minister Jean-Marc Ayrault met with unions and business leaders on Tuesday to map out how to revive the country’s economy.
Unions want the government to start by raising the minimum wage, currently €9.22 an hour before tax. Those in industry warn that would hobble French firms with extra costs and lead to layoffs.
François Chérèque, the head of the CFDT union, France’s biggest by membership said there are “too many people earning the minimum wage”.
“We would like an increase to the minimum wage to show the will to help the lowest-paid employees”.
Jean-François Roubaud, the president of the French federation of small and medium businesses, said he was “totally against it because it solves nothing linked to workers’ purchasing power”.
“The real solution is to see how we can reduce overall labour costs and having the net wages of all employees increased,” he said.
President François Hollande promised to raise the minimum wage during his election campaign, without citing an exact figure.
He is yet to outline in detail how he plans to help the private sector and shake up the French job market, which the OECD says is hampered by rigid labour laws and heavy taxes.