Coming up

Don't miss




The World This Week - 01 August 2014 (part 2)

Read more


Coverage of Gaza in the Israeli media

Read more


1914-1918: The Depths of Hell

Read more


The World This Week - 01 August 2014

Read more


Exclusive: Israel's US ambassador speaks to FRANCE 24

Read more

#THE 51%

World War One: The war that changed women’s lives

Read more


Ségolène Royal goes for green

Read more


A look back at some of the Observers' best stories

Read more


Argentina Defaults: Kirchner Cries Foul Over 'Vulture Funds' (part 2)

Read more

  • Hamas denies capturing Israeli soldier as Gaza truce lies in tatters

    Read more

  • Scores killed in China factory explosion

    Read more

  • Exclusive: Israel's US ambassador speaks to FRANCE 24

    Read more

  • Police 'chokehold' caused NYC death, coroner rules

    Read more

  • French most keen to erase their online footprint, says Google

    Read more

  • Air France ground workers to strike on August 2

    Read more

  • Rogue general denies Islamist seizure of Benghazi

    Read more

  • Ugandan court strikes down anti-gay legislation

    Read more

  • 1914-1918: The Depths of Hell

    Read more

  • Regional summit to tackle deadly Ebola outbreak

    Read more

  • French hospital to open wine bar for terminally ill patients

    Read more

  • Video: Tipping is dying out in French café culture

    Read more

  • €2.5 million in cocaine ‘disappears’ from Paris police HQ

    Read more

  • Appeal court keeps French rogue trader Kerviel in jail

    Read more

  • Interactive: France’s new plan to counter jihadism in Africa

    Read more

  • Ukrainian army suffers losses in separatist attack

    Read more


Sarkozy unveils package to help struggling households

Video by Siobhán SILKE

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2009-02-19

French President Nicolas Sarkozy unveiled a €2.6 billion package of tax breaks and social benefits focused on aiding struggling families and the unemployed at a summit with France's trade unions on Wednesday.

Watch our Face-Off debate - Sarkozy and unions: the big clash


Union leaders met with French President Nicolas Sarkozy to discuss new government measures aimed at buffering the effects of the slumping French economy on the country’s lower-income workers and households.
The delegation included leaders from the five largest employee unions, as well as from the three organisations representing France’s employers. 


In a speech to the nation following today's meeting, Sarkozy announced plans for a financial aid and benefits package worth between 1.65 billion and 2.65 billion euros focusing on low-income families and the unemployed. A separate 2.5 billion to 3 billion euros was proposed for a social investment fund, half of which would be financed by the state.


Wednesday’s “social summit” was geared toward addressing union concerns -- namely growing unemployment, wage increases, social welfare measures and sustained investment -- but also sought to respond to an increasingly dissatisfied French public.


"France is facing an economic crisis of unprecedented scale that is a source of legitimate worry for the French people," Sarkozy said in remarks after the meeting. The president acknowledged the widespread fear of unemployment in particular. The French "are frightened of losing their jobs, or that those close to them will lose theirs," he said.


First propositions


The new proposals include a temporary 75 percent gross-pay provision for unemployed workers and one-off payments of between 400 and 500 euros for those who were employed for between two and four months before being laid off. The package also calls for a two-thirds reduction of income taxes for the four million households in the country's lowest tax bracket.


The Sarkozy plan introduces several provisions on offering professional training, particularly to unskilled workers and to young people entering the job market. Companies benefiting from the stimulus package will be asked to introduce policies to train and recruit more young workers.


The French president rejected union calls to increase the minimum wage, however, saying that an increase would "aggravate" the challenges facing small businesses.


A proposal to allow profit sharing between investors, employers and employees was rejected by the employers' unions.


This new package of measures marks something of a departure from Sarkozy’s previous moves, which until now have focused on reviving the economy primarily through investment. FRANCE 24’s French politics editor Melissa Bell says Sarkozy is now making moves “in the direction of the unions, towards kickstarting [the economy] through consumption as well.”

Sarkozy’s government aimed, in part, to counter the perception that the state's economic stimulus efforts only considered the woes of bankers and employers.

Unions want more concrete measures


A pan-union strike on Jan. 29 gathered an impressive turnout of at least 1.4 million worried French workers across the country (unions claim 2.5 million people took part) and once again highlighted the influence of France's unions.


Employee union representatives presented Sarkozy with a list of demands focusing on increasing both workers' wages and spending power. But employer unions said focusing on generalised consumer power was misguided, and defended continued state investments to keep companies operating.


The outcome of the president's meeting with the unions was eagerly awaited, and Sarkozy unveiled the resulting proposals on prime-time television. “If he’s able to show that he has come to an agreement, on at least some but not all the points, it could be an important moment for the president,” Bruno Jeanbart, director of polling for OpinionWay, told FRANCE 24.


François Chereque, head of the CFDT union, called the government's measures "insufficient". Bertrand Thibault of CGT, France’s biggest union, said the group is ready to keep pressing until their demands are "fully met".


For now, a nationwide strike called for March 19 is expected to go ahead,  despite the government's attempts to appease the country's workers.


Date created : 2009-02-19