"When a company has the means to pay dividends, it must benefit its employees", repeats the Minister of the Economy, Bruno Le Maire.
To preserve purchasing power in the face of soaring prices, the executive ruled out reinstating the indexation of wages to inflation, abolished in 1983 in France, for fear of maintaining an inflationary spiral.
Instead, he proposes to create an employee dividend, which would allow a better sharing of the profit of the companies towards the employees.
“It will be implemented, it is a question of justice”, hammered Bruno Le Maire on Friday on BFM Business. “We cannot ask the French to work longer”, he added in reference to the pension reform, “and not guarantee them at the same time a fairer remuneration for their work”.
The terms of such a dividend, which is meeting resistance from employers, remain to be defined.
A binding law "during the quinquennium" was announced in the fall. At the beginning of January, the Mayor promised "concrete proposals" as well as "a convention" in February on this theme.
Rather than a new mechanism, experts and social partners consider it more appropriate in the immediate future to broaden, by making them more attractive and manageable, the tools for sharing the value that already exist.
There is in particular participation (compulsory profit redistribution mechanism in companies with more than 50 employees) or profit-sharing (optional bonus linked to results or non-financial performance), which come with tax advantages.
Thus, at the invitation of the government, employers and unions have been working since November on their generalization and simplification, especially for the smallest companies, still lagging behind - the employee dividend is not as such on the menu Exchanges.
According to the Statistics Department of the Ministry of Labor (Dares), 88,5% of employees of companies with more than 1.000 people benefited from a value-sharing scheme in 2020, compared to less than 20% in those with less than 50. employees.
In addition to the financial boost, these schemes have the advantage of attracting and retaining talent, an essential argument in this period of difficult recruitment.
However, their deployment encounters many obstacles, especially among SMEs and VSEs. Despite the relaxations already decided in the Pacte law of 2019 and that of the summer of 2022 on purchasing power, the complexity and ignorance of the systems, lack of support, complex calculation formula for participation, administrative risks, etc. .
Another brake, the exceptional tax-free and desocialized bonus (formerly “Macron bonus”), a more flexible option sometimes chosen by companies to the detriment of value-sharing tools.
"Why make it complicated if you can make it simple?" Summarized to AFP Agnès Bricard, one of the three ambassadors charged by the government with promoting the tools available.
"In SMEs, it sometimes takes one to two years before reaching (an agreement) on profit-sharing", points out Nicolas Meurant, associate lawyer at Deloitte. It still seems to him "much easier to lift the current brakes" than to "create a new system".
Emmanuelle Barbara, from the August Debouzy law firm, recalls that a previous attempt at a bonus backed by dividends, introduced in 2011 by former President Nicolas Sarkozy, had become "a gas factory" in the scope of application very limited. She had fizzled out.
Even if France is one of the most proactive European countries in this area, the overhaul of existing systems is proving difficult.
The discussions, supposed to be completed by the end of January, have turned into a puzzle. "We are very far from an agreement," said Luc Mathieu, national secretary of the CFDT, to AFP.
On the union side, we support the idea of compulsory participation in companies with at least 11 employees. A red line for employers, opposed to any new constraint, underlines Stéphanie Pauzat, vice-president of the CPME, which defends the interests of SMEs.
A bond would also risk being counterproductive by raising false expectations in a situation marked by soaring energy costs and slow growth – with fewer results to distribute, believes Emmanuelle Barbara.