After four weeks of sometimes violent protests by a grassroots movement called Yellow Vests that started out as an opposition to a fuel-tax hike before morphing into a catchall for all French anger, Macron on Monday unveiled measures to calm things down.
The measures will cost the public coffers as much as $11.4 billion. The president also called on the private sector to do its part, asking that companies that are able to should offer employees a year-end bonus — which would be tax free. Publicis Groupe SA, Altice France and Iliad SA were among firms that said they would give ^1,000 bonuses to some of their staff. Banks are studying the feasibility of paying year-end tax-free bonus. Telecomm company Orange said it’s studying a potential “solidarity” bonus, adding that implementation will depend on what’s discussed in parliament this week.
France’s top bank executives, including BNP Paribas SA’s Jean-Laurent Bonnafe and Societe Generale SA’s Frederic Oudea, met Macron on Tuesday to discuss “concrete measures.” Executives of large firms from other sectors will meet with the president on Wednesday, his office said.Supporting Clients
In France, street protests are often pivotal moments, and it’s not the first time that large businesses have been asked to soldier up. In 2008 and again in 2011, soaring oil prices pushed then Finance Minister Christine Lagarde to ask oil major Total SA and other oil refiners and distributors to help finance a tax rebate on heating fuel and gasoline.
For banks, as well as for most other businesses, Macron’s spending push is seen as supporting clients struggling to make ends meet as economies cool across Europe.
But any bonus, even if tax-free, will weigh on firms under pressure to control costs and seek revenue growth, such as retailers, already hit by more than four weeks of protests. Violent clashes in downtown areas of major cities, including Paris, Bordeaux, Toulouse and Marseille, damaged hundreds of shops, hurting sales and potentially threatening the most fragile small businesses.