Location France France

France’s Macron Announces Pseudo Raise of Minimum Wage

Political opponents, who have largely failed so far to tap into the discontent from the leaderless “yellow vest,” criticized Macron’s response as insufficient.

President Emmanuel Macron on Monday announced wage rises for the poorest workers and tax cuts for pensioners in further concessions meant to defuse weeks of often violent protests that have challenged his authority.

However, as the government later confirmed to local media, the groundbreaking announcement of about US$100 raise already included a US$30 raised planned in October 2019, US$20 in 2020 and US$20 in 2021 known as “prime d’activite” – a recent social security benefit introduced in August 2015.

In his first national address following two weekends of France’s worst unrest for years, Macron sought to restore calm and struck a humble tone after accusations that his governing style and economic policies were raising inequalities in the country.

Moreover, the former investment bank executive refused to reinstate a tax imposed on France’s wealthiest and to back down on his neoliberal agenda.

“We will respond to the economic and social urgency with strong measures, by cutting taxes more rapidly, by keeping our spending under control, but not with U-turns,” Macron said in the 13-minute TV address from the Elysee Palace.

His response came 48 hours after protesters fought street battles with riot police — the fourth weekend of protests for the so-called “yellow vest” movement which started as a revolt against high fuel costs.

Macron said people on minimum wage would see their salaries rise by 100 euros a month in 2019 without extra costs to employers.

His labor minister said this would be achieved by the government topping up small salaries.

Pensioners earning less than 2,000 euros will see this year’s increase in social security taxes scrapped, Macron said, going back on a measure that had particularly hurt his popularity with older voters.

The 40-year old president was also under pressure to make amends about patronizing remarks he made in the past year and a half that critics said made him look aloof and arrogant.

“No doubt over the past year and a half we have not provided answers that were strong and quick enough. I take my share of responsibility,” he said. “I also know that I have hurt some of you with my words.”

Political opponents, who have largely failed so far to tap into the discontent from the leaderless “yellow vest,” criticized Macron’s response as insufficient.

“Emmanuel Macron thought he could hand out some cash to calm the citizen’s insurrection that has erupted,” Jean-Luc Melenchon, leader of the far-left La France Insoumise, said. “I believe that Act V (of the protests) will play out on Saturday,” he said referring to a new round of protests planned this weekend.

One of the faces of the “yellow vest” movement appeared unconvinced as well.

“In terms of substance, these are half measures. We can feel that Macron has got a lot more to give,” Benjamin Cauchy, who met the French leader last week, told France 2 television.

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