Employees demonstrate at a Peugeot Citroen plant in Aulnay-sous-Bois, northeast of Paris in 2013 before it closed as part of a reorganization plan. Photo: AFP
Carlos Tavares, the chairman of Europe's second biggest carmaker, earned €5.24 million ($5.8 million) in 2015, up from 2.75 million in 2014, company documents showed last week.
The company's supervisory board hailed Tavares for leading Peugeot through a restructuring process that moved it back into the black in 2015 with a net profit of €1.2 billion.
As criticism rose over the move, Sapin said the government, which has a 13-percent stake in the company, asked its representatives to vote against the salary increase.
Sapin told France Inter radio that if the state had a greater share “it would have been blocked.”
He also said that at a time when France's economy is faltering, the increase “is harmful, everyone can see it.”
“We are in a time when we need to make an effort, and it needs to be more or less shared. I say more or less because we are talking about figures that are so huge that one can barely comprehend what they mean.”
When the salary increase was announced Friday, the CFDT labour union slammed it as a decision which “causes a lot of damage to social cohesion”, adding that Peugeot employees had also played a role in turning the company around.
The company has said it would be paying out an average €2,000 bonus to French-based employees as a reward for the strong results.
Under Tavares' leadership Peugeot experienced a massive turnaround after posting a 555-million-euro loss in 2014.
Pierre Gattaz, head of the Medef employers' association, defended the move, saying: “When there is success, it does not shock me that we reward success.”
He said company leaders “are heroes”.
The head of the PSA supervisory board Louis Gallois said the salary increase was “not at all disproportionate”.